Index to Stow's original Survey of London written in 1598
The ditch, which partly now remaineth, and compassed the wall of the city, was begun to be made by the Londoners in the year 1211, and was finished in the year 1213, the 15th of King John. This ditch being then made of 200 feet broad, caused no small hindrance to the canons of the Holy Trinity, whose church stood near unto Aldgate; for that the said ditch passed through their ground from the Tower of London unto Bishopsgate. This ditch, being originally made for the defence of the city, was also long together carefully cleansed and maintained, as need required; but now of late neglected and forced either to a very narrow, and the same a filthy channel, or altogether stopped up for gardens planted, and houses built thereon; even to the very wall, and in many places upon both ditch and wall houses to be built; to what danger of the city, I leave to wiser consideration, and can but wish that reformation might be had.
In the year of Christ 1354, the 28th of Edward III., the ditch of this city flowing over the bank into the Tower ditch, the king commanded the said ditch of the city to be cleansed, and so ordered, that the overflowing thereof should not force any filth into the Tower ditch.
Anno 1379, John Philpot, mayor of London, caused this ditch to be cleansed, and every householder to pay five pence, which was for a day’s work towards the charges thereof. Richard II., in the 10th of his reign, granted a toll to be taken of wares sold by water or by land, for ten years, towards repairing of the wall and cleansing of the ditch.
Thomas Falconer, mayor, 1414, caused the ditch to be cleansed.
Ralph Joceline, mayor, 1477, caused the whole ditch to be cast and cleansed, and so from time to time it was cleansed, and otherwise reformed, namely, in 1519, the 10th of Henry VIII., for cleansing and scowering the common ditch between Aldgate and the postern next the Tower ditch. The chief ditcher had by the day seven pence, the second ditcher six pence, the other ditchers five pence. And every vagabond (for so were they termed) one penny the day, meat and drink, at charges of the city. £95 3s. 4d.
In my remembrance also the same was cleansed, namely the Moore ditch, when Sir William Hollies was mayor, in the year 1540, and not long before, from the Tower of London to Aldgate.
It was again cleansed in the year 1549, Henry Amcotes being mayor, at the charges of the companies. And again, 1569, the 11th of Queen Elizabeth, for cleansing the same ditch between Aldgate and the postern, and making a new sewer, and wharf of timber, from the head of the postern into the town ditch, £814 15s. 8d. Before the which time the said ditch lay open, without wall or pale, having therein great store of very good fish, of divers sorts, as many men yet living, who have taken and tasted them, can well witness; but now no such matter: the charge of cleansing is spared, and great profit made by letting out the banks, with the spoil of the whole ditch.
I am not ignorant of two fifteenths granted by a common council in the year 1595, for the reformation of this ditch, and that a small portion thereof, to wit, betwixt Bishopsgate and the postern called Mooregate, was cleansed, and made somewhat broader; but filling again very fast, by reason of overraising the ground near adjoining, therefore never the better: and I will so leave it, for I cannot help it.