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City walls survey

35 Conisford Gate


Conisford Gate
[1] The south or outer side of the gate. The etching was made by Henry Ninham in 1864 from a drawing by John Kirkpatrick [Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery 1954.138, Todd 5, Norwich, 116a]


Conisford Gates [1] were also known as the King Street Gates. The earliest references to a gate here are in the 12th century, well before the flint wall was constructed. King Street was possibly on the line of a Roman road and was one of the most important streets in the medieval city. The very long street appears to have had houses on both sides for the full length from an early date. At the north end of the street major medieval buildings such as Fleur de Lys House and the Music House survive, at least in part, to attest to the wealth of the area and immediately beyond the gate, just outside the city, was Carrow Abbey.

Conisford Gate, at the south end of King Street, was the south gateway into the city and was probably at the most vulnerable point in the defences. Apart from the gate at Bishop's Bridge and the Cow Tower, on the river bank to its north, only the river itself on the east side of the city provided defence against a landward attack from the east. Presumably attack from the south and from the sea by way of the river was seen as the most likely threat to Norwich. The gate and defences at the south side of the city were therefore of considerable importance.

The Gate was on the west bank of the river, just 50 metres above the Boom Towers that guarded the river itself. The land here rises steeply from the river and the gate was set over 6 metres above the water. The Black Tower, just 100 metres west of the gate, is on a ridge over 30 metres higher than the street and the tower itself was over 6 metres high. This tower must have been planned as a lookout point not only over the river approach to the city from the sea but also over the country side to the south and east. A steep valley down from the ridge was exploited to create a steep and imposing outer ditch above which the walls, the gate and the towers loomed. The gate was part of the strongest section of the defences at the point furthest from the castle and where any attack would probably come should the city be besieged.

In 1377 it was recorded that Conisford Gate had 14 battlements [Blomefield, page 98, citing the Book of Customs]

The gate was demolished in 1794.