Each of the three entrances into the town – the English Bridge, the Welsh Bridge, and the road by the Castle – was guarded by large gates. As well as keeping out unwanted intruders, gates were places where tolls were charged on goods bound for market. One of these tolls was called ‘murage’, which was used for the upkeep of the town walls, bridges and pavements. [footnote 1] These tolls comprised the largest source of income of the Corporation (up to 40%), a bit like parking fees today! [footnote 2] The collection of these tolls caused congestion at the gates, and was a source of annoyance to traders. They were not finally abolished until 1795. [footnote 3]
The Welsh Gate was near the town end of the bridge, and was a grand castellated affair, though by the eighteenth century it had become very run-down. There was a statue of an unknown knight above the gate, which was the only part saved when the bridge was demolished in 1791. The statue was re-sited on the eastern end of the Old Market Hall, where it remains to this day.
The Stone Gate, or East Gate, was situated roughly where the eastern end of the English Bridge is now. In former times this was only part way across the bridge, as there was a further section, called the Monks’ Bridge, which crossed an eastern arm of the river, which is now filled in. [footnote 4] The tower of the Stone Gate was used as a prison, and it is recorded that in 1546 the tower (and hence the prison) collapsed under the force of a great flood, but the prisoner awaiting judgement miraculously escaped, and so was pardoned! [footnote 5] The roadway approaching the gate was originally a drawbridge, but this was replaced by a solid arch in 1732. [footnote 6] The gate and gatehouse were demolished in 1774 when the old bridge was replaced by the predecessor of the current bridge. [footnote 7]
As the name implies, there were originally two gates on Castle Gates. The lower gate was situated roughly where Meadow Place is now. It was a massive structure with a statue (which may be a knight, or even an angel) facing downhill. These gates were mostly taken down in 1773 [footnote 8], but one tower with the statue was retained. This tower was demolished in 1826, and the statue was carefully re-sited on the old Market Hall, opposite the Music Hall, where it can still be seen. [footnote 9] The upper, inner or burgess gate was situated below the Dana steps, abutting the angle of what was then Shrewsbury School, now the Library. It was also a massive narrow gate, and was taken down in 1786. [footnote 10]
As well as the three main gates, there were at least 9 smaller exits through the walls, called lodes. [footnote 11] The only one remaining is St Mary’s Water Gate, which commanded a much-used ford across the river, and originally abutted onto the outer bailey of the Castle. [footnote 12]
It is easy to see the remains of hinges and recesses in the stonework at the arch near the river, and if you look carefully higher up the slope it is possible to see the remains of an inner gate. Old maps show that the path between these gates was heavily fortified.