The pub sign is a great clue to how this now rather shabby road got its name. Westgate Street once led to one of the four entrances/exits to the medieval and walled city of Bath.
It was the principal East-West thoroughfare and – according to Michael Forsyth (Pevsner Architectural Guides, Bath) – was formerly an area concerned with the reception of travellers, goods and animals.
Many tradesmen lived there and – although it lacks large-scale industry or business – the tax records do not portray it as a poor district.
Michael says: ‘Westgate Street began to be developed from the Tudor period when the city grew as a health resort, with town houses and lodgings, many with malthouses to the rear.’
‘At the end of the street – but not marked in any way – is the site of the medieval West Gate which – unlike the North and South gates – had direct access into the surrounding countryside without suburbs. The West gate itself was rebuilt (in 1572, according to the elder John Wood) with lodging apartments above.’
The gap where the double decker bus is going through would be roughly where the arch of the gate would have been but nowhere near a big enough opening to let this modern day road monster through.
Wouldn’t it be nice though if somehow the old gate could be marked in some way. Maybe some visible means also of remembering the South and North ones too.
I deliberately leave out the East gate because it is actually still with us – though hidden in a narrow submerged lane running alongside the old Empire Hotel.
This 14th-century gate is a survivor from the medieval city and originally led to the city mill and the ferry to Bathwick.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could be opened up to at least pedestrian use again.