London’s water gates date from the time before the building of the embankment and the road on the north side of the river, when the tidal wash reached a lot closer to the buildings (and former palaces) that follow The Strand and Fleet Street. The gate in Essex Street dates back to t0 1676, and was used for a time as an emblem by Methuen publishers when they had their premises here.
Essex Water Gate was badly damaged during the Second World War. It was later repaired and incorporated into the 1953 building across the end of the street. The so-called ‘gate’ is therefore an office block today. It should be pointed out that the edge of the Thames, before the Victoria Embankment was constructed, did not reach as far north as the Essex Water Gate but was about 100 yards to the south – level with the southern extremity of the Temple Gardens. Of course, when the Victoria embankment was constructed, it was no longer possible for the water-side wharves at the south side of Essex Water Gate to continue to operate.
While it would be true to say that the Essex Water Gate stands on the site of a water gate that stood there in medieval times, it should not be concluded that today’s structure is in any way derived from the early water gate. When newly built in the 17th century, it was used as a device by the developer to hide the wharves from the view of the newly erected terraces of houses in Essex Street.