The Evolution of Automatic Gates: A Brief History


In modern times, automated gates can be a rather common phenomenon for UK homes. But it has had a long history of innovation and adaptation. You would be surprised to know when the first automated door was invented and how it operated. There are many interesting facts behind the evolution of automatic gates, which will make you go wow.

In this article, we’ll take a brief look at the history of automatic doors and gates, discuss modern automated gates, and answer some FAQs for you. If you want to discuss your electric gates requirements with an expert, call us on 01474 559310 or email

Automated entry control – an ancient concept

Automated entry control is not a modern concept. In fact, it dates to ancient civilisations. In the UK, castles and manor houses possessed huge wooden gates with intricate pulley mechanisms for security. Around the 1st century AD, an ancient Greek mathematician and engineer called Heron of Alexandria created an automated door system using the power of steam. It was popularly known as Heron’s Aeolipile or Heron’s Pneumatica. A fire was lit beneath a boiler which generated steam. It then flowed through pipes and created enough pressure to cause the doors to open.

This interesting concept laid the foundation for later developments in electric gates and entry controls. It is said that Sir Joseph Whitworth, a British Engineer designed a steam-powered gate at his estate in Darley Dale, Derbyshire. It was created using a steam engine to open and close the gate automatically. In 1881, a Candian named Fred W. Watson invented electric gates to be used for railway crossings. Later in 1954, Dee Horton and Lee Hewitt came up with the first automatic sliding gate.

You see it’s a concept that has been tried and tested by many to gradually develop the modern automated electric gates. These are ubiquitous among homeowners, schools, and businesses across the UK.

Modern automated gates

The early 20th century brought the emergence of electrical gates, whereas the late 20th century witnessed a digital revolution in them. Access control, automation, remote control, and other modern methods were utilised to augment their usability. In recent years, the focus has also hugely shifted towards eco-friendly and sustainable electric gates solutions. Solar-powered gates and energy-efficient solutions are prevalent these days.

At Perimeter Automations, our electric gates experts offer bespoke electric gates to match your needs. Let us take a look at the range available to you.

Automated swing gates

For your existing electric gates, swing gates with arm operators can be a great solution. It can enable your gate to open up to 90 degrees. If you prefer discreet automation, underground operators will be more suitable. It gives modern gates an aesthetic and sleek appearance, opening them up to 180 degrees. Do you need expert advice? No worries, we’re here to help.

Cantilever sliding gates

Sliding gates provide the maximum resistance against intruders. Cantilever sliding gates are low-maintenance and can be a great solution if you have an uneven ground problem on your property.

Tracked sliding gates

These are more cost-effective and space-efficient as compared to cantilever gates. However, they will require a level surface across the opening for the track to be installed.


Turnstiles are more suitable for industrial facilities, airports, and construction sites. They are an amazing electric gates solution for controlling footfall through an entrance or exit point. You can have them equipped with our access control features as well for enhanced security.

We offer bespoke electric gates solutions to our customers across the UK. If what you’re looking for is not listed here, feel free to get in touch with us. We’ll customise our solution to match your needs.

Smart automatic gates with access control features

Automated gates go beyond just convenience. They are also about security, which is an essential need for every UK property. Access control enables you to have complete control over who can enter your premises and how you want to manage it. There is a range of options including:

Push buttons

Push buttons are the simplest way to control access through your automated gates. They are quick to install and a budget-friendly choice for homeowners in the South East of England.

Audio intercom with remote control

Your visitors will use the intercom installed at the gate to announce their identity and you will allow or deny access. This can be effectively done remotely, sitting in your home.

Video intercom with remote control

This is even more secure for your home. You get to see and communicate with your visitor through a camera feed before allowing them access remotely.


If you want to go a notch higher with security, fingerprints, retina scans or facial recognition would be your ideal choice. This is more suitable for office premises or industrial facilities.

Touch fob

Your authorised users can use proximity-based access control devices to gain access to your property. These can be easily managed or reprogrammed for stolen or lost fobs. This is more suitable for commercial or industrial electric gates needs.

Vehicle detection

Smart sensors or cameras are installed at your gate to identify approaching vehicles. When identified, the gate will automatically open. To reduce waiting times and take automation to the next level, you can go for this efficient access control option at your property.

Final thoughts

As you can see, automated gates and doors have gone through a prolonged journey of evolution over the years. From using a pulley system or a steam engine to open doors automatically to having advanced access control features installed on them, they have come a long way.

We hope this article has given you insights into the evolution of automatic gates. If you’re considering modern automated gates for your property, Perimeter Automations should be your unrivalled choice. We have experience automating old and new gates for domestic and commercial purposes alike. Call us on 01474 559310 or email to get started.

Frequently asked questions [FAQs]

1. What is a electric gates system?

A electric gates system is a combination of modern technologies and devices to automate the operation of a wooden or metal gate. This facilitates the swift management and control of entrance to a site or personal property. The essential aspects of a electric gates system will ideally include a gate operator, required access control features, a control panel, a backup power system, and remote monitoring.

2. What are the advantages of electric gates?

  • It restricts unauthorised access to your property
  • Electric gates systems can enhance your property value and curb appeal
  • With suitable access control features, your electric gates system can make automation more seamless and convenient for you and your visitors
  • Electric gates with safety and access control features is ideal for schools to ensure the safety of staff and pupils

3. What is the difference between a gate and a barrier?

A gate and a barrier are both ways to control access to a property, however, they service distinct purposes. Gates are suitable for allowing or restricting both pedestrian and vehicular access. Barriers are commonly found in parking lots, toll booths, or security checkpoints to regulate vehicular traffic. Gates serve a wide range of purposes including residential whereas barriers are focused on traffic management. If you need automatic security barriers, we specialise in that too. Contact us now.

4. Are electric gates hard on electricity?

The amount of electricity that electric gates consume is relatively low. So, we can safely say that these gates aren’t hard on electricity. In fact, they consume less electricity as compared to heaters and air conditioners. That said, how much electricity your automated gate consumes is largely dependent on gate size and weight, frequency of use, the presence of a standby mode, and the efficiency of the operator.

5. Are automatic gates secure?

They certainly are, especially when equipped with robust access control and safety features. There’s a wide range of access control features available for your automatic gates including many cost-efficient ones. To start with, you can have a push button mechanism or an audio intercom installed at your gate. This will enable you to control who can enter through your gate and when to deny access. You can also install a CCTV system on your gate as a reliable surveillance mechanism on your property.