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Index to Stow's original Survey of London written in 1598


The original foundation of London bridge, by report of Bartholomew Linsted, alias Fowle, last prior of St. Mary Overies church in Southwark, was this: A ferry being kept in place where now the bridge is built, at length the ferryman and his wife deceasing, left the same ferry to their only daughter, a maiden named Mary, which with the goods left by her parents, and also with the profits arising of the said ferry, built a house of Sisters, in place where now standeth the east part of St. Mary Overies church, above the choir, where she was buried, unto which house she gave the oversight and profits of the ferry; but afterwards the said house of Sisters being converted into a college of priests, the priests built the bridge (of timber) as all the other great bridges of this land were, and from time to time kept the same in good reparations, till at length, considering the great charges of repairing the same, there was, by aid of the citizens of London, and others, a bridge built with arches of stone, as shall be shown.

But first of the timber bridge, the antiquity thereof being great, but uncertain; I remember to have read,[29] that in the year of Christ 994, Sweyn, king of Denmark, besieging the city of London, both by water and by land, the citizens manfully defended themselves, and their king Ethelred, so as part of their enemies were slain in battle, and part of them were drowned in the river of Thames, because in their hasty rage they took no heed of the bridge.

Moreover, in the year 1016, Canute the Dane, with a great navy, came up to London, and on the south of the Thames caused a trench to be cast, through the which his ships were towed into the west side of the bridge, and then with a deep trench, and straight siege, he compassed the city round about.


Also, in the year 1052, Earl Goodwin, with the like navy, taking his course up the river of Thames, and finding none that offered to resist on the bridge, he sailed up the south side of the said river. Furthermore, about the year 1067, William the Conqueror, in his charter to the church of St. Peter at Westminster, confirmed to the monks serving God there, a gate in London, then called Buttolph’s gate, with a wharf which was at the head of London bridge.

We read likewise, that in the year 1114, the 14th of Henry I., the river of Thames was so dried up, and such want of water there, that between the Tower of London and the bridge, and under the bridge, not only with horse, but also a great number of men, women, and children, did wade over on foot.[30]

In the year 1122, the 22nd of Henry I., Thomas Arden gave the monks of Bermondsey the church of St. George, in Southward, and five shillings rent by the year, out of the land pertaining to London bridge.

I also have seen a charter under seal to the effect following:—“Henry king of England, to Ralfe B. of Chichester, and all the ministers of Sussex, sendeth greeting, know ye, etc. I command by my kingly authority, that the manor called Alcestone, which my father gave, with other lands, to the abbey of Battle, be free and quiet from shires and hundreds, and all other customs of earthly servitude, as my father held the same, most freely and quietly, and namely, from the work of London bridge, and the work of the castle at Pevensey: and this I command upon my forfeiture. Witness, William de Pontlearche, at Byrry.” The which charter, with the seal very fair, remaineth in the custody of Joseph Holland, gentleman.

In the year 1136, the 1st of king Stephen,[31] a fire began in the house of one Ailewarde, near unto London stone, which consumed east to Aldgate, and west to St. Erkenwald’s shrine, in Powle’s church; the bridge of timber over the river of Thames was also burnt, etc., but afterwards again repaired. For Fitzstephen writes, that in the reign of King Stephen and of Henry II., when pastimes were showed on the river of Thames, men stood in great number on the bridge, wharfs, and houses, to behold.

Now in the year 1163, the same bridge was not only repaired, but newly made of timber as before, by Peter of Cole church, priest and chaplain.

Thus much for the old timber bridge, maintained partly by[23] the proper lands thereof, partly by the liberality of divers persons, and partly by taxations in divers shires, have I proved for the space of 215 years before the bridge of stone was built.

