Book 2, Ch. 10: Bridge Ward within

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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John Noorthouck, 'Book 2, Ch. 10: Bridge Ward within', in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark( London, 1773), British History Online [accessed 25 July 2024].

John Noorthouck, 'Book 2, Ch. 10: Bridge Ward within', in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark( London, 1773), British History Online, accessed July 25, 2024,

John Noorthouck. "Book 2, Ch. 10: Bridge Ward within". A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. (London, 1773), , British History Online. Web. 25 July 2024.

In this section


Bridge ward within.

This ward receives its name from London bridge which forms a part of it; and when the bridge was lined with houses on each side, three of the 14 precincts into which the ward was divided, were on the bridge. It is bounded on the south by Southwark and the river Thames; on the east by Billingsgate ward; on the north by Langbourn ward; and on the west by Candlewick and Dowgate wards.

From the end of the bridge on the Southwark side of the river, it extends northward up Gracechurch street to the corner of Lombard-street and Fenchurchstreet, including the greatest part of the alleys and courts on the east side, and on the west side all the alleys, courts and lanes in Thames-street, on both sides to New-key, part of Michael's-lane, and part of Crooked-lane.

London bridge.

The principal object in this ward is the bridge, which admits of two descriptions, the one of the state in which it stood for many centuries, and the other as it now appears under its late reparation.

Figure 11:

Views of the bridges

This bridge was first determined on in the year 1176; and the direction of it was entrusted to Peter, curate of Colechurch, a celebrated architect of that age; as has been mentioned in the history (fn. 1). To what is there said descriptive of London bridge may now be added, that it appears difficult to account for the motives of building habitations on so strange, so inconvenient, and so perilous a spot as on each side a public bridge over a wide river! and at a time when terra firma was not rendered precious by assiduous agriculture, or by a land tax. Yet so it was, the bridge was loaded with wooden houses, which reduced the passage over to a narrow street of 20 feet wide; and in this crouded state it remained for 500 years! That the absurdity below might correspond with that above, the passage under the arches was contracted by enormous platforms, built round the decaying piers, called sterlings; which dammed up the water so much that at the return of the tide, the river above the bridge is nearly five feet higher than it is below. So that during the ebb, the water through every arch forms so many cataracts; pouring down with a tremendous roar, and whirling round on the lower side in foaming eddies, as soon as disengaged from the confinement. Advantage was taken of this waterfall in the reign of queen Elizabeth (fn. 2), to supply the neighbouring parts of London and Southwark with water, by fixing water wheels in the arches next the London side of the bridge: and the preservation of these water works has ever since been thought a sufficient objection to the restoring a free passage to the current; though the navigation through the bridge is so dangerous, that scarcely a week passes without the loss of lives in these artificial streights. At the time when it became necessary to add the sterlings in order to preserve the foundations of piers, it would have been wiser to have taken the bridge down and built a new one upon more correct principles. The money expended in those preposterous additions, with the annual sums laid out in supporting them, exclusive of the last enormous charge, would have been more than sufficient to have reared a new fabric. It has often been ignorantly asserted, that the arches of the bridge were originally constructed in the present manner, to restrain the ebbing of the tide, and preserve the navigation of the river above the bridge; and that if the arches were widened, the tide would ebb away so fast, that there would be scarcely any navigation above the bridge a little after high water. But had these objectors once considered, that the river is navigable far above the reach of the tide, they would never have thought of advancing so weak an argument (fn. 3).

By virtue of an act of parliament, the houses in 1758 were at last taken away (fn. 4), the bridge was widened, and a handsome foot pavement was made on each side, guarded with stone balustrades. Below, two of the middle arches were thrown into one semicircular arch, by taken up the pier between them: but by injudiciously drawing up the piles originally driven there, the current washed away the soil so much as to endanger the two piers on each side. For the security of the bridge therefore an immense quantity of stones was thrown into the river under the new arch, to preserve the foundation; but even this precaution has not cleared up all doubts of its safety. In fact, a new bridge, as before observed, was absolutely necessary, and should have been built instead of repairing the old one; which, beside the preservation of many lives, would have reflected honour on the city of London, improved the navigation of the river, and been a noble and useful ornament. Instead of which an immense sum of money has been thrown away, the bridge itself is left a greater nusance than it was before, (owing to the prodigious rapidity of the stream under the great arch) with this additional aggravation, that it will very probably be continually calling in the aid of quackery, and remain a continual expence and reproach to the present age, which by no means deserve such treatment (fn. 5).


