• Originally a 15th-century gateway into the former Newarke religious precinct
  • During the reign of Elizabeth I, Catholics were imprisoned in the building because of their religious beliefs
  • It's called The Magazine because munitions were stored in the building in the 17th century, during the English Civil War

The Newarke Gateway

The Magazine, or more correctly, the Newarke Gateway dominates the western end of Newarke Street where it joins Vaughan Way and Oxford Street. Today, the gateway, which was built about 1400, is one of Leicester’s finest surviving medieval buildings.

It was originally constructed as a monumental entrance from the town’s south suburb into the religious precinct of the College of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, popularly known as ‘The Newarke’ (New Work). It was built to impress visitors and house the porter’s lodge and guest rooms.

The gateway is built of local sandstone, and has three floors. The large and small arches would have allowed separate vehicular and pedestrian access into the Newarke, whilst the ground floor room would have been the lodge for the porter and his family.

Access to the first and second floor was by a spiral staircase in a turret on the western side of the building. The first floor was ‘en suite’, with a doorway leading to a ‘garderobe’ (medieval toilet). The second floor spans the main archway and is twice the size of the other floors. It is divided in two, with both rooms containing fireplaces, and may have accommodated guests of the Newarke.

From gunpowder store to bus terminus

After the Newarke was demolished in 1548, the gateway had many other uses. In the late 16th century it was used to hold Catholics, imprisoned for their religious beliefs during the reign of Elizabeth I. Two, John Lowdham and Edmund Smith, both left messages on the walls:

‘Her was John Lowdham in prysone for other mennys trespass & not his owne wherefor god help…’

‘Her was Edmond Smiht somnned in pson 1564 ES’

Graffiti left by the Catholic Edmund Smith, imprisoned in The Magazine in 1564

In the 17th century the gateway was used to store arms and munitions during the English Civil War. Later, it was part of a militia barracks, and it was also used as a World War I recruiting station.

In 1967-8 it was saved from demolition during construction of the Newarke Underpass but left as an island in the middle of the road. In 2007, the underpass was filled in, returning the gateway to its original street-side position. Today it sits on the edge of De Montfort University’s city-centre campus.

Newarke or Magazine Gateway?

The original name of the building was the Newarke Gateway but during the English Civil War (1642-51) it was used as a store for gunpowder and weaponry (a ‘magazine’). Since then it is often referred to as the Magazine or Magazine Gateway.

Find out about tours of the magazine during Heritage Sundays.

Visitor information
Can be seen from the street, also open on event days

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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