Although an ancient city, not much of Norman Bristol remains except for St John’s Gateway. Geoffrey de Montray built defensive walls around Bristol in the mid 11th century with four fortified gateways allowing access to the city. St John’s is the only gateway to have survived.
Inside the main arch can be seen the grooves for the portcullis. On the outside above the main arch are two niches containing the statues of Brennus and Belinus. The three other coats of arms are from the 17th century and represent King Charles II, the City and the Society of Merchant Venturers.
Bristol’s street plan consisted originally of 4 main streets – High, Corn, Broad and Wine. This gateway gave access to Broad Street and a network of lanes ran around the inside of the walls connecting the other main streets. Cobbled Tower Lane, runs from St John's Gateway to Pithay.
In the 14th century new walls were built further out to defend the ever expanding city and St John the Baptist church was built on the old walls; its steeple is over St John’s gateway. In 1820 the two smaller arches were punched through the walls to allow better access.