The Gatehouse, Highgate
There were three main entrances each with a tollhouse leading into the Bishop of London’s Park of Haringeye and The Gatehouse was the tavern at the Highgate entrance. (The Spaniards Inn ,Newgate and East Finchley being the others). Probably the oldest public house in Highgate (though the mock Tudor façade only dates back to 1905), The Gatehouse is reputedly haunted by a murdered widow traditionally known as Mother Marnes.
George Walter Thornbury in his Old and New London published 1874, suggested that the Swearing on the Horns ceremony originated at The Gatehouse as an initiation into a club set up by cattle drovers heading to the market at Smithfield.
Another first for the pub included the inaugural meeting of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution on 16th January 1839. On 25th Sepetember 1871 The Gatehouse saw the consecration of and became the first meeting place for Highgate Lodge No.1366. This Freemason’s lodge would meet at The Gatehouse before moving to other premises in 1891.
The Gatehouse which is now a member of the Weatherspoon chain of public houses has a theatre above it, in an auditorium that dates back to 1895 and has in the past been used as a Victorian music hall and a cinema.
Notable customers have included the illustrator George Cruikshank (born 27 September 1792 – died 1 February 1878), the author Charles Dickens (born 7 February 1812 – died 9 June 1870), Dick Turpin and of course Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron) (born 22 January 1788 – died 19 April 1824).
According to Guy Lyon Playfair in the Haunted Pub Guide (1985) ‘one might hope for a more exciting ghost here than that of a murdered widow known as Mother Marnes, who wears black and is only seen when there are no animals or children in the building…..I always thought animals and children were more likely to see ghosts than human adults, but apparently the rule does not apply here. One former landlord was so upset by his encounter with Mother Marnes that he had to be treated for shock, and was eventually advised by his doctor to give up the job’.