In medieval times Gloucestershire contained over 30 monasteries and priories, persisting until the 1539 Dissolution, when all were abruptly closed. No trace remains of the majority of them, though a few were converted to parish churches, while a small number survive in a ruined or incomplete state, the most spectacular being Hailes Abbey, near Winchcombe. Another is the Cistercian monastery at Kingswood, south of Wotton-under-Edge, which was founded by local baron William de Berkeley in 1139, and occupied initially by a group of monks from nearby Tintern Abbey.
Kingswood Abbey was never very large or prosperous, and apart from a change of location in the 1160s seems to have led an uneventful life, many details of which are known from the survival of its account registers, covering the period 1225-1444. There is very little information about the position or style of the buildings, however, since all were completely dismantled soon after the dissolution, leaving no trace apart from a few minor earthworks, with the exception of the gatehouse, a two story structure dating from the end of the monastic period, probably at the start of the 16th century.
The gatehouse lies at the centre of the village, and is bordered at either side by two original but modified sections of wall, both incorporated into Victorian-era cottages, one now just a blank facade, the other still occupied. The gatehouse is intact but empty, owned by English Heritage, and the exterior can be viewed at any time, while the locked interior may be inspected during weekdays between 10 am and 3:30 pm upon obtaining a key, which is kept in a nearby house, 3 Wotton Road.
The abbey gatehouse is situated at the north end of High Street in Kingswood, straddling a minor road, close to the village church, which was built in 1723, partly on the graveyard of the monastery. The wall on the east side of the gatehouse incorporates a doorway and five rectangular windows, relics of the Victorian cottage, and a medieval buttressed pillar; a matching pillar survives in the intact cottage on the other side, while two more support the corners of the actual gatehouse. The front of the building is centred on an arched entrance passageway with lierne vaulted ceiling, between a small room (on the west side) illuminated by a narrow window, and the pedestrian entrance to the east. Also on the east side of the arch is a niche, originally containing a statue, this long since removed, but retaining its decorative canopy. Uneven brickwork shows where a corresponding niche on the west side has been blocked off. Above the arch is carving of an angel holding a shield, below a mullioned window with nicely sculpted frame, in the middle of a triangular wall flanked by pinnacles on top of the buttressed columns at the corners of the building. A door beside the pedestrian entrance leads to a narrow staircase that accesses the room above the passageway.