York Water Gate – London, England - Atlas Obscura

York Water Gate

These ornate arches show how the course of the River Thames has changed. 


This centuries-old watergate is nowhere near the water’s edge. But that’s not because of an urban planning snafu—the river once licked at the edges of the Italianate structure, which now stands as a testament to the waterway’s former course.

The gate was built in 1626 as part of the York House, one of the fancier mansions that lined this stretch of the River Thames. It was commissioned by George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham. Eagle-eyed visitors will notice the Buckingham family’s coat of arms chiseled into the top of the structure.

Before 1862, the watergate touched the northern edge of the river. Boats would glide through the marshy water to deposit passengers in the mansion’s back garden. Departing guests could seek shelter beneath its two ornate arches while waiting for their transportation to arrive.

But in the mid-19th-century, the government decided to build the Victoria Embankment. Transforming this soggy stretch into solid ground helped modernize the city’s sewer system and reduce traffic along the Strand. But changing the course of the river also left this once-waterside structure marooned within a patch of earth 150 yards from the water’s edge, preserved by the council in 1893.

Know Before You Go

You'll find the gate within the Victoria Embankment Gardens, which are open daily from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm.

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