Book 2, Ch. 23: Langbourn Ward

Pages 656-661

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

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Langbourn ward.

Derivation of the name.

Near Magpie-alley adjoining to the church of St. Catherine Coleman in Aldgate-ward was antiently a spring that produced a rivulet or bourn, which ran down the street westward, and through Lombard-street as far as the church of St. Mary Woolnoth. Here parting into several shares, or rills, and turning Southward, it left a name to Share-bourn-lane, or South-bourn-lane from its running southward to the Wallbrook, uniting with which it ran to the Thames. By this stream spreading near the Spring-head, the contiguous street became so swampy, or fenny, especially about the church, which stood in the broad way between Mincing-lane and Rood-lane, that it was then called Fenchurch-street. The Ward also partook of the name, and was enrolled in the city records by the appellation of Langbourne and Fenny-about.


It is bounded on the east by Aldgate-ward; on the north by Aldgate and Lime-street wards; on the south by Tower-street, Billingsgate, Bridge and Candlewick wards; and on the west by Wallbrook ward. Fenchurch-street and Lombard-street are the principal streets in this ward; the latter of which obtained its name from the Lombards or Italian merchants which settled there; by which name it was known, according to Stow, as early as the reign of Edward II. and is still inhabited principally by bankers and silver-smiths. The several lanes and courts that enter it on each side are filled with the houses of merchants and eminent traders: those on the north side, are Pope's-head-alley, Exchange-alley, Birchin-lane, and George-yard; on the south side, St. Swithin's-lane, Sherbourn-lane, Abchurch-lane, St. Nicholas-lane, and St. Clement's-lane. In Fenchurch church the following streets and lanes enter, which are inhabited by gentlemen of great mercantile consideration: on the north side, Lime-street, Cullum-street, Smith's buildings, &c. on the south side, Philpotlane, Rood-lane, Mincing-lane, and Mark-lane.

General Post-office.

On the south side of Lombard-street, at the east end of St. Mary Woolnoth's church, is situated the General Post-office; a building calculated more for convenience than show: a few historical remarks relating to this office will not, it is hoped, be deemed impertinent. The intercourse of commerce must always have required some method of conveying letters from one place to another; but how this was antiently performed is not easy to determine: it is probable however that the carriage of letters might always be a common employment between great towns, as the carriage of goods still continues to be. The uncertainties of this mode of carriage appear to have been guarded against, by recommending letters to the peculiar attention of the bearer by the words—with care and speed, which we find added after the direction on letters of antient date. The earliest account we meet with of regular posts, is in the year 1462, when Louis XI. of France, finding the mercantile fairs at Geneva to draw much money out of France, instituted those fairs at Lyons which afterward became so famous; and also first established regular couriers or posts in France for the more speedy circulation of commercial intelligence (fn. 1). By a statute of Edward VI. in 1548, post horses appear to have been then in use in England; for on occasion of regulating the purveyors of the king's houshold, the rate of post horses was fixed at one penny a mile (fn. 2). Antiently the management of the foreign mails was under the direction of a stranger, chosen by the foreigners dwelling in the city, who even pretended to have a right by prescription of chusing their own post-master. How ever, in the year 1568 a difference arising between the Spaniards and Flemings in London, each chose their separate post-master; and this contest occasioned a representation from the citizens to the privy-council, to beseech queen Elizabeth, to fill that employment with one of her English subjects. In the year 1581, Randolph, so much employed by the queen in foreign embassies, enjoyed the place of post-master of England (fn. 3) : though by the regulation of the posts in 1635 by king Charles I. it should seem that very few post carriages were in England until that time. By the proclamation then published, the routs of the post were settled, the rates of postage limited, and the carriage of letters by private messengers prohibited, excepting to those places where the king's posts did not go (fn. 4). In 1653, the postage of England, Scotland, and Ireland, was farmed of the parliament by John Manley, esq; for 10,000l. per annum; which agreement was confirmed by the protector in the following year (fn. 5). But a General Post-office was erected in 1656 by the protector, which was legally confirmed by Charles II. on his restoration (fn. 6) : and when this revenue was settled on the duke of York in 1663 it was found to bring in 21,500l. (fn. 7). At length upon the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland, the General Post-office was, in the year 1710, established not only for the united kingdom of Great Britain, but likewise for that of Ireland, and our plantations in North America and the West-Indies (fn. 8). This also is the first time the Penny Post is mentioned in the statute book.

The office of post-master is at present executed by two commissioners with 2000l. per annum salary each: assisted by a secretary, at 200l. per annum, who has four clerks. Here are also, a receiver-general, an accomptant-general, a comptroller of the inland-office, and his deputy; a solicitor, a resident-surveyor, two inspectors of the mis-sent letters; six clerks of the roads, and an assistant to each. Beside, there is a court-post, who has 2l. a day, and a deliverer of letters to the house of commons, at 6s. 8d. per day; a clerk of the by-nights, and his assistant; ten sorters, and seven supernumerary sorters; a window-man, and alphabet keeper; 67 letter-carriers, and several other officers and servants.

In the foreign office, there is also a comptroller, an alphabet keeper, a secretary, and six clerks.

For the several rates of postage under the last regulations, see the statute 5 Geo. III. c. 25.

Million Bank.

In Naggs-head court is conducted the business of the Million Bank, a company of some standing though little known and less understood.