Now touching the foundation of the stone bridge, it followeth:—About the year 1176, the stone bridge over the river of Thames, at London, was begun to be founded by the aforesaid Peter of Cole church, near unto the bridge of timber, but somewhat more towards the west, for I read, that Buttolfe wharf was, in the Conqueror’s time, at the head of London bridge.[32] The king assisted this work: a cardinal then being legate here; and Richard, archbishop of Canterbury, gave one thousand marks towards the foundation; the course of the river, for the time, was turned another way about, by a trench cast for that purpose, beginning, as is supposed, east about Radriffe, and ending in the west about Patricksey, now termed Batersey. This work; to wit, the arches, chapel and stone bridge, over the river of Thames at London, having been thirty-three years in building, was in the year 1209 finished by the worthy merchants of London, Serle Mercer, William Almaine, and Benedict Botewrite, principal masters of that work, for Peter of Cole church deceased four years before, and was buried in the chapel on the bridge, in the year 1205.[33]

King John gave certain void places in London to build upon the profits thereof to remain towards the charges of building and repairing the same bridge: a mason being master workman of the bridge, builded from the foundation the large chapel on that bridge of his own charges, which chapel was then endowed for two priests, four clerks, etc., besides chantries since founded for John Hatfield and other.[34] After the finishing of this chapel, which was the first building upon those arches, sundry houses at times were erected, and many charitable men gave lands, tenements, or sums of money, towards maintenance thereof, all which was sometimes noted and in a table fair written for posterity remaining in the chapel, until the same chapel was turned into a dwelling-house, and then removed to the bridge house, the effect of which table I was willing to have published in this book, if I could have obtained the sight thereof. But making the shorter work, I find by the account of William[24] Mariner and Christopher Eliot, wardens of London bridge from Michaelmas, in the 22nd of Henry VII., unto Michaelmas next ensuing, by one whole year, that all the payments and allowances came to £815 17s.d., as there is shown by particulars, by which account then made, may be partly guessed the great charges and discharges of that bridge at this day, when things be stretched to so great a price. And now to actions on this bridge.

The first action to be noted was lamentable; for within four[35] years after the finishing thereof, to wit, in the year 1212, on the l0th of July, at night,[36] the borough of Southwark, upon the south side the river of Thames, as also the church of our Lady of the Canons there, being on fire, and an exceeding great multitude of people passing the bridge, either to extinguish and quench it, or else to gaze at and behold it, suddenly the north part, by blowing of the south wind was also set on fire, and the people which were even now passing the bridge, perceiving the same, would have returned, but were stopped by fire; and it came to pass, that as they stayed or protracted time, the other end of the bridge also, namely, the south end, was fired, so that the people thronging themselves between the two fires, did nothing else but expect present death; then came there to aid them many ships and vessels, into the which the multitude so unadvisedly rushed, that the ships being drowned, they all perished.[37] It was said, that through the fire and shipwreck there were destroyed about three thousand persons, whose bodies were found in part, or half burnt, besides those that were wholly burnt to ashes, and could not be found.

About the year 1282, through a great frost and deep snow, five arches of London bridge were borne down and carried away.

In the year 1289, the bridge was so sore decayed for want of reparations that men were afraid to pass thereon, and a subsidy was granted towards the amendment thereof,[38] Sir John Britain being custos of London. 1381, a great collection or gathering was made of all archbishops, bishops, and other ecclesiastical persons, for the reparations of London bridge. 1381, Wat Tyler, and other rebels of Kent, by this bridge entered the city, as ye may read in my Summary and Annals.

In the year 1395, on St. George’s day, was a great justing on[25] London bridge, betwixt David Earl of Crawford of Scotland, and the Lord Wells of England; in the which the Lord Wells was at the third course borne out of the saddle: which history proveth, that at that time the bridge being coped on either side, was not replenished with houses built thereupon, as it hath since been, and now is. The next year, on the 13th of November, the young Queen Isabell, commonly called the little, for she was but eight years old, was conveyed from Kenington besides Lamhith, through Southwarke to the Tower of London, and such a multitude of people went out to see her, that on London bridge nine persons were crowded to death, of whom the prior of Tiptre, a place in Essex, was one, and a matron on Cornhill was another.

The Tower on London bridge at the north end of the draw-bridge (for that bridge was then readily to be drawn up, as well to give passage for ships to Queenhithe, as for the resistance of any foreign force), was begun to be built in the year 1426, John Rainwell being mayor.

