St John’s Gate

Clerkenwell, Shoreditch & Spitalfields

This remarkable Tudor gate dates from 1504. During the 12th century, the Knights Hospitaller (a Christian 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 Christian Order of St John and the foundation of St John Ambulance.

The gate was erected as a grand entrance to the priory and survived despite most of the buildings being destroyed when Henry VIII dissolved monasteries throughout England between 1536 and 1540. It enjoyed a varied afterlife, not least as a Latin-speaking coffee house, which was 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 to catch one of the comprehensive 80-minute guided tours (11am and 2.30pm Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) of the gate and the priory church. You’ll also be shown upstairs to the sumptuous 1902 chapter hall and council chamber (dating to 1504), which are still used by the order to this day. Donations are always welcome.

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