If the gatepost is utilitarian in purpose then gateposts will be made as strictly functional structures; however as part of the 'advertisement' of the status of the family who live beyond, they are often carefully designed and constructed and sometimes highly ornate or individualistic. Gateposts give an additional element of character to the countryside and conurbations, significantly they also play host a a habitat for many lichen, moss and liverwort species.
These are a form of gate which permits people through or over an entrance but which blocks the passage of animals. Branches or worked wood crossbars were used, one field stile gatepost with 'L' shaped grooves and the opposing stile gatepost with square concavities to receive the three or four horizontal crossbars. Most of these have long been converted to carry hinged gates, however one survives unaltered at the Museum of Scottish Rural Life, Kittochside on Wester Kittochside farm, East Kilbride, Scotland. They were sometimes made entirely of wood, such as oak, which is relatively long lasting.
The term 'Stoup' is used in Cumbria and some examples are elaborately finished, with dates and initials and even whole names, sometimes with the sort of flowing script more usually found on gravestones. One example is dated as far back as 1663.
The shape of the stile gateposts is variable, mostly being oblong and square in section, however some were 'tombstone' shaped, having two flat sides and a curved top.
Many houses have driveways of varing lengths and gateposts are a way of making a social statement of status, through the cost implications of an ornate or 'awe inspiring' entrance way.
Some entrances had two or even three gates attached to the gateposts, such as at Robertland House in East Ayrshire, the side gates being for the use of pedestrians. The gates themselves could be wood or more commonly cast iron, wrought iron or mild steel. A large number of the cast iron gates were removed by the Ministry of Works in WW2 to be melted down and used to build weapons, etc. Once removed these gates were rarely replaced.
A sign of very high status was to have sufficient wealth to have gatehouses or lodges near the gates. Some estates had several lodges and the owners would at one time have employed people to live in these buildings and their jobs would be to open and close the gates, thereby controlling the movements of livestock and also of visitors, some of whom would be denied access or directed way from the front door to the tradesman's entrance.
The date of construction can often be deduced from the style, many being Victorian, due to the wealth creation of the period and the number of large dwellings consequently constructed. Large balls, looking like finials are sometimes precariously perched on top of gateposts, as at Woodway House in Teignmouth, South Devon.
Many gateposts have been removed to allow for the access of larger modern farm machinery, sometimes only one has been moved and the other left in situ.