St John's Gate
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St John's Gate

Since 1504, this has been the location of St John's Gate


'St John's Gate' was built in 1504 by Sir Thomas Docwra, the prior of the great Priory of St John.

The Tudor bosses under the arches represent the arms of Sir Thomas Docwra and of the Order of St John. This was the main southern entrance to the Priory, which stretched to the north almost as far as Clerkenwell Green. St Johns Square, just across Clerkenwell Road, was the inner precinct of the Priory, founded in the 12th century for the Knights of St John, who provided hospitality and cared for the sick on the way to the crusades. Later, the Knights became a more military order. They were driven from the Holy Land in the 15th century, and finally ended up in Malta.

The priory itself was dissolved by Henry VIII and given to his daughter, Mary Tudor.
Since then it has had a number of uses.
In Elizabethan times it was the home of the office of the Master of Revels where 30 of Shakespeare's plays were rehearsed and licensed.

Today the only remaining part of the priory above ground is the Tudor Gate, home of the Museum of the Order of St John, which runs two charities -St John Ambulance and St Johns Opthalmic Hospital, Jerusalem.

The museum is free and houses a collection of memorabilia connected with the history of the Knights and the building's subsequent use as a coffee house by Hogarth's father, as the publishing house for the Gentleman's Magazine, and as the Jerusalem Tavern.

Tours are organised for visits to the parts of the building not normally open to the public. This includes the Norman crypt, which survived the destruction when the rest of the priory was burnt down by Wat Tyler's peasant army in 1381. The cobbled circle in St John Square to the north marks the the location of the round nave of 1140s priory church, under which is the Norman Crypt.

Location: Clerkenwell Road