THE Golden Gates have stood proudly outside Warrington Town Hall for more than a century. But they actually started life as a gift made fit for royalty and are still regarded to be among the best in England.

The gates, which are actually made of cast-iron, were commissioned by one of the livery companies of London as a present for Queen Victoria to be installed at Sandringham, a property of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII).

In 1862, the Queen went to Rotten Row on the south side of Hyde Park in London to inspect the object offered, as was custom in those days. But she was in for a shock.

Behind the gates stood the statue of Oliver Cromwell, which now resides at Bridge Foot in the Warrington Guardian office premises.

It is understood she was so displeased at the sight of the Parliamentarian that she refused the gift.

After being displayed at an international exhibition in London in 1862, the gates were returned to their makers, the Coalbrookdale Company in Ironbridge.

There they stayed until 1893 when Frederick Monks, a member of the council, saw them on one of his many visits to Ironbridge as the director of Monks Hall Foundry. He decided to offer them as a gift to the council and they were formally opened on Warrington Walking Day, June 28, 1895. This was not a moment too soon for the council as previous to this, the town hall was surrounded by a high wall and onlookers could not see the building from Sankey Street, hardly giving it the air of authority and prominence it deserved.

Mayor of Warrington Clr Graham Welborn said: “The Golden Gates have an important role to play in the town's history and do provide us with a fantastic landmark that you often hear people referring to in the street.” According to the records of the Coalbrookdale Company, the gates were designed by Mr Kershaw with the help of manager Mr Crook. The four filials, representing the Goddess of Victory, were the work of John Bell, who also modelled the Oliver Cromwell statue.

The gates have a full width of 16.46metres and measure 7.62metres to the top of the arch. From its royal origins, the central archway was originally surmounted by large Prince of Wales feathers, a wreath, and the motto ‘Ich Dien’, which means ‘I serve’.

It has since been replaced by the coat of arms used by the borough from 1847 to 1897. In 1899, an ornamental fountain was presented to the town by Sir Peter Walker and family, erected behind the gates, but this along with the Bank Park railings were sacrificed to provide much-needed iron during the war effort in 1942.