Historic Drogheda gate to be closed to traffic

Saint Laurence’s Gate changes come into effect Friday to mark start of Heritage Week

Saint Laurence’s Gate is part of the original medieval Drogheda town wall, less than 10 per cent of which survives. Photograph: David Sleator

Saint Laurence’s Gate is part of the original medieval Drogheda town wall, less than 10 per cent of which survives. Photograph: David Sleator

 

Drogheda’s historic Saint Laurence’s Gate is to be permanently closed to traffic.

The gate is part of the original medieval Drogheda town wall, less than 10 per cent of which survives, and there has been a long-standing public campaign for it to be made traffic-free. The new diversions and one-way system will come into effect on Friday to mark the beginning of Heritage Week.

Mayor of Drogheda Pio Smith said Drogheda had been the largest walled town in Ireland and a county in its own right, with two separate circuits of town walls encircling a combined area of 113 acres or 45 hectares.

“Drogheda people are extremely proud of their walled town heritage and their proudest site is Saint Laurence’s Gate, one of the finest surviving barbicans in western Europe, ” he said.

“For years it has been a busy thoroughfare. Any time that the gate has been opened to visitors, by the OPW, by our heritage office and by the Drogheda Arts Festival, we have had to put in place a temporary road diversion. Now that the gate is permanently traffic-free, we hope to see it become much more accessible to visitors, both internally and externally.”

Landscape architects

While there had not been enough time to organise public access to the gate during Heritage Week, the council expects to be able to allow visitors inside more frequently in future. It is hiring landscape architects to advise on the redesign of the public realm around the structure, which will be funded by the Heritage Council’s Irish Walled Towns Network.

Saint Laurence’s Gate is a barbican, an advance fortification that stood outside and in front of the town ditch. Anyone approaching the Co Louth town from the east had first to pass through the barbican before passing over the town ditch on a drawbridge and through the town gate, long demolished.

All the other town gates and barbicans were demolished, mostly in the 18th century. Much of the town wall circuit was sold off as cheap building stone, as “standing quarries”, whose stone was reused in new buildings, such as the Corn Exchange, now the council offices, on Fair Street.

Saint Laurence’s Gate may have survived because it was used as a sea lookout, allowing views far down the river Boyne towards the Irish Sea.