On the east side of Fish-street hill, in a small square open to the street, stands that noble pillar designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and built to perpetuate the remembrance of the burning of London in 1666; emphatically called the Monument. This is justly esteemed the noblest modern column in the world; and may in some respects vie with the most celebrated of antiquity, which are consecrated to the names of Trajan and Antoninus. Nothing indeed can be more ridiculous than its situation, excepting the reason assigned for it; for had it been raised where Cheapside conduit stood, it would have been as effectual a memorial of the misfortune it is designed to record; it would have added an inexpressible beauty to the vista, and would have received as much as it gave (fn. 6).

Figure 12:

The Monument, Bow and Bride steeples

This column, which is 24 feet higher than Trajan's pillar at Rome, is built of Portland stone, of the Doric order and fluted. Its altitude from the ground is 202 feet; the greatest diameter of the shaft or body of the column is 15 feet; the ground plinth, or bottom of the pedestal is 28 feet square; and this pedestal is 40 feet high. Over the capital is an iron balcony, encompassing a cone 32 feet high, supporting a blazing urn of gilt brass (fn. 7). Within is a large stair-case of black marble, containing 345 steps, each ten inches and a half broad, and six inches thick (fn. 8).

The west side of the pedestal is adorned with curious emblems by the masterly hand of Mr. Cibber, father to the late Poet Laureat, Colley Cibber; in which the eleven principal figures are done in alto, and the rest in basso relievo. That to which the eye is particularly directed is a female, representing the city of London, sitting in a languishing pofture on a heap of ruins. Behind is Time, gradually raising her up; and at her side, a woman, representing Providence, gently touches her with one hand, while, with a winged scepter in the other, she directs her to regard two goddesses in the clouds; one with a cornucopia, denoting plenty, the other with a palm branch, the emblem of peace. At her feet is a bee-hive, to shew that by industry and application the greatest misfortunes may be overcome. Behind Time, are citizens exulting at his endeavours to restore her; and beneath, in the midst of the ruins, is a dragon, the supporter of the city arms, who endeavours to preserve them with his paw; still farther, at the north end, is a view of the city in flames; the inhabitants in consternation, with their arms extended upward, and crying for assistance. Opposite the city, on an elevated pavement, stands the king, in a Roman habit, with a laurel on his head, and a truncheon in his hand; who approaching her, commands three of his attendants to descend to her relief: the first represents the Sciences, with a winged head and circle of naked boys dancing thereon, and holding Nature in her hand with her numerous breasts ready to give assistance to all: the second is Architecture, with a plan in one hand, and a square and pair of compasses in the other: the third is Liberty waving a hat in the air, and shewing her joy at the pleasing prospect of the city's speedy recovery. Behind the king stands his brother, the duke of York, with a garland in one hand to crown the rising city, and a sword in the other for her defence. The two figures behind him are Justice and Fortitude; the former with a coronet, and the latter with a reined lion; and under the pavement, in a vault, appears Envygnawing a heart: in the upper part of the back ground, the re-construction of the city is represented by scaffolds and unfinished houses, with builders at work on them.

The inscriptions on the other sides of the base of this column are copied and translated below (fn. 9).


About 150 yards west of London bridge, in Thames-street, but with a back front to the river, is Fishmonger's-hall; a handsome capacious edifice of brick and stone. The front entrance is from Thames-street, by a passage, that leads into a large square court, paved with flat stones, and encompassed by the great hall, the court-room, and other grand apartments, with galleries. These are of an handsome construction, and are supported by Ionic columns, with an arcade. The back-front, or that next the Thames, has a grand double flight of stone steps, by which we ascend to the first apartments from the wharf. The door is adorned with Ionic columns, and these support an open pediment, in which is a shield, with the arms of the company. The windows are ornamented with stone cases, the quoins of the building are wrought with rustic; and in the whole of this front there is a great deal of solid beauty (fn. 10). Within is the statue of Sir William Walworth, Knt. fishmonger, who, when he was lord-mayor, flew Wat Tyler (fn. 11).

St. Magnus church.

At the north east corner of London bridge, stands the parish church of St. Magnus, so named from its dedication to St. Magnus, who suffered martyrdom under the emperor Aurelian, in the city of Cæsarea, for the christian religion. The patronage of this church was anciently in the abbots and convents of Westminster and Bermondsey, who presented alternately, till the general suppression of monasteries; when coming to the crown, queen Mary, in 1553, granted it to the bishop of London, and his successors, in whom it still remains.

The old church suffered in the general conflagration in 1666; and when rebuilt, was made the parochial church for this and the parish of St. Margaret, New Fish-street; the monument now occupying the spot where the church of St. Margaret once stood. The patronage of this living was formerly in the abbot and convent, and bishop of Winchester, but falling to the crown was granted to the bishop of London with the former.

