Saturday, 5 September 2009


Ludgate was the westernmost gate in London Wall. The name survives in Ludgate Hill, an eastward continuation of Fleet Street, and Ludgate Circus and comes from the Welsh King Lud son of Heli, who also gave his name to London.
The Romans built a road along the north bank of the River Thames westwards through the gate later called Lud Gate as part of the fortifications of London.

Roman Wall can still be seen in London

Guarding the road from the west, it led to the Romans' main burial ground in what is now Fleet Street. The gate stood just above a crossing of the Fleet River (this now runs underground). It stood almost opposite what is now St Martin's Church on what is now called Ludgate Hill.

Ludgate Hill

The site of the gate is marked by a plaque on the north side of Ludgate Hill, halfway between Ludgate Circus and St Paul's Cathedral.

Plaque of the original Ludgate

Tradition has it that the gate may have been built by an ancient Briton, King Lud, in 66 BC - but it is more likely that the Romans were the first to build it, and that it is simply named after him. One proposed derivation, entirely prosaic, is that the name is a variation on Fleodgaet ie 'Fleet-gate'.
Rebuilt in 1215, the rooms above the gate became used as a prison for petty offenders. The gate was one of three separate sites that bore the name Ludgate Prison. In 1378 it was decided that Newgate Prison would be used for serious criminals, and Ludgate for Freemen of the City and clergy who were imprisoned for minor offences such as debt. By 1419 it became clear that prisoners were far too comfortable here, as they were more likely to want to stay than to pay their debts and leave. They were all transferred to Newgate prison for this reason, although that prison was so overcrowded and unhealthy that they soon returned. It had a flat lead roof for prisoners to exercise on, as well as a 'large walking place' at ground level.

Rebuilt by the City in 1586, a statue of King Lud was placed on the east side, and one of Queen Elizabeth I on the west. These statues are now outside St Dunstan's Church, Fleet Street.

Statues of King Lud and Queen Elizabeth in the porch door of St. Dunstans Church

St.Dunstans Fleet Street

It was rebuilt again after being destroyed in the Great Fire. Like the other City gates it was demolished in 1760. The prisoners were moved to a section of the workhouse in Bishopsgate Street.
According to Islamic Tradition, Christ, upon his Second Coming will encounter and defeat the Antichrist at the 'Gate of Lud.' Muslims believe that the Tradition of Prophet Muhammad could refer to a future victory achieved at Ludgate.

London's first defensive wall was built by the Romans around 200 AD, 150 years after the city was founded as Londinium. This wall remained in active use as a fortification for over 1,000 years afterwards, defending London against raiding Saxons in 457 and surviving into Medieval times. There were six main entrances through the wall into the City, five built by the Romans at different times in their occupation of London. These were, going clockwise from Ludgate in the west to Aldgate in the east: Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate. A seventh, Moorgate, was added in Medieval times between Cripplegate and Bishopsgate.

Lud (Welsh: Lludd map Beli Mawr) , according to Geoffrey of Monmouth's legendary History of the Kings of Britain and related medieval texts, was a king of Britain in pre-Roman times. He was the eldest son of Geoffrey's King Heli, and succeeded his father to the throne. He was succeeded, in turn, by his brother Cassibelanus. Lud may be connected with the Welsh mythological figure Lludd Llaw Eraint, earlier Nudd Llaw Eraint, cognate with the Irish Nuada Airgetlám, a king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and the Brittonic god Nodens. However, he was a separate figure in Welsh tradition and is usually treated as such.

In literature
Lud's reign is notable for the building of cities and the refortification of Trinovantum (London), which he especially loved. Geoffrey explained the name "London" as deriving from "Caer Lud", or Lud's Fortress. When he died, he was buried at Ludgate. His two sons, Androgeus and Tenvantius, were not yet of age, so he was succeeded by his brother Cassibelanus.
In the Welsh versions of Geoffrey's Historia, usually called Brut y Brenhinedd, he is called Lludd fab Beli, establishing the connection to the early mythological Lludd Llaw Eraint. An independent Welsh tale, Cyfranc Lludd a Llefelys (The Tale of Lludd and Llefelys), is appended into some versions of the Brut. It also survives independently, and in this form was included in the collection known as the Mabinogion. According to this tale, Lludd had an additional brother named Llefelys, who became king of France while Lludd ruled in Britain. During Lludd's reign three great plagues befall Britain, but he is able to overcome them with the advice of his brother. Numerous toponyms in England and one in Ireland (Ludden, Limerick) are based on Lud-, Ludden-, Luddes-, or Ludger-. The toponyms range as far north as County Durham, and as far west as Ludgvan, Somerset, but only two are to be found in Wales, Luford, Herefordshire, and Ludchurch, Permbrokeshire.

King Lud in the City of London
Lud's name is one of the possible etymologies for Ludgate (named Porth Llydd in the Brut y Brenhinedd), a major gateway into the City of London. Crumbling statues of King Lud and his two sons, which formerly stood on the gate, now stand in the porch of the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West on Fleet Street in London.
Pub sign depicting King Lud
There was a pub at Ludgate Circus called "King Lud", now renamed "Leon", and medallions of King Lud may be seen up on its roofline and over the doors .

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