The name of this gate has long been the subject of dispute; it
has been said to derive from the 'Rider's Gate,' or the 'Reed Gate'
from hypothetical reeds growing on this high-lying ground, while
a medieval scribe, who knew it as 'Redegate,' thought (with Roman
tiles in his mind), it must be 'Red Gate' and translated it into
Latin as 'Rubeum Hostium.' Its probable meaning is simply 'Road
Gate' the road being the Roman Watling Street which it spanned.
The Romans built it as a double-arched gate; remains of this survived
down to the end of the 18th century. It was rather like a twin version
of Worthgate, having stone jambs, originally around six feet high,
with arches composed of tiles. There are suggestions that one arch
was larger than the other, so it is possible that one was for wheeled
traffic and the other for pedestrians.
The gate had no towers, and was not readily defensible. The tower
which stood next to it was more properly one of the series of 21
watch towers standing round the wall, and was not an integral part
of the gate.
Early in the 15th century, the King, with the advice of the Royal
Council, ordered it to be walled up. Later on, about 1430, the City
authorities opened it again, perhaps at this time inserting the
Gothic arch which figures in old prints. The Cathedral monks, deep
in one of their eternal quarrels with the City, bitterly complained
of this, saying 'it made Canterbury insecure, and that City and
Cathedral stood in peril, both because of wars and the danger of
heresy in consideracioun bothe to the werres and the high malys
of thyse mischewous heresyys and lollardries.
At the time of Wyatt's rebellion (1554) the gate was blocked up
again with earth and timber, which was removed as soon as the trouble
In 1575-6 the timber bridge, connecting the ramparts of the wall
either side was reconstructed, but this had decayed away by 1640.
Alderman Easday spent a lot of money out of his own pocket on the
wall at this point in 1586, though he was a man of limited means.
The gate was taken down and replaced in 1799 by a brick arch, erected
by Alderman Simmons as part of his scheme for converting the Dane
John into a public park. This was replaced in 1883 by a flat steel
bridge, badly damaged by enemy action in 1942. Excavations in 1947
brought to light the massive battering base of the watch tower standing
to the north of Ridingate.