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St John's Gate, Clerkenwell

St John's Gate, in the Clerkenwell area of London, is one of the few tangible remains from Clerkenwell's monastic past. It was built in 1504 by Prior Thomas Docwra as the south entrance to the inner precinct of Clerkenwell Priory, the priory of the Knights of Saint John (known as the Knights Hospitaller).

The substructure is of brick, while the north and south façades are of stone. After centuries of decay and much rebuilding, very little of the stone facing is original. Heavily restored in the 19th century, the Gate today is in large part a Victorian recreation, the handiwork of a succession of architects—William P. Griffiths, R. Norman Shaw, and J. Oldrid Scott.



The Priory was established in 1140s in Clerkenwell as the English Headquarters of the Order. The Order was dissolved in the following years when King Henry VIII founded a new Anglican Church and its lands and wealth was seized by the Crown. The Order was re-established for a brief period by King Henry’s daughter, Queen Mary, who granted it a Royal Charter. However, when her sister Queen Elizabeth I acquired the crown, the Order in England was dissolved once again.[1]


The building has many historical associations, most notably as the original printing-house for Edward Cave's pioneering monthly, The Gentleman's Magazine, and sometime workplace of Samuel Johnson. From 1701 to 1709, it was the childhood home of the painter William Hogarth. In 1703, his father Richard opened a coffee house there, 'Hogarth's Coffee House', offering Latin lessons together with the coffee. For many years, the building was used as a tavern.

The Gate was acquired in the 1870s by the revived Order of St John and was gradually converted to serve as headquarters of both the Order and its subsidiary, St John Ambulance. It now also houses the Museum of the Order.[2] Much of its Tudor-style interior, including the Council Chamber over the arch, can be attributed to Scott's renovations in the 1880s and 1890s.

St John's Gate was voted an iconic landmark to represent Islington for the London Olympics 2012.[3]

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  1. ^ "The Clerkenwell Priory". Museum of the Order of St John.
  2. ^ "Our Museum". 2011-11-02. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  3. ^ "London 2012 Photos | Best Olympic Photos & Highlights". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2013-10-17.

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