A Dictionary of London. Originally published by H Jenkins LTD, London, 1918.
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In a grant by King Aelfred and Ethelred to the Bishop and Church of Worcester in 889, mention is made of an enclosure at an ancient stone building in London called "aet Hpætmundes Stane a civibus appellatur a strata publica usque murum ejusdem civitatis. Cujus longitudo est perticarum xxvj et latitudo in superiori parte perticarum xiij et pedum vij et in inferiori loco perticarum xj and vj pedum" (Birch, Cart. Sax. II. 200; Kemble, Cod. Dip. II. 118; Thorpe, Dip. Ang. 135).
No part of the present "Walbrook" lies in the parish of St. Antholin, and it is not easy to See how it could have extended into that parish, unless the parish boundaries have been altered subsequently.
The City Records and Stow's Survey, together with the investigations made at different periods below the levels of existing streets and buildings, have thrown a good deal of light on the situation of the stream and enable us to identify its course with a fair degree of accuracy.
By this Charter, King William granted to the College "all the land and moor without Cripplegate on both sides of the postern from the north corner of the wall of the city where the '"rivulus foncium" ibi prope fluenciam' separates the moor from the wall of the city."
Stow identifies this stream, which he calls the " River of Wells," with the Fleet, but the description given in the Charter makes this identification difficult of acceptance, as the Fleet has a course due north and south at least half a mile west from the" aquilonari comu muri," while it cannot indeed be said to enter the city at any point.
The portion of the moor demised by the charter would seem to have extended from the north corner of the City Wall by St. Giles Cripplegate Church to the running water of the Walbrook, comprising Finsbury Fields, Moor Fields, and the neighbourhood.
The Walbrook entered the City to the east of Cripplegate, the exact position being probably located by the discovery, during the investigations undertaken by the Society of Antiquaries in 1905, in the City Wall of two culverts formed directly in the bed of the stream, at or near its base at the time of the construction of the wall, for the purpose of carrying the water through it. These culverts were found at the southern end of Blomfield Street. At this point the width of the bed of the stream was 150 ft. It then continued its course beneath the Carpenters' Hall to the east end of the church of St. Margaret Lothbury. Thence it flowed beneath the eastern part of the kitchen of Grocers' Hall under the church of St. Mildred Poultry, west from the Stocks Market-from thence across Bucklersbury west of the old church of St. Stephen Walbrook (See Lib. Cust, I. 367), and west of the present street of Walbrook by the west end of the church of St. John upon Walbrook under Horseshoe bridge-thence by the west end of Tallow Chandlers' Hall and east of Skinners' Hall behind the houses in Elbow Lane by Greenwich Lane into the Thames at Dowgate. At Cloak Lane the bed of the stream was 248 feet wide.
As before stated the stream was of considerable width and velocity, so that vessels could proceed up it as far as Bucklersbury, and its importance is indicated by the fact that the wards of the City in early records are classified according as they lay east or west of the Walbrook.
It had several bridges over it at various points, and numerous disputes are recorded in the City Letter Books, etc., as to the liability of the owners of property adjacent to the bridges for their repair and maintenance.
There were two bridges "juxta Moram et juxta ecclesiam Omnium Sanctorum super Wallum" in the wards of Coleman Street and Broad Street, respectively, which had to be kept in repair, the one by the Prior of Holy Trinity and the other as to one half by the Prior of the new Hospital without Bishopsgate and as to the other half by the neighbours (Lib. Albus, I. 582 ; Lib, Cust. I. 409).
In course of time, owing partly to the numerous buildings erected on its banks and to the consequent accumulations of mud and filth, the bed of the stream became more and more filled up, so that frequent orders had to be issued for the cleansing and scouring of the ditch of Walbrook, 16 Ed. I. (Cal. L. Bk. A. p.217), 1374, (Cal. L. Bk. G. 324), and 1415 (ib. I. p.137).
The course of the bank was visible in 1516 and was referred to in that year in a description of boundaries of a tenement between the church of St. Mildred Poultry and "the course of the bank of the Walbroke" (Lond. I. p.m. 8 H. VIII. p.31).
Much has been written as to the derivation of the name, the earliest forms in use being as follows: "Walebroc," 1114-30 (Cart. Mon. de Ramsey, I. 139). "Walebrock," 1277 (Cal. L. Bk. B. p.266). " Walebrock," 1281 (ib. p.s). "Walebrok," 1283-5 (Anc. Deeds, A. 1674). "Walebroke," 1277-8 (Cal. L. Bk. A. p.217). " Walebroc " (temp. Ed. I.) (Anc. Deeds, A. 2012). " Walbrookdyk," 1420 (Ct. H.W. II. 422).
