City Walls and Gates

Like most old towns, Bristol was surrounded by a defensive wall. Already bounded by the two rivers, the relatively small area inside Bristol's walls was originally laid out on four main streets - High Street, Corn Steet, Broad Street and Wine Street - which still exist today.

Nine fortified gateways pierced the town wall at intervals. These were St Nicholas's Gate, St Lawrence's Gate, St Giles's Gate, St John's Gate, Frome Gate, Aylward's Gate, Blind Gate, Newgate and Pithay Gate.

The major surviving part of the walls is visible beside St John's Gate, itself the only remaining gateway. This gate sits beneath the tower and steeple of the Church of St John the Baptist, which was built on the wall at the end of the 14th century, when a new outer wall was constructed. Because it is built into and alongside the city walls, the church is very narrow and has earned the nickname 'St John's on the Wall'. Originally a single gateway, the side passages of St John's Gate were pushed through in 1820. Portcullis channels are still visible within the main arch.

Another part of the town wall survives in the 14th century crypt of St Nicholas church. This building also holds statues of King Edward I and King Edward III, taken from Lawfords' Gate when the town walls were demolished around 1760, and a 13th century figure from Newgate representing Geoffrey de Montbray, Bishop of Coutances, who built Bristol's fortified walls.