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HER Number:MSH2240
Type of Record:Building
Name:Town Defences - The Bargate (Bar Gate) and Guildhall
Grid Reference:SU 4199 1163
Map:Show location on Streetmap


The Bargate was begun in the late 12th century (probably between 1180 and 1200) as a simple, free-standing, two-storey, stone gate tower. The original round arch of this building survives inside the main gateway. The Bargate marked the main, north entrance into the medieval town and was a toll gate. At some stage in the following decades it was incorporated into the town defences, initially an earthen bank and ditch system.

A major rebuilding of the Bargate took place in the late 13th century (probably between 1260 and 1291), perhaps when the northern town wall was built. Two drum towers were added and a large hall was created on the first floor. The drum towers were designed for defence using bows and arrows; long, thin arrow loops survive in the towers.

Further changes took place in the early 15th century, when artillery defence facilities were added to the town defences. The Bargate was extended to the north between the drum towers; the extension included machicolations. A roof top gun platform was created.

Many alterations and restorations were carried out in the post-medieval period. Postern gates were inserted through each of the drum towers in the late 18th century. The four windows on the south wall of the first floor hall are Victorian restorations of the originals after many alterations. Restoration work has taken place on the building in the 20th century, including blocking the 18th century postern arches on the north side, which occurred in the 1930s associated with the laying out (at different times) of East Bargate and West Bargate.

The first floor hall was the town’s Guildhall from before 1441 until 1888. The hall may also have been used as a courtroom in the medieval period. Part of the ground floor was used as a prison and was also probably a meeting place for merchants.

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument 1001930
  • Listed Building (I) 1092087: BAR GATE AND GUILDHALL
  • Conservation Area: Old Town North

Other References/Statuses

  • HER backup file (new series): MSH2240  And elsewhere
  • Old Southampton SMR No/Backup file: SU 4111 NE 46  also 4211 NW 54

Monument Types

  • GATE TOWER (Built, Medieval - 1180 AD to 1200 AD (between))
  • TOWN GATE (Built, Medieval - 1180 AD to 1200 AD (between))
  • TOWN GATE (Extant, Medieval to Modern - 1180 AD? to 2050 AD (throughout))
  • COURT HOUSE (In use, Medieval - 1260 AD to 1539 AD (throughout))
  • GATE TOWER (Extended, Medieval - 1260 AD to 1291 AD (between))
  • GUILDHALL (Built, Medieval - 1260 AD to 1291 AD (between))
  • GUILDHALL (in use, Medieval to Post Medieval - 1260 AD? to 1888 AD (throughout))
  • TOWN GATE (Extended, Medieval - 1260 AD to 1291 AD (between))
  • ARTILLERY TOWER (Altered, Medieval - 1380 AD to 1425 AD (between))
  • GATE TOWER (Altered, Medieval - 1380 AD to 1425 AD (between))
  • TOWN GATE (altered c1400, Medieval - 1380 AD to 1425 AD (between))
  • SUNDIAL (added, Post Medieval - 1705 AD to 1705 AD (in that year))
  • TOWN GATE (Altered, Post Medieval - 1764 AD to 1764 AD (in that year))
  • TOWN GATE (Altered, Post Medieval - 1774 AD to 1774 AD (in that year))
  • ART GALLERY (In use, Modern - 2005 AD to 2050 AD (occasionally))

Full description

Records for the town walls are currently being enhanced and it is intended that further details will be added to this description at a later date. The summary incorporates new information not yet included in this description. (SCC HER 11/12/09)
[9]: Listed Building Description. BARGATE STREET - Bar Gate and Guildhall (formerly listed under High Street) (Grade I).
- Dates from circa 1180 with addition and alterations of circa 1290, C18 and restored in 1864-5. It was built as a town gateway with Guildhall at first floor level. Breaches were cut in the adjoining Town Walls in the 1930s. Two storeys built of stone and flint. Ground floor has a central round-headed archway of circa 1180-1200 the arch and responds round-chamfered with small square abaci. Two other arches added in 1764 and 1774. Large drum towers were added on the north side circa 1280-90. These retain arrow slit windows. Embattled north front added circa 1400. South side 2 storey portion added probably in late C13 with 4 windows lighting the upper storey room (restored 1864-5). Between the centre 2 windows is a trefoiled niche containing a statue of George III in Roman costume. This replaced a wooden statue of Queen Anne, now in the Bargate Museum. Bell of 1605 attached on the left hand side. This was the curfew and alarm bell. Sundial of 1705. Five panels containing painted shields of C18 date. The interior of the Guildhall contains late C13 stone fireplaces with cinquefoil arch. This is one of the finest town gateways in England. Scheduled as an Ancient Monument.
[Derived from English Heritage LBS download dated 19/08/2005. Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Open Government Licence.]

[10]: 1968 Provisional List Description. No further details.

[1]: The Bargate was the first part of the Town Walls to be built, in about 1190 AD, with additions being made over the next 200 years. The guildhall was created during the late 1200's. This was also used as a court house.

SOU 1387 (excavation of trenches for new lighting in 2006):
[8]: In Trench 14, located under the Bargate main archway, some medieval masonry (context 19) was revealed. This was probably part of the foundations of the monument, normally obscured by paving slabs.

IP 26/2/09: Since 2005, the Bargate has been used as an occasional public art gallery, part of the ArtsVaults scheme (http://www.artvaults.org.uk/).

HER 4/12/13: See photo showing Bargate after removal of police station against west side, here:
S:\ConsPhotos&Archive\TOWN WALLS\Bargate\Bargate_historical items

Sources / Further Reading

---SSH1038 - Bibliographic reference: R Douch. 1968. Monuments and Memorials in Southampton. Southampton Papers Number Six.
---SSH2837 - Bibliographic reference: Southampton City Museums. 1971. Historic Buildings of Southampton. extract
---SSH3081 - Unpublished document: Ancient Monument File AM3 - Bargate.
---SSH3136 - Unpublished document: Ancient Monument File AM81 - North Walls: Bargate to Polymond Tower.
---SSH3506 - Bibliographic reference: Art Gallery and Museums Committee, (Southampton) County Borough Council. ?1957. Bargate Guildhall Museum, Southampton. all
---SSH3580 - Bibliographic reference: P Ranger. 1996. The Georgian Playhouses of Hampshire 1730-1830. Hampshire Papers 10.
---SSH4371 - Bibliographic reference: Art Gallery and Museums Committee of the City of Southampton. 1967. Bargate Guildhall Museum, Southampton. all
---SSH4825 - Article in serial: EM Sandell. 1957. Less-known views of Southampton - The upward glance.. Southern Daily Echo, 27th June 1957, ?p.
[1]SSH3197 - Bibliographic reference: S Jones. 2000. Walk the Southampton Walls - A DIY Guide to the Old Town.
[1]SSH914 - Bibliographic reference: S Pay. 1992. Walk the Southampton Walls.
[2]SSH782 - Bibliographic reference: Englefield. 1805. A Walk Through Southampton (Second Edition). (Considerably augmented: To which is added, Some Account of the Roman Station, Clausentum.). pp8-13
[3]SSH664 - Bibliographic reference: JS Davies. 1883. A History of Southampton. pp62-72
[4]SSH563 - Article in monograph: PA Faulkner. 1975. The Surviving Medieval Buildings. P&CS: Excavs in Med Soton 1953-69, Vol 1, 56-124. pp56-62
[5]SSH915 - Bibliographic reference: N Pevsner and D Lloyd. 1967. The Buildings of England - Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. pp 533-536
[6]SSH916 - Scheduling record: Department of the Environment. List of Buildings of Special Architectural and Historic Interest - City of Southampton, Hampshire..
[7]SSH523 - Index: English Heritage. March 1996. County List of Scheduled Monuments - Hampshire.
[8]SSH2488 - Archaeological Report: PR Cottrell. 2006. Archaeological excavation on lighting installations at The Bargate, Southampton.. SOU 1387.
[9]SSH2888 - Digital archive: English Heritage. 2005. Listed Buildings System dataset for Southampton.
[10]SSH2757 - Unpublished document: Ministry of Housing and Local Government. 1968. Revised Provisional List of Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest for Consideration in Connection with the Provisions of Section 32 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1962:

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • ESH1723 - Excavation of trenches for new lighting at the Bargate in 2006 (Ref: SOU 1387)

Related records

MSH14Child of: Town Defences - town wall, towers and gates
MSH2407Parent of: The Bargate - Site of Air Raid Shelter

Associated Links

If you have any feedback or new information about this record, please email the Southampton HER (her@southampton.gov.uk).