Gatehouse reconstruction from ancient Babylon
The southern entrance to York, Micklegate Bar
The entrance to the University of Manchester, built in 1902
A gatehouse, in architectural terminology, is a building enclosing or accompanying a gateway for a castle, manor house, fort, town or similar buildings of importance.
The gatehouse of Thornton Abbey from the outside
Gatehouse of Thornton Abbey from the inside
Gatehouses made their first appearance in the early antiquity when it became necessary to protect the main entrance to a castle or town. Over time, they evolved into very complicated structures with many lines of defense. Strongly fortified gatehouses would normally include a drawbridge, one or more portcullises, machicolations, arrow loops and possibly even murder-holes where stones would be dropped on attackers. In some castles, the gatehouse was so strongly fortified it took on the function of a keep, sometimes referred to as a "gate keep". Examples of such gate keeps can be found at Bodiam Castle and Beaumaris Castle. In the late Middle Ages, some of these arrow loops might have been converted into gun loops (or gun ports).
Sometimes gatehouses formed part of town fortifications, perhaps defending the passage of a bridge across a river or a moat, as Monnow Bridge in Monmouth. York has four important gatehouses, known as "Bars", in its city walls. One such is Micklegate Bar.
The French term for gatehouse is logis-porche. This could be a large, complex structure that served both as a gateway and lodging or it could have been composed of a gateway through an enclosing wall. A very large gatehouse might be called a châtelet (small castle).
At the end of the Middle Ages, many gatehouses in England and France were converted into beautiful, grand entrance structures to manor houses or estates. Many of them became a separate feature free-standing or attached to the manor or mansion only by an enclosing wall. By this time the gatehouse had lost its defensive purpose and had become more of a monumental structure designed to harmonize with the manor or mansion.
On the continent of Europe, there are numerous examples of surviving gatehouses in France, Austria and Germany.
- Ightham Mote, in Kent has an imposing 13th- and 14th-century gatehouse.
- Nottingham Castle, in Nottingham has an imposing 11th-century gatehouse.
- Durham Castle, in Durham has an 11th-century gatehouse that is now used as student accommodation for students attending University College, Durham.
- Stokesay Castle, a 13th-century fortified manor-house in Shropshire has a Jacobean half-timbered gatehouse.
- Stanway Hall, Stanway, Gloucestershire, where the gatehouse measures 44 ft. by 22 ft. and has three storeys.
- Westwood, Worcestershire, which has a frontage of 54 ft. with two storeys.
- Burton Agnes Hall, Yorkshire, which has three storeys and is flanked by great octagonal towers at the angles.
- Hylton Castle, Hylton, Sunderland, although an actual castle, it is styled in the shape of a classical gatehouse (this is due to the castle being built for comfort as opposed to a castle for defence).
- Château de Châteaubriant, two gatehouses (13th and 14th century), one for the lower bailey, one for the upper ward.
- Château de Suscinio, a large 15th-century gatehouse in the logis-porte style, Morbihan, Brittany.
- Château de Trécesson, a simple 14th-century gatehouse on a moated-manor house in Morbihan, Brittany (see French Wikipedia page, Château de Trécesson)
- Château de Vitré, a large 15th-century châtelet or gatehouse in Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany (see French Wikipedia page, Château de Vitré)
United States