The church of St. Magnus was rebuilt in 1676, but it was some years after that the steeple was added. It is a spacious and massy stone building, yet well ornamented. The corners have rustic quoins, the body is enlightened by tall arched windows, over each of which is a cornice, supported by scrolls; and between these is a cherub over the center of each window. At the west end coupled pilasters rise, on each side the door, from a plain course, and support a pediment. The roof is hid by a kind of Attic course, from which the tower rises square and plain; and from this the dial, which is richly but heavily ornamented projects over the street. The course above this is adorned at the corners with coupled pilasters of the Ionic order, supporting an open work in the place of a balustrade, with large urns at the corners, of an uncommon shape. From within this open work rises the lanthorn, which also has Ionic pilasters, and arched windows in all the intercolumniations, The dome rests upon these pilasters; and on its crown is placed a piece of open work, like that which surrounds the base of the lanthorn. On this is raised the turret, which supports the fane. Here is a peal of ten bells.

When the houses were taken away from London bridge, the west end of this church interfered with the foot way: the tower was therefore cleared of so much of the body of the church as inclosed it on each side, and a foot passage was opened under the steeple; which was esteemed a hazardous undertaking, but by prudent care was safely compleated.

St. Bennet Grace church.

At the south west corner of Fenchurch-street stands the parish church of St. Bennet Grass, or Grace-church; so termed from its dedication to St. Benedict, and its vicinity to the grass or herb market, which was antiently kept before the west door of the church. It is a rectory, which has all along been in the gift of the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, London. The ancient church was greatly damaged by the fire of London in 1666, and was rebuilt in 1685, mostly of stone, with a very high spite on the tower: it was made the parochial church for this and the parish of St. Leonard Eastcheap, which is annexed to it. The patronage of St. Leonard was antiently in the prior and convent of Canterbury, at present in the dean and chapter of that see; who, with the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, present in turn to the united livings.

This is a very regular, convenient, and handsome church; built without the great articles of expence, columns, and porticos; but from the justness of its proportions, and regularity of all its parts, superior to many, in which ignorant extravagance has lavished immense sums. It is small, but well proportioned; the length is only 60 feet, and the breadth just half that measure: the height of the roof within is 32, but on the outside a plain cornice and balustrade raise it considerably higher, and better proportion it to the steeple, which is 149 feet high. The steeple is composed of a spire and dome, raised upon a substantial square tower, which is a just continuation of the body to which it is united (fn. 12).


