Initially built c.1180AD of stone and flint, the Bargate was formerly part of the medieval city walls and the northern gateway into the city. Expansion of the city northwards found the Bargate sitting astride the High Street, dividing it into 'Above Bar' and 'Below Bar'.
Until the 1930's the buildings of the High Street abutted directly onto the Bargate's walls necessitating all traffic to travel through the Bargate itself. The local tram company operated vehicles specially designed to navigate the narrow passageway. Upstairs passengers were directed to sit when passing through! The growing importance of motor vehicles meant that the Bargate was becoming a serious impedance to traffic so during the 1930's the abutting buildings were demolished and the Bargate bypassed.
During the 19th Century the upstairs room of the Bargate acted as the town's Guildhall, and later, a police station. The Bargate again acted as a police station during the second world war and more recently has seen service as an art gallery and a museum.
The shields on the northern face depict the coats-of-arms of Southampton's most important families. On the southern side there is a small statue of George III in Roman dress.
The Bargate can be seen, along with the rest of Southampton's medieval defences on this Google map.