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|Ward of Cripplegate|
Ward of Cripplegate shown within Greater London
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Cripplegate was a gate in the London Wall and a name for the region of the City of London outside the gate. The area was almost entirely destroyed in the Blitz of World War II and today it is the site of the Barbican Estate and Barbican Centre. The name is preserved in the church of St Giles-without-Cripplegate, in the Cripplegate ward of the City, and in a small road named Cripplegate Street which lies slightly to the north of the site of the Wall between Viscount Street and Bridgewater Street.
The ward of Cripplegate straddles the (now former) line of the Wall and the old gate and is often (even today) divided into "Within" and "Without" parts, with a beadle and a deputy (alderman) appointed for each part. Since the 1994 (City) and 2003 (ward) boundary changes, most of the ward is Without, with the ward of Bassishaw having expanded considerably into the Within area.
Cripplegate stood at the northern end of what is now Wood Street at the junction of St. Alphage Gardens. It was already in place when the London Wall was built as it was the northern gate of a Roman fort which was built in AD 120. The northern and western walls formed part of the new wall, although these defences were completely rebuilt in early medieval times. Like a number of its sister gates, it was used as a prison for part of its life, being leased for accommodation at other times.
The gate gave access to a substantial medieval suburb and to the village of Islington. Extra defensive works on the northern site outside the gate gave rise to the name 'barbican' (or outer fortification of the City), which was then taken as the name for the post-War rebuilding of the area. It originally only led into the fort and became a gate into the City when the fort was demolished.
In 1244 it was rebuilt by the Brewers Company, and then rebuilt again in 1491; it had alterations in 1663 and was finally demolished in 1760 so that the street could be widened. The materials were sold to a local carpenter for £91.
During the Second World War the Cripplegate area was virtually destroyed and by 1951 the resident population of the City stood at only 5,324, of whom 48 lived in Cripplegate. Discussions began in 1952 about the future of the area, and the decision to build new residential properties was taken by the Court of Common Council on 19 September 1957. The area was reopened as the Barbican Estate in 1969. Cripplegate is today the most populous of the four residential wards of the City, with a population of 2,782 (2011).
The name of the gate has uncertain origins. It could be derived from the Anglo-Saxon term crepel, meaning a covered way or underground passage. Supporting this is the gate's mentions in the fourth law code of Æthelred the Unready and a charter of William the Conqueror from 1068: in both these documents the spelling used is 'Crepelgate' ('Saxon London', by Alan Vince, 1990, p43). However it is not certain this is the origin of the name.
Other theories suggest it is so-called because of the cripples who used to beg there; however this is unsubstantiated. Additionally the body of St. Edmund the Martyr was said to have been carried through it in 1010 on its way from Bury St Edmunds to St. Gregory's church to save it from the Danes and Lydgate, a monk of Bury, claimed that the body cured many lame peasants as it passed through the gate.
Cripplegate is one of the 25 ancient wards of the City of London, each electing an alderman to the Court of Aldermen and commoners (the City equivalent of a councillor) to the Court of Common Council of the City of London Corporation. Only electors who are Freemen of the City are eligible to stand. In the early 12th century, the area was originally referred to as Alwoldii which was probably the name of the current alderman. The early records are unreliable as regards who the Aldermen were, but from 1286 there is a more reliable list of Aldermen available.
In popular culture
The second wedding in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral takes place in the fictional church of St Mary-in-the-Fields, Cripplegate, EC2 It was filmed in the chapel of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
- A-Z London. Geographer's A-Z Map Co Ltd. 2001. p. 162. ISBN 0-85039-753-7.
- Cripplegate Ward News - note use of "Within" and "Without" on page 4
- Herbert, William, The History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of London (London, Wm Herbert, 1836) pp. 80-81 at books.google.co.uk
- Harben, Henry (1918). A Dictionary of London. London.
- Caroline Fiona Gordon (1985), The Ward of Cripplegate in the City of London, London: Cripplegate Ward Club
- Sic : Cripplegate is in the EC3 postcode area.
- Four Weddings and a Funeral at movie-locations.com
- Old and New London and A New History of London — two historical sources on the ward from British History Online
- Map of Early Modern London: Cripplegate Ward - Historical Map and Encyclopedia of Shakespeare's London(Scholarly)