A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603. Originally published by Clarendon, Oxford, 1908.
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The towne Ditch without the Wall of the citie.
The Ditch which partly now remaineth, and compassed the wall of the Citie, was begun to be made by the Londoners, in the yere 1211. & was finished in the yeare 1213. the 15. of King Iohn, this Ditch being then made of 200. foot broad, caused no small hinderance to the Canons of the holy Trinitie, whose Church stood neare vnto Aldgate, for that the saide ditch passed through their ground, from the Tower of London, vnto Bishops gate. This Ditch being originally made for the defence of the Citie, was also long togither, carefully clensed and maintained as neede required, but now of late neglected and forced either to a verie narrow, and the same a filthie chanell, or altogither stopped vp for Gardens planted, and houses builded thereon, euen to the verie wall, and in many places vpon both ditch & wall houses to be builded, to what danger of the Citie, I leaue to wiser consideration: and can but wish that reformation might be had.
In the yeare of Christ, 1354. the 28. of Edward the third, the ditch of this Citie flowing ouer the banke into the Tower ditch, the king commaunded the said ditch of the Citie to be clensed, and so ordered, that the ouerflowing thereof should not force any filth into the Tower ditch.
Anno 1379. Iohn Philpot Maior of London, caused this ditch to be cleansed, and euerie houshold to pay v.d. which was for a dayes worke towards the charges thereof. Richard the 2. in the tenth of his raigne, granted a Toll to bee taken of wares solde by water, or by lande for ten yeares, towardes repayring of the wall, and clensing of the ditch.
Ralf Ioceline Maior 1477. caused the whole ditch to be cast and clensed, and so from time to time it was clensed, and otherwise reformed, namely, in 1519, the tenth of Henrie 8. for clensing and scowring the common ditch betweene Aldgate and the Posterne next the Tower ditch. The chief ditcher had by the day vij.d. the second ditcher vi.d. the other ditchers v.d. And euery vagabonde (for so were they termed) one pennie the day meate and drinke, at charges of the Citie. XCV.li. iij.s. iiij.d.
It was againe clensed in the yeare 1549. Henrie Amcotes being Maior, at the charges of the Companies. And againe 1569. the II. of Queene Elizabeth, for clensing the same ditch betweene Ealdgate and the Posterne, and making a new sewere, and wharf of tymber from the head of the Posterne into the towne ditch, viii.C.xiiij. pound, xv.s. viij.d. Before the which time the saide ditch lay open, without wall or pale, hauing therein great store of verie good fish, of diuerse sorts, as many men yet liuing, who haue taken and tasted them can well witnes: but now no such matter, the charge of clensing is spared, and great profite made by letting out the banks, with the spoyle of the whole ditch.
I am not ignorant of two fifteenes graunted by a common Councell in the yeare 1595. for the reformation of this ditch, and that a small portion thereof, to wit, betwixt Bishopsgate, and the Posterne called Mooregate, was clensed and made somewhat broder: but filling againe very fast, by reason of ouerraysing the ground neare adioyning, therefore neuer the better: and I will so leaue it, for I cannot helpe it.