Another tower there is on the said bridge over the gate at the south end towards Southwarke, whereof in another place shall be spoken.

In the year 1450, Jack Cade, and other rebels of Kent, by this bridge entered the city: he struck his sword on London Stone, and said himself then to be lord of the city, but were by the citizens overcome on the same bridge, and put to flight, as in my Annals.

In the year 1471, Thomas, the bastard Fawconbridge, besieged this bridge, burnt the gate, and all the houses to the draw-bridge, that time thirteen in number.

In the year 1481, a house called the common siege on London bridge fell down into the Thames; through the fall whereof five men were drowned.

In the year 1553, the 3rd of February, Sir Thomas Wyat, and the Kentish men, marched from Depeford towards London; after knowledge whereof, forthwith the draw-bridge was cut down, and the bridge gates shut. Wyat and his people entered Southwarke, where they lay till the 6th of February, but could get no entry of the city by the bridge, the same was then so well defended by the citizens, the Lord William Howard assisting, wherefore he removed towards Kingstone, etc., as in my Annals.

To conclude of this bridge over the said river of Thames, I affirm, as in other my descriptions, that it is a work very rare, having with the draw-bridge twenty arches made of squared stone, of height sixty feet, and in breadth thirty feet, distant[26] one from another twenty feet, compact and joined together with vaults and cellars; upon both sides be houses built, so that it seemeth rather a continual street than a bridge; for the fortifying whereof against the incessant assaults of the river, it hath overseers and officers, viz., wardens, as aforesaid, and others.

Fleete bridge in the west without Ludgate, a bridge of stone, fair coped on either side with iron pikes; on the which, towards the south, be also certain lanthorns of stone, for lights to be placed in the winter evenings, for commodity of travellers. Under the bridge runneth a water, sometimes called, as I have said, the river of the Wels, since Turnemill brooke, now Fleete dike, because it runneth by the Fleete, and sometimes about the Fleete, so under Fleete bridge into the river of Thames. This bridge hath been far greater in times past, but lessened, as the water course hath been narrowed. It seemeth this last bridge to be made or repaired at the charges of John Wels, mayor, in the year 1431, for on the coping is engraven Wels embraced by angels, like as on the standard in Cheape, which he also built. Thus much of the bridge: for of the water course, and decay thereof, I have spoken in another place.

Oldbourne bridge, over the said river of the Wels more towards the north, was so called, of a bourn that sometimes ran down Oldbourne hill into the said river. This bridge of stone, like as Fleet bridge from Ludgate west, serveth for passengers with carriage or otherwise, from Newgate toward the west and by north.

Cowbridge, more north, over the same water by Cowbridge street or Cowlane: this bridge being lately decayed, another of timber is made somewhat more north, by Chick lane, etc.

Bridges over the town ditch there are divers; to wit, without Aldgate, without Bishopsgate, the postern called Moorgate, the postern of Criplegate without Aldersgate, the postern of Christ’s hospital, Newgate, and Ludgate; all these be over paved likewise, with stone level with the streets. But one other there is of timber over the river of Wels, or Fleet dike, between the precinct of the Black Friers, and the house of Bridewell.

There have been of old time also, divers bridges in sundry places over the course of Walbrooke, as before I have partly noted, besides Horseshew bridge, by the church of St. John Baptist, now called St. John’s upon Walbrooke. I read, that of old time every person having lands on either side of the said brook, should cleanse[39] the same, and repair the bridges so far[27] as their lands extended. More, in the 11th of Edward III. the inhabitants upon the course of this brook were forced to pile and wall the sides thereof. Also, that in the 3rd of Henry V. this water-course had many bridges, since vaulted over with bricks, and the streets where through it passed so paved, that the same water-course is now hardly discerned. For order was taken in the 2nd of Edward IV., that such as had ground on either side of Walbrooke, should vault and pave it over, so far as his ground extended. And thus much for bridges in this city may suffice.