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Lych Gates

Home > Melbourne > Architecture | Free | Outdoor | Walks
by Neil Follett (subscribe)
I'm a retired photographer living in Lilydale mainly researching and writing on Australian aviation history. Now writing more on general subjects.
Published June 16th 2022
A walk is the best way to see them
If you have wandered or driven past houses in some well-established suburbs you may have noticed small shed-like structures above the entrance gate. These structures are called lych gates.

lych gate
A typical lych gate.

The term lych evolved from the Saxon word for corpse, and the lych gate was traditionally a place where corpse bearers carried the body of a deceased person and laid it on a communal bier. The priest would then carry out the first part of a burial ceremony under the shelter of the lych gate roof.

English lych gate of the 1800s.
English lych gate of the 1800s.

The most common form of lych gate was a simple shed composed of a roof with two gabled ends, covered with tiles or thatch. Most of the covered ones I have seen were covered by corrugated iron of COLORBOND.

Lych gate with tiled roof.
Lych gate with tiled roof.

Lych gate with tiled roof.
Another tiled roof.

Many early Australian churches had lych gates and some are still to be seen. I doubt if any Australian lynch gates were used for their original purpose. Not surprising as most were built in the UK during the mid-15th century.

UK Lych gate.
Thought to be the oldest lych gate in the UK.

I have seen two at churches. One at St. Michael & All Angels Anglican church at Kalorama in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges and the Niel Black Memorial Church at Noorat in country Victoria.

St Michaels & all Angels.
St. Michaels in Kalorama.

Niel Black Memorial Church
Niel Black Memorial Church in Noorat.

Today lych gates can be seen on many properties in the more well-established areas when front fences were on all domestic properties. Lych gates and white picket fences seem to go hand in hand.

Lych gate & picket fence.
Lych gates & picket fences.

Lych gate & picket fence.
More with white pickets.

Although a few owners have painted their picket fences with some subtle colours.

Coloured lych gates.
Coloured lych gates and picket fences.

Some picket fences have been capped rather than having pointed pickets.

Lych gate & picket fence.
Capped pickets.

A few have been observed with wire fences instead of the normal picket ones.

Lych gates & wire fences.
Lych gates & wire fences.

Most lynch gates seem to be in front of weatherboard houses which would indicate that both are original.

Lych gate & picket fence.
Fronting a weatherboard house.

Most of the ones I have seen are in Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs. Lilydale, Croydon, Bayswater, Mooroolbark, Kilsyth, Mitcham and all suburbs in between. Throughout Melbourn,e you would find many more.

Lych gate & picket fence.
Backed by a crepe myrtle.

Lych gate & picket fence.
Another nice one.

Some have no roof while others are just two dimensional instead of the usual three dimension.

simple lych gates
Basic structures.

Others seem to have been custom-designed to blend into their surroundings.

Lych gate & picket fence.
Custom designs.

Some are large enough to have seats within them.

Lych gate & picket fence.
A larger one with seats.

If you are renovating your front fence you may like to incorporate a lych gate. During my research for this article, I spoke to a custom fence manufacturer. They reported that they only build two or three per year. Their quote of $5600 could be the reason.

Custom built lych gate.
Yours for $5600

Lych gates give a very nostalgic look and feel to well-established streets and it is hoped that they will last to give current and future generations a look into the past.
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Your Comment
Lovely idea to combine these into one article . Great photography.
by junea (score: 2|171) 6 days ago
What a great article, the one with the seat is very appealing.Thanks.
by don_t (score: 1|63) 9 days ago
I did not know that! I'd just assumed they supplied some cover in the rain while you tried to open the gate below it. So now I know! Great to see so many photos of gates.
by Lee Ellwood (EllWords) (score: 2|178) 2 days ago
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