Among many other projects started about the year 1695, there was one that has supported its credit down to the present time under the name of the Million Bank. It took its rise from a set of bankers, who lent out money upon pledges; and who afterward agreed in partnership to purchase tickets in king William's million lottery, and from thence the name of the company is derived. They next purchased reversions of the 14 per cent. annuities, and admitted many proprietors of annuities to purchase their joint stock, which then amounted, as it does still, to 500,000l. They are no company by charter, but only a partnership by deed enrolled in chancery, prior to the statute against such unincorporated partnerships. They divided 5 per cent. to their proprietors until Lady day 1728, when their annual dividends were reduced to 4 per cent. (fn. 9).

Hudson's bay company's hall.

At the east end of Fenchurch-street, on the south side, but backward from the street, stands the hall of the Hudson's bay company; a brick building, which with its pilasters, architraves, &c. is esteemed one of the finest pieces of brick work in the city. This company was erected in 1670, as has been mentioned under that year (fn. 10); and they carry on a very profitable commerce at several small factories settled at convenient places in Hudson's bay and streights; to which the natives bring their skins and rich furrs to exchange for English commodities.

London Assurance office.

On the east side of Birchin-lane, is the London Assurance office erected for assuring houses and other buildings, houshold furniture, goods, wares, and merchandize, from loss or damage by fire: except glass and china ware, not in trade, and all manner of writings, books of accompts, notes, bills, bonds, tallies, ready money, jewels, plate, pictures, gunpowder, hay, straw, and corn unthrashed: and for assurance of lives. This company was incorporated together with the Royal Exchange Assurance company, on certain conditions already mentioned (fn. 11); and is managed by a governor, sub-governor, deputy governor, and 24 directors. For the timely assistance of such as are assured by this corporation, they have several engines and watermen, with proper instruments to extinguish fires, and porters for removing goods, all cloathed in green; each having a badge, with the figure of Britannia holding a harp, and supported by the London arms.

Pewterers hall.

In Lime-street almost facing the west end of Cullum-street, stands Pewterershall, a good building, in the court room of which is a picture of Sir William Smallwood who was master of this company in the 2 Hen. VII. and who gave this hall, with a garden and six adjoining tenements, to the company.

Allhallows Staining church.

On the west side of Mark-lane, near the north end, stands the parish church of Allhallows Staining, a very antient foundation dedicated to all the saints and distinguished by the epithet Staining, from stoney, as being the first built of stone, when the other churches dedicated to all the saints were of wood. It continued a rectory, in the patronage of the de Walthams and others, until the year 1466, when it was annexed to the abbey of Grace, near the Tower of London. With the abbey, this church fell to the crown, and was sold to George Bingly and others; who, on October 7, 4 Jac. I. had a grant of this rectory and parish church to be held of the crown in soccage. From this time it became a lay-impropriation, and is now in the patronage of the grocer's company, as executors of the lady Slany: and though it is no more than a donative or curacy, under this impropriation, it is a rectory in its nature, the tythes being paid to the incumbent for his own use.

This church escaped the fire in 1666, but it was so old, that the body of it fell down three years after; and was rebuilt by the parishioners. The body is well illuminated with Gothic windows, and the square tower is crowned with a small turret.

St. Dionis Back church.

Near the south west corner of Lime-street, behind the houses in Fenchurch street, stands St. Dionis Back-church, dedicated to St. Dennis, or Dionysius, an Athenian Areopagite, or judge, and now the patron of France. It receives the epithet of Back-church from its situation behind a row of houses, to distinguish it from St. Gabriel's church, which formerly stood in the middle of Fenchurchstreet. The patronage was anciently in the gift of the abbot and convent of Canterbury, but is now in the dean and chapter of that church. The old edifice was burnt down in 1666, and the present church was erected in 1674; the steeple was added ten years afterward. It has a good tower with ten bells and a set of chimes.

Allhallows Lombard-street.

Behind the houses at the north east end of Lombard-street, stands the parish church of Allhallows Lombard-street; but as its east end adjoins to the houses on the west side of Grass-church-street, it is recorded by the name of Allhallows Grass-church. This is a very ancient foundation: for mention is made of it in theantiquities of Canterbury and the Monasticum Anglicanum in the year 1053 or 1054; and it is a rectory and a peculiar in the gift of the archbishop of Canterbury. The present building is neat, plain, and well proportioned, and was erected in the room of that destroyed by the fire of London in 1666. The body is enlightened by a single series of large windows, and the tower is terminated by a plain battlement.

St. Edmund the king.

On the north side of Lombard-street between Birchin-lane and George-yard, is situated the church of St. Edmund the king; dedicated to the Saxon king Edmund, murdered by the Danes in 870; and though the history of its foundation has not been handed down with any certainty, there are several circumstances to create a belief that it was originally built under the Saxon heptarchy. The present church, which was erected to replace that consumed by the fire in 1666, stands north and south in length, and is 69 feet long, 39 broad from east to west; and thus the altar is placed at the north end of the church. It has a square tower at the south end, from which projects a large dial over the street, and upon the tower is a short spire with its base fixed on a broad lanthorn.

To this rectory, the patronage of which is in the archbishop of Canterbury, is united that of the next parish, called St. Nicholas Acons, whose church, before the fire of London, stood on the west side of Nicholas-lane, and the gift of which is in the crown.

St. Mary Woolnoth.

At the north east corner of Sherborn-lane in Lombard street, stands the parish church of St. Mary Woolnoth; probably so termed from its original neