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HER Number:MDV9094
Name:East Gate, High Street, Totnes


The room over the gate has an early 16th century linenfold panelling and a frieze possibly from Berry Pomeroy Castle. The arch was widened in 1835. The gateway was badly damaged by fire in 1990 and restored. Excavations following the fire showed it to be a medieval gate that was remodelled in the mid 16th century.


Grid Reference:SX 802 604
Map Sheet:SX86SW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTotnes
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishTOTNES

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX86SW/41
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • GATE (VIII to Post Medieval - 701 AD to 1750 AD)

Full description

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SX86SW10 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV350472.

Site visit 15th August 1951. Itis difficult to judge how much of the original survives. The archway in perpendicular style is about 4 metres above the road surface. The building over the gate might possibly be as old as the 18th century.

Virtue and Company, 1868, The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland., 680 (Monograph). SDV177619.

Visit in around 1868 records it is still standing and has been recently purchased by Lord Seymour for 1,000 pounds and presented to the town for the Literary Institute and Library.

Hine, J., 1877, A Plea for the Picturesque in Devon Towns, 159 (Article in Serial). SDV339564.

Hine describes the gateway as externally entirely modern, a parody in cement, but there is a room over the gateway dating from the time of Henry VIII with oak lined walls. There is a carved frieze of scrolls with foliage, animals and figures, painted and gilded.

Windeatt, E., 1880, An Historical Sketch of Totnes, 161 (Article in Serial). SDV168929.

Whitley, H. M., 1916, Totnes Castle and Walled Town, 198 (Article in Serial). SDV342886.

Visit in around 1915. It was rebuilt in medieval times and much altered afterwards. It originally had two archways, a large one spanning the roadway for horse traffic and a small one for foot passengers.

Copeland, G.W., 1948, Seventeenth report of the Plymouth Branch, 98 (Article in Serial). SDV350473.

Copeland describes an upper chamber to the South Gate with frieze, etc. Presumably he means to refer to this, the East Gate.

Fox, E.M., 1950-1951, East Gate, Totnes, 59 (Article in Serial). SDV350471.

Possibility of two arches to gate having once existed is questioned.

Department of Environment, 1952, Totnes (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV350474.

Site visit 7th January 1952. Much altered and refronted in 1835 in gothic style, clock added circa 1880. Full description in list. The room over the gate has an early 16th century linenfold panelling and a frieze possibly from Berry Pomeroy Castle.

Russell, P., 1964, The Good Town of Totnes, 16, 86 (Unknown). SDV350407.

The principal gate. The arch was widened in 1835.

Department of Environment, 1978, Totnes, 62 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV342722.

Unknown, 1990, English Heritage Soften Blow to Architectural History (Article in Serial). SDV257319.

Fire on September 4th 1990, starting in 2 High Street and spreading through the arch to 73 Fore Street. Buildings were gutted by fire.
The arch was re-styled in the early 19th century, with a clock tower and belfry added in 1880.

Peacock, S., 1990, The Great Fire of Totnes (Article in Serial). SDV266133.

A special pictorial edition of the Herald Express was published four days after the East Gate fire in 1990. The article describes the fire in detail including the fierceness of the fire causing the water hoses to turn to steam whilst the centuries old oak panelling continued to burn.
The fire was so fierce inside the gate house, with its centuries old oak panelling and friezes, that water from the hoses was turning to steam. Slowly the old building gave up as the two clock faces twisted and began to fall. The western face went first as the whole of the wall suddenly lurched backwards and then collapsed in a cloud of sparks into the heart of the fire. The eastern clock face simply disintegrated until there was just the metal frame left which eventually crashed to the ground.
See full library linked report for photographs and further information.

Child, P., 1990, Totnes Fire (Ground Photograph). SDV365132.

Photos showing the building after the fire.

Beverley, S. M. + Nenk, S. + Margeson, S. + Hurley, M., 1992, Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1991, 220 (Article in Serial). SDV58456.

Excavated and recorded by Exeter Museum Archaeological Field Unit following fire. Medieval gate remodelled circa 1550, when 8 metres of town wall and Saxon rampart to the south were removed to make way for a new tenement.

Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants, 1996, Assessment of Civic Centre Area, Totnes (Report - Assessment). SDV340328.

Following a fire at East Gate in 1990, Exeter Archaeology undertook a programme of excavation and building recording within the immediate vicinity. This revealed the below-ground remains of the town wall and demonstrated that the gate was remodelled circa 1550. The 6 metre wide gothic arch of the present structure dates from 1837. Previously there had been a narrower main arch flanked on the south by a smaller gateway for pedestrians. Two adjoining properties inside the gate were also investigated.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

English Heritage, 2012, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV348729.

Totnes town defences The Anglo-Saxon borough defences probably enclosed the top of the hill, commanding the navigable reaches of the Dart, on the line later followed by the medieval wall, whose circuit is still marked by South Street, Guildhall Yard and North Street. The motte and bailey castle built at the Conquest by Judhael de Totnes was inserted at the highest point of the hill, in the north-west corner of the Saxon burgh. The counterscarp of the defences of the inner bailey may preserve the line of the borough curtilage. The first murage grant was received in 1264; a second which was surrendered because nothing was being done, in 1355. The walls mainly date to the late 14th century with extensive repairs in 1639. Remains of the defences survive at the North Gate, Castle Street; Number 2, High Street; and the Baste Walls, South Street. The West Gate, formerly situated opposite Number 79 High Street was demolished circa 1810. The East Gate Probably altered and refronted circa 1835 in Gothic style when the former round-arched entrance and footway (the "needles eye") was replaced by a wide, flat-arched gate-way. 2 storeys above archway. Welsh slate roof. Square wooden bell turret with tented roof and weathervane. East front stuccoed with coved cornice and crenellated parapet: string at second floor level with clock above added circa 1880; splayed oriel window to first floor with crenellated parapet. 4-centred arched gateway with hoodmould. West front also stuccoed with coved cornice and crenellated parapet with clock belay: first floor with 3 sash windows with glazing bars, with panels between and coved cornice. The room over the gate has early 16th century linenfold panelling and a frieze carved with reliefs of heads, grotesques and arabesques reputed to have been brought from Berry Pomeroy Castle. The decorated plaster ceiling and marble fireplace dates to circa 1835. In 1850, Lord Seymour purchased Gate House and opened it as a Mechanic's Institute and Reading Room. The building now forms part of the Berry Pomeroy estate office (Number 2 High Street) (citing M. Laithwaite).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV168929Article in Serial: Windeatt, E.. 1880. An Historical Sketch of Totnes. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 12. Hardback Volume. 161.
SDV177619Monograph: Virtue and Company. 1868. The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland.. The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland. A-E. 1. Unknown. 680.
SDV257319Article in Serial: Unknown. 1990. English Heritage Soften Blow to Architectural History. English Heritage Magazine. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV266133Article in Serial: Peacock, S.. 1990. The Great Fire of Totnes. Herald Express. Newspaper + Digital.
SDV339564Article in Serial: Hine, J.. 1877. A Plea for the Picturesque in Devon Towns. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 9. Unknown. 159.
SDV340328Report - Assessment: Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants. 1996. Assessment of Civic Centre Area, Totnes. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K477. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV342722List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1978. Totnes. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 62.
SDV342886Article in Serial: Whitley, H. M.. 1916. Totnes Castle and Walled Town. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 48. A5 Hardback. 198.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #109299 ]
SDV348729National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2012. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV350407Unknown: Russell, P.. 1964. The Good Town of Totnes. Unknown. 16, 86.
SDV350471Article in Serial: Fox, E.M.. 1950-1951. East Gate, Totnes. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 24. Unknown. 59.
SDV350472Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SX86SW10. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV350473Article in Serial: Copeland, G.W.. 1948. Seventeenth report of the Plymouth Branch. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 80. A5 Hardback. 98.
SDV350474List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1952. Totnes. Historic Houses Register.
SDV365132Ground Photograph: Child, P.. 1990. Totnes Fire. Devon County Council Historic Buildings Photo. Photograph (Paper) + Digital.
SDV58456Article in Serial: Beverley, S. M. + Nenk, S. + Margeson, S. + Hurley, M.. 1992. Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1991. Medieval Archaeology. 36. PDF. 220.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Oct 27 2022 9:14AM