St John’s Gate
St John's Priory Church
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St John’s Gate information
This surprisingly out-of-place Tudor gate is no Victorian folly but the real deal. During the 12th century, the Knights Hospitaller (a religious and military order with a focus on providing care to the sick) established a priory here. Inside is a small museum that covers the history of the order (including rare examples of the knights’ armour), as well as its 19th-century revival in Britain as the secular Order of St John and the foundation of St John Ambulance.
The gate was built in 1504 as a grand entrance to the priory and although most of the buildings were destroyed when Henry VIII dissolved every monastery in the country between 1536 and 1540, the gate survived. It had a varied afterlife, not least as a Latin-speaking coffee house run, without much success, by William Hogarth’s father during Queen Anne’s reign. Restored in the 19th century, it also housed the Old Jerusalem Tavern, where writers and artists, including Charles Dickens, met.
Try to time your visit with one of the comprehensive guided tours of the gate and the priory church. You’ll also be shown upstairs to the sumptuous 1902 chapter hall and council chamber, which are still used by the order to this day.