gatehouse n : a house built at a gateway; usually the gatekeeper's residence
A gatehouse is a feature of European castles, manor houses and mansions. Originally a gatehouse was a fortified structure built over the gateway to a city or castle. In architectural terminology, a gatehouse is a building, enclosing or accompanying a gateway for a castle, manor house, or similar buildings of importance.
Gatehouses made their first appearance in the early Middle Ages 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 or hot liquid would be dropped on attackers. 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 in Monmouth. York has four important gatehouses (known as Bars) in its city walls.
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 and Germany.
Notable English-style gatehouses
- Ightham Mote, in Kent has an imposing 13th and 14th century gatehouse.
- Nottingham Castle, in Nottingham has an imposing 11th century gatehouse.
- 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).
Notable French-style gatehouses
- 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)