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


In a few years after, as Simeon of Durham, an ancient writer, reporteth, Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, was the first that inwalled this city, about the year of Christ 306; but however those walls of stone might have been built by Helen, yet the Britons, I know, had no skill of building with stone, as it may appear by that which followeth, about the year of Christ 399, when Arcadius and Honorius, the sons of Theodosius Magnus, governed the empire, the one in the east, the other in the west; for Honorius having received Britain, the city of Rome was invaded and destroyed by the Goths, after which time the Romans left to rule in Britain, as being employed in defence of their territories nearer home, whereupon the Britons not able to defend themselves against the invasions of their enemies, were many years together under the oppression of two most cruel nations, the Scots and Picts, and at the length were forced to send their ambassadors with letters and lamentable supplications to Rome, requiring aid and succour from thence, upon promise of their continual fealty, so that the Romans would rescue them out of the hands of their enemies. Hereupon the Romans sent unto them a legion of armed soldiers, which coming into this island, and encountering with the enemies, overthrew a great number of them, and drove the rest out of the frontiers of the country; and so setting the Britons at liberty, counselled them to make a wall, extending all along between the two seas, which might be of force to keep out their evil neighbours, and then returned home with great triumph. The Britons wanting masons built that wall, not of stone as they were advised, but made it of turf, and that so slender, that it served little or nothing at all for their defence, and the enemy[8] perceiving that the Roman legion was returned home, forthwith arrived out of their boats, invaded the borders, overcame the country, and, as it were, bore down all that was before them.

Whereupon ambassadors were eftsoon dispatched to Rome, lamentably beseeching that they would not suffer their miserable country to be utterly destroyed: then again another legion was sent, which coming upon a sudden, made a great slaughter of the enemy, and chased him home, even to his own country. These Romans at their departure, told the Britons plainly, that it was not for their ease or leisure to take upon them any more such long and laborious journeys for their defence, and therefore bade them practice the use of armour and weapons, and learn to withstand their enemies, whom nothing else did make so strong as their faint heart and cowardice; and for so much as they thought that it would be no small help and encouragement unto their tributary friends whom they were now forced to forsake,[12] they built for them a wall of hard stone from the west sea to the east sea, right between those two cities, which were there made to keep out the enemy, in the selfsame place where Severus before had cast his trench. The Britons also putting to their helping hands as labourers.

This wall they built eight feet thick in breadth, and twelve feet in height, right, as it were by a line, from east to west, as the ruins thereof remaining in many places until this day do make to appear. Which work, thus perfected, they give the people strait charge to look well to themselves, they teach them to handle their weapons, and they instruct them in warlike feats. And lest by the sea-side southwards, where their ships lay at harbour, the enemy should come on land, they made up sundry bulwarks, each somewhat distant from the other, and so bid them farewell, as minding no more to return. This happened in the days of the Emperor Theodosius the younger, almost 500 years after the first arrival of the Romans here, about the year after Christ’s incarnation 434.

The Britons after this, continuing a lingering and doubtful war with the Scots and Picts, made choice of Vortigern to be their king and leader, which man (as saith Malmesbury[13]) was neither valorous of courage, nor wise of counsel, but wholly given over to the unlawful lusts of his flesh; the people likewise, in short[9] time, being grown to some quietness, gave themselves to gluttony and drunkenness, pride, contention, envy, and such other vices, casting from them the yoke of Christ. In the mean season, a bitter plague fell among them, consuming in short time such a multitude that the quick were not sufficient to bury the dead; and yet the remnant remained so hardened in sin, that neither death of their friends, nor fear of their own danger, could cure the mortality of their souls, whereupon a greater stroke of vengeance ensued upon the whole sinful nation. For being now again infested with their old neighbours the Scots and Picts, they consult with their king Vortigern,[14] and send for the Saxons, who shortly after arrived here in Britain, where, saith Bede, they were received as friends; but as it proved, they minded to destroy the country as enemies; for after that they had driven out the Scots and Picts, they also drove the Britons, some over the seas, some into the waste mountains of Wales and Cornwall, and divided the country into divers kingdoms amongst themselves.

These Saxons were likewise ignorant of building with stone until the year 680; for then it is affirmed that Benet, abbot of Wirrall,[15] master to the reverend Bede, first brought artificers of stone houses and glass windows into this island amongst the Saxons, arts before that time unto them unknown, and therefore used they but wooden buildings. And to this accordeth Policronicon, who says, “that then had ye wooden churches, nay wooden chalices and golden priests, but since golden chalices and wooden priests.” And to knit up this argument, King Edgar in his charter to the abbey of Malmesbury, dated the year of Christ 974, hath words to this effect: “All the monasteries in my realm, to the outward sight, are nothing but worm-eaten and rotten timber and boards, and that worse is, within they are almost empty, and void of Divine service.”

Thus much be said for walling, not only in respect of this city, but generally also of the first within the realm. Now to return to our Trinobant (as Cæsar hath it), the same is since by Tacitus, Ptolemæus, and Antoninus, called Londinium, Longidinum; of Ammiamus, Lundinum, and Augusta, who calleth it an ancient city; of our Britons, Lundayne; of the old Saxons, Lundenceaster, Lundenbrig, Londennir; of strangers Londra and Londres; of the inhabitants, London; whereof you may read a more large and learned discourse, and how it took the name, in[10] that work of my loving friend, Master Camden, now Clarencieux, which is called Britannia.