  • 1. Vid. p. 31, ante.
  • 2. Vid. p. 137, 440, ante.
  • 3. Gwynn's London and Westm. Improved p. 120.
  • 4. Vid. p. 385, 390.
  • 5. Gwynn ut supra.
  • 6. Ralph's Critical Review of the Public Buildings of London and Westminster, 2d edition, p. 6.
  • 7. In the place of this urn, which was set up contrary to Sir Christopher's opinion, was originally intended a colossal statue in brass, gilt, of King Charles II. as founder of the new city; after the manner of the Roman pillars, which terminated with the statues of their Cæsars, or else a figure erect of a woman crowned with turrets, holding a sword and cap of maintenance, with other ensigns of the city's grandeur and re-erection.
  • 8. Sir Christopher Wren, who was no less an astrononomer than an architect, is said to have built the Monument hollow, that it might serve as a tube to discover the parallax of the earth, by the different distances of the star in the head of the dragon, from the zenith at different seasons of the year: but finding it was liable to be shaken by the motion of the coaches and carts almost constantly passing by, he laid that thought aside. Biogr. Dict. art. Wren.
  • 9. The north and south sides of the pedestal have each a Latin inscription, one describing the desolation of this city, and the other its restoration. That on the north side runs thus: "Anno Christi CIODCLXVI. Die 11. Nonis Septembris, hinc in Orientem, pedum CCII intervallo (quæ est hujusce columnæ altitudo) erupit de media nocte incendium, quod vento spirante hausit etiam longinqua, &c. partes per omnes populabundum ferebatur cum impetu & fragore incredibili. XXCIX templa, portas, prætorium, ædes publicas, ptochotrophia, scholas, bibliothecas, insularum magnum numerum, domus CCIOOOOO OOOCC, vicos CD, absumpsit: de XXVI regionibus, XV funditus delevit, alias VIII laceras & semi-ustas reliquit. Urbis cadaver ad CIOXXXVI jugera, hinc ab arce per Thamesis ripam ad templariorum fanum, illinc ab euro aquilonali portus secundum muros ad fossæ fletanæ caput, perrexit; adversus opes civium & fortunas insestum, erga viros innocuum, ut per omnia referret supremam illam mundi exustionem. Velox clades fuit; exiguum tempus eandem vidit civitatem florentissimam, & nullam. Tertio die, cum jam evicerat humana consilia & subsidia omnia, cœlitus, ut par est credere, jussus stetit fatalis ignis & quaquaversum elanguit." Translated. In the year of Christ 1666, the second day of September, eastward from hence, at the distance of 202 feet, (the height of this column) about midnight, a most terrible fire broke out, which, driven on by a high wind, not only wasted the adjacent parts, but also places very remote, with incredible noise and fury: it consumed 89 churches, the city gates, Guildhall, many public structures, hospitals, schools, libraries, a vast number of stately edifices, 13,200 dwelling-houses, 400 streets; of 26 wards, it utterly destroyed 15, and left 8 others shattered and half burnt. The ruins of the city were 436 acres, from the Tower by the Thames side to the Temple church, and from the north-east gate along the city wall to Holborn-bridge. To the estates and fortunes of the citizens it was merciless, but to their lives very favourable, that it might in all things resemble the last conflagration of the world. The destruction was sudden; for in a small space of time the same city was seen most flourishing, and reduced to nothing. Three days after, when this fatal fire had baffled all human counsels and endeavours in the opinion of all, as it were by the will of Heaven it stopped, and on every side was extinguished." The inscription on the South is as follows. "Carolus II. C. Mart. F. Mag. Brit. Franc. & Hib. Rex. Fid. D. Princeps clementissimus, miseratus luctuosam rerum faciem, plurima fumantibus jam tum ruinis, in solatium civium & urbis suæ ornamentum providit, tributum remisit, preces ordinis & populi Londinensis retulit ad regni senatum, qui continuo decrevit, ut publica opera pecuniæ publica, ex vectigali carbonis fossilis oriunda, in meliorem formam restituerentur; utique ædes sacræ & D. Pauli templum a fundamentis omni magnificentia extruerentur; pontes, portæ, carceres novi fierent; emundarentur alvei, vici ad regulam responderent, clivi complanarentur. aperirentur angiportus, fora & macella in areas sepositas eliminarentur. Censuit etiam, uti singulæ domus muris intergerinis concluderentur, universæ in frontem pari altitudine consurgerent, omnesque parietes saxo quadrato aut cocto latere solidarentur; utique nemini liceret ultra septennium ædificando immorari. Ad bæc lites de terminis orituras lege lata præscidit; adjecit quoque supplicationes annuas, & ad æternam posterorum memoriam H. C. P. C. Festinatur undique, resurgit Londinum, majore celeritate an splendore incertum: unum triennium absolvit quod seculi opus credebatur." Translated. Charles II. Son of Charles the Martyr, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, a most gracious prince, commiserating the deplorable state of things, whilft the ruins were yet smoaking, provided for the comfort of his citizens, and the ornament of his city; remitted their taxes, and referred the petitions of the magistrates and inhabitants to the parliament, who immediately passed an act, that public works should be restored to greater beauty with public money, to be raised by an imposition on coal; that churches, and the cathedral of St. Paul's, should be rebuilt from their foundations, with all magnificence; that bridges, gates, and prisons should be new made, the sewers cleansed, the streets made strait and regular, such as were steep levelled, and those too narrow made wider, markets and shambles removed to separate places. They also enacted, that every house should be built with party walls, and all in front raised of equal height, and those walls all of square stone or brick, and that no man should delay beyond the space of seven years. Moreover, care was taken by law to prevent all suits about their bounds. Also anniversary prayers were enjoined; and, to perpetuate the memory hereof to posterity, they caused this column to be erected. The work was carried on with diligence, and London is restored; but whether with greater speed, or beauty, may be made a question. Three years time saw that finished, which was supposed to be the business of an age. The East side of the pedestal has an inscription, expressing the times in which this pillar was begun, continued, and brought to perfection. The words are these. "Incepta Richardo Ford, Eq; prætore Lond. A. D. CIODCLXXI. perducta altius Geo. Waterman, Eq. præ. Roberto Hanson, Eq. præ. Gulielmo Hooker, Eq. præ. Roberto Viner, Eq. præ. Josepho Sheldon, Eq. præ. perfecta Thoma Davis, Eq. præ. urb. Anno Dom. MDCLXXVII." In one line continued round the base of the pedestal, under the above inscriptions, are these following words in English. "This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of the most dreadful burning of this protestant city, begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the popish faction in the beginning of September, in the year of our Lord 1666, in order to the carrying on their horrid plot for extirpating the protestant religion, and Old English Liberty, and introducing popery and slavery." This inscription, upon the Duke of York's accession to the crown, was immediately erased; but soon after the revolution it was restored again.
  • 10. English Architecture, p. 99.
  • 11. Vid. p. 78, ante.
  • 12. English Architecture, p. 28.