These records are all subsequent to the date of the Charter of William I., 1068, above mentioned, The description given in this Charter is as follows : " Totam terram et moram extra posterulam que dicitur Crepelesgate ex utraque parte posterule videlicet ab aquilonari cornu muri civitatis sicut rivulus foncium ibi prope fluencium ipam a muro discriminat usque in aquam currentem que ingreditus civitatem."
This is the usual form of the charter in Latin, and as set out in a Register-book of St. Martin le Grand " Registrum Collegii Sancti Martini Magni" among Westminster Abbey MSS. temp. H. VI. 1450-60, f. I (b.).
But more interesting still for the present purpose is the O.E. form of the charter set out at fo. 66: "Ealle th lande and than more withuten Crepelesgate on agtherhealfe of than northhirne tha's burgwealles eall swa the' wylrithe ' hit sckyled fram tham weallum forth in to thare burh . . ." Or another reading gives, "forth in to tham broke the yrnth in to thaere burh. . ."
If the transcript is at all correct and can be relied on as a true copy of the original charter, it is a most valuable and interesting document, and suggests an earlier form of the name of the stream than is found elsewhere.
It may be interesting to note that in the course of the excavations made from time to time to locate the bed of the stream, numerous discoveries have been made of fragments of Roman pavements, which may be taken as evidence of the estimation in which the Romans held the banks of the watercourse as a place of residence. Roman coins have also been found in the bed of the stream near London Wall of date A.D. 161-180 (Price, Rom. P. in Bucklersbury, p.48, and Arch. LX.).
Traces of an ancient stream bed have been found near the middle of the street of Walbrook and at Cloak Lane at a depth of from 20 to 22 ft., in Broad Street at a depth of 30 ft.; near London Wall at a depth of 22 ft., and at the Bank of 35 ft. from the present level. In excavations under Nos. 10 and 12 Copthall Avenue, true stream deposits have been found at a depth of about 12-18 ft., washed gravel and sand covered by 5-6 ft. of black mud in which were patches of peat. Any holes dug here, rapidly filled with water. Piles, Roman pottery, and shells were found in the mud in abundance, but none of later date, showing that the deposit took place during the time of the Roman occupation of London and not subsequently. Pieces of Roman sculpture have also been found in Bond Court.
It may be well to note here the view that has suggested itself as to the formation of the marsh or fen to the north of the City known as Moorfields. There is no evidence to suggest that this marsh was in existence in Roman times, and so long as the Walbrook flowed uninterruptedly through open country, it served to drain the land and to carry away the surplus waters that might otherwise have accumulated in the low-lying districts. But when the Romans built the wall round the City, they obstructed the free course of the stream at that point, so that it could not carry off the waters that collected in the hollow ground to the north of the wall, resulting in course of time in the formation of the marshlands above mentioned.
As to the course of the stream before it entered the City, Price is of opinion that it had two branches-a western branch rising in Finshury Fields to the N.W. of Finsbury Square and running in the direction of Wilson Street through Moorfields-and an eastern branch rising near to the south end of New North Road near Pitfield Street, Hoxton, and flowing by Willow Walk across Curtain Road to Holywell Lane and thence by the old burial ground of Bethelehem Hospital along Blomfield Street to the ditch of the City Wall (ib. 48-9). He gives a plan of the course of the stream, showing where these two branches respectively entered the City
Stow says it taketh name of the street called " Walbrook" (227), and many of the wards are so named of the main street intersecting them. But it is possible that in this case the ward was named after the brook and not after the street.
Wall of London
Considerable difference of opinion exists as to the date when the walls that encircled the ancient City of London were first erected, and no evidence is obtainable from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or other early records.
There is no doubt from the remains which have been brought to light from time to time that some portion at least of the walls were originally erected in Roman times. Many of the fragments unearthed are of undoubted Roman construction and bear unmistakable evidences of Roman workmanship.
Henry of Huntingdon ascribes their erection to the Empress Helen, who died in 328 (ed. R.S. p.30). But he is the only authority for this statement, and it seems probable from discoveries made of coins, etc., that they may have been erected towards the end of the 2nd century.
Roach Smith places the centre of the earlier Londinium at the top of Fish Street Hill and thinks that to the north the wall ran along Cornhill and Leadenhall Street, to the east along Billiter Street and Mark Lane, to the south along Thames Street, and to the west along the east side of Walbrook, and that it was extended in later times in all directions.
He is of opinion that the four original gates of the enlarged City were Aldgate, Alders-gate, Ludgate, and Bridgegate, and that the others were probably Roman postern gates, but the remains found under Newgate and at the junction of Bishopsgate and Wormwood Street suggest that these two gates were of greater importance in Roman times (See Gates of the City).
