Memories of the Church’s Lych Gate
The word Lych is an Old English or Saxon word for corpse. In the Middle Ages when most people were buried in a shroud rather than a coffin, the dead were carried to the lych gate and placed on a bier, where the priest conducted the first part of the funeral service under its temporary shelter.
The gateway was really part of the church. It was where the clergy met the corpse and the bier rested while part of the service was read. It also served to shelter the pall bearers while the bier was brought from the church.
Most were built around the mid-15th century, although some were earlier. Traditionally in some areas at the end of a wedding service as the bride & groom leave the church the gates are closed (or roped off) by the local children, and the couple have to pay them to let them pass! (acknowledgement to wikipedia for these comments)