1) In numerous northern land deeds the word ‘gate’ referred to a right for animals such as cattle, horses, sheep and swine to ‘go’ onto certain grazing lands, it was a right to pasturage.
1474 two horsegatez in the parke … viijth swynegate ... in Northduffeld: in 1479 the council in York decided that Richard Carbert and his predecessors had from tyme out of mind right to have xx gaits on Knavesmire pasture. These common pastures were stinted, that is to say they were considered to provide grazing for a fixed number of animals, and it was these divisions that were called ‘gates’: these were not fenced off but great care was taken to see that the pasture was not overloaded. A Bradford deed of 1615 typically refers to fyfteene beastegates, or sufficient common of pasture for the harbage [herbage] of fyfteene beastes and in Hetton in 1694 were fower cattle gates or common of pasture and herbage ... for four beastes. The number of ‘gates’ in a pasture took into account the different types of animals, as well as their ages, but in general the grazing would support many more sheep than cows, and more cows than horses. Moreover, because the ‘gates’ came to be associated with particular properties, they could be subdivided when the property was shared. In 1739, the Holmfirth tenant who held the moiety or half of the messuage called Greenhouse had a right to four beastgates and a half. Other compound words of this kind are: 1538 their shepegaytes on Follyfate Ryge
1539 habent inter se pasturam pro vjtxx bobus, Anglice Oxegates ibidem, Welburn
1595 fower kyne-gaites in Ebberston Carr in the common pasture
1659 a twinter gate in the High Cow Pastor, Sedbusk. Note: 1700 one beaste grasse or cattellgate, Aysgarth.
2) In general usage a 'gate' is a form of barrier, a door, set across a gap in a wall or hedge, and it can be opened to allow people and animals to pass from one place to another.
In many early Yorkshire texts it had the spelling ‘yate’ which is dealt with under that headword. It is therefore quite different from the word ‘gate’ which means ‘way’ or ‘road’ and is of Scandinavian origin: 1286 ‘the way called Linlaygate’, Fixby
1372 ‘near the lane called Cougate’, Hunmanby
c.1545 all maner ways, gates and yattes, Thurstonland
1558 one way or gate leadynge from the common of Skyrcot, Halifax. Celia Fiennes was one of the first to draw attention to the confusion that these two words might cause when she wrote in 1697 that ‘people … in the northern parts … tell you its very good gate, instead of saying it is good way, and they call their gates yates’. It is a familiar word generally in the sense of ‘street’, as in towns such as Leicester, Nottingham and York, but it had the same meaning in smaller places, where the main street was known as the town gate: also a particular right of way within and between villages could be called a cartgate, a kirkgate or a waingate, all terms of great local significance. In coal-mining the word was in frequent use, notably in the common terms boardgate and watergate, although the meaning is not always clear and some underground gates may actually have been doors: 1713 timber which was cut down … for stoops and rails for making coal pitt gates, Shibden. Compounds of this kind are dealt with separately.In other contexts the word was the equivalent of ‘journey’. In 1573, travelling expenses were paid to Thomas Naylour of Almondbury for two gates that he made to Bradford and similar entries in township books refer in 1694 to gates to the visitation, Almondbury or, in 1776, to a gate for Croner to Halifax
that is a journey from Honley to Halifax to see the coroner. In 1746, the Almondbury constable accounted 1s 6d for Jos. Fields gate up and down the township in order to billet the soldiers.