Remains of the Roman wall and bastions have been found within the precincts of the Tower; in George Street, Tower Hill; Trinity Place, Tower Hill; Cooper's Row; America Square; near John Street; in Crutched Friars and Jewry Street; in Hounds-ditch; London Wall (Street) ; Camomile Street; in the churchyard of St. Giles, Cripplegate; in Bull and Mouth Street, Aldersgate; on the site of Christ's Hospital (now General Post Office); near Newgate in Old Bailey, etc., in the line of the later medieval wall.
The later Roman wall seems to have enclosed an area of about 380 acres, and it is probable that further additions were made to the fortifications of the City, temp. Alfred, 872-901, and that much of the wall was erected or rebuilt at this time. This later wall included an extent of nearly 450 acres.
Its course can be clearly traced from the Tower of London, east of White Tower, running due north to Aldgate along the line of Vine Street, then north-west, south of Houndsditch on the north-east side of the present Duke Street, Bevis Marks, and Camomile Street to Bishopsgate, and west along the northern sides of the streets called Wormwood Street and London Wall, to the churchyard of St. Giles Cripplegate, where the upper portion of a bastion may be seen above ground. The wall here formed an angle and turned south to a point a little north-east of the church of St. Anne and St. Agnes, thence west across the street at Aldersgate along the south side of St. Botolph Aldersgate Churchyard, a portion of the inner face being visible in the basement of the General Post Office. Thence it ran west to the angle bastion in Giltspur Street, thence south to Newgate and Ludgate to the River.
This original line of the wall was encroached on and destroyed in the east by the erection of the Tower of London, temp. William the Conqueror. Later in the 13th century, in the west by Ludgate, it was removed for the enlargement of the Blackfriars monastery and rebuilt further west so as to enclose that house within its circuit. It is more difficult to reconstruct the southern line of the wall along the river bank, alluded to by Fitzstephen, as this had completely disappeared by the 12th century, but it probably existed as part of the original circuit of the City, and it is interesting to note that in a charter of Alfred of 898, making grants of two "jugera" at Etheredeshyd (Queenhithe), the boundaries are given as follows: "Est autem via publica a fiumine Tamisie dividens hec duo jugera tendens in aquilonem Ambo autem jugera in murum protelantur et extra murum navium staciones tante latitudinis quante et jugera sunt infra murum " (Birch, II. 221).
The passage suggests a wall on the river bank at Queenhithe, which may perhaps have formed a portion of the original City Wall on that side. This southern wall was probably not part of the original Roman defences, but of later erection.
The walls were in existence as late as the 18th century, and are plainly shown in Rocque's map, 1746. After that time they rapidly disappeared and no trace of them is visible in Horwood's map, 1799. But extensive remains have been found from time to time, especially in the course of excavations made during the 19th century, and careful notes have been taken as to the size, thickness, and general construction of the portions. examined.
There are several portions easily accessible, viz.: In London Wall (Street) on the north. side enclosed in St. Alphage Churchyard. No.55 London Wall, being pulled down, was found to rest on the Old Wall, 43 ft. long, 12 ft. high, excavated 17 ft. 6 in. below the modern level. Houses on the north side stand on the lower courses of the Roman wall A bastion in St. Giles' Churchyard Cripplegate. In George Street, Trinity Square, Tower Hill at No.6, which was built on the site of the wall. In Trinity Place, Trinity Square.. At Barber's Bonded Warehouses in Cooper's Row. At Roman Wall House," No. I Crutched Friars, in one of the basement rooms. In St. Martin's Court, Ludgate Hill, opposite the Old Bailey. In King Edward VII. Street, in excavating for the new Post Office Buildings. There is an interesting account of this discovery with drawings, Arch LXIII., and in Trans. L. and M. Arch. Soc. N.S. II. (3), 271.
Other fragments of interest have been found in America Square, near the Minories,. and at Fenchurch Street Railway Station, 9 ft. below the surface. Commencing at the Tower, the wall ran in a northerly direction in line 700 ft. from the old postern gate. The foundations were taken 3 ft. into a solid bed of natural gravel.
Remains of the bastions have also been found: The bastion in Camomile Street in 1884, 8 ft. below the surface, was of Roman construction as to the first 10 ft. in height, the remaining portion 8 or 9 ft. in height being of later work.
Remains of bastions have also been discovered at the end of Chain Alley (Gould Square) in the Minories, two before Aldgate, one as before mentioned at Cripplegate, two in Monkwell Street, one at Christ's Hospital, one near the corner of Giltspur Street, 100 ft. from Newgate. One on Ludgate Hill, belonging to the later wall, projecting 14 ft. north into the City Ditch.
The original height of the wall seems to have been from 20 to 25 ft., the base in America Square being buried to a depth of about 20 ft. Interesting details as to these discoveries and the construction of the wall are to be found in Archaeologia, Vols. LX., LXIII., etc., and in Lond. Topog. Rec. IV. 1.