This city of London having been destroyed and burnt by the Danes and other Pagan enemies, about the year of Christ 839, was by Alfred, king of the West Saxons, in the year 886, repaired, honourably restored, and made again habitable. Who also committed the custody thereof unto his son-in-law, Ethelred, Earl of Mercia, unto whom before he had given his daughter Ethelfled.

And that this city was then strongly walled may appear by divers accidents, whereof William of Malmsbury hath, that about the year of Christ 994, the Londoners shut up their gates, and defended their king Ethelred within their walls against the Danes.

In the year 1016,[16] Edmund Ironsides reigning over the West Saxons, Canute the Dane bringing his navy into the west part of the bridge, cast a trench about the city of London, and then attempted to have won it by assault, but the citizens repulsed him, and drove them from their walls.

Also, in the year 1052, Earl Goodwin, with his navy, sailed up by the south end of the bridge, and so assailed the walls of this city.

William Fitzstephen, in the reign of King Henry II., writing of the walls of this city, hath these words: “The wall is high and great, well towered on the north side, with due distances between the towers. On the south side also the city was walled and towered, but the fishful river of Thames, with his ebbing and flowing, hath long since subverted them.”

By the north side, he meaneth from the river of Thames in the east to the river of Thames in the west, for so stretched the wall in his time, and the city being far more in length from east to west than in breadth from south to north, and also narrower at both ends than in the midst, is therefore compassed with the wall on the land side, in form of a bow, except denting in betwixt Cripplegate and Aldersgate; but the wall on the south side, along by the river of Thames, was straight as the string of a bow, and all furnished with towers or bulwarks (as we now term them) in due distance every one from other, as witnesseth our author, and ourselves may behold from the land side. This may suffice for proof of a wall, and form thereof, about this city, and the same to have been of great antiquity as any other within this realm.


And now touching the maintenance and reparing the said wall. I read, that in the year 1215, the 16th of King John,[17] the barons, entering the city by Aldgate, first took assurance of the citizens, then brake into the Jews’ houses, searched their coffers to fill their own purses, and after with great diligence repaired the walls and gates of the city with stone taken from the Jews’ broken houses. In the year 1257, Henry III. caused the walls of this city, which were sore decayed and destitute of towers, to be repaired in more seemly wise than before, at the common charges of the city. Also in the year 1282,[18] King Edward I. having granted to Robert Kilwarby, archbishop of Canterbury, license for the enlarging of the Blackfriars’ church, to break and take down a part of the wall of the city, from Ludgate to the river of Thames; he also granted to Henry Wales, mayor, and the citizens of London, the favour to take, toward the making of the wall and enclosure of the city, certain customs or toll, as appeareth by his grant. This wall was then to be made from Ludgate west to Fleet bridge along behind the houses, and along by the water of the Fleet unto the river of Thames. Moreover, in the year 1310, Edward II. commanded the citizens to make up the wall already begun, and the tower at the end of the same wall, within the water of Thames near unto the Blackfriars, etc. 1328, the 2nd of Edward III., the walls of this city were repaired. It was also granted by King Richard II. in the tenth year of his reign, that a toll should be taken of the wares sold by land or by water for ten years, towards the repairing of the walls, and cleansing of the ditch about London. In the 17th of Edward IV. Ralph Joceline, mayor, caused part of the wall about the city of London to be repaired; to wit, betwixt Aldgate and Aldersgate. He also caused Moorfield to be searched for clay, and brick thereof to be made and burnt; he likewise caused chalk to be brought out of Kent, and to be burnt into lime in the same Moorfield, for more furtherance of the work. Then the Skinners to begin in the east made that part of the wall betwixt Aldgate and Bevis Marks, towards Bishopsgate, as may appear by their arms in three places fixed there: the mayor, with his company of the Drapers, made all that part betwixt Bishopsgate and Allhallows church, and from Allhallows towards the postern called Moorgate. A great part of the same wall was repaired by the executors of Sir John Crosby, late alderman, as may appear by his arms in two places there fixed: and other[12] companies repaired the rest of the wall to the postern of Cripplegate. The Goldsmiths repaired from Cripplegate towards Aldersgate, and there the work ceased. The circuit of the wall of London on the land side, to wit, from the Tower of London in the east unto Aldgate, in 82 perches; from Aldgate to Bishopsgate, 86 perches; from Bishopsgate in the north to the postern of Cripplegate, 162 perches; from Cripplegate to Aldersgate, 75 perches; from Aldersgate to Newgate, 66 perches; from Newgate in the west to Ludgate, 42 perches; in all, 513 perches of assize. From Ludgate to the Fleet-dike west, about 60 perches; from Fleetbridge south to the river Thames, about 70 perches; and so the total of these perches amounteth to 643, every perch consisting of five yards and a half, which do yield 3536 yards and a half, containing 10,608 feet, which make up two English miles and more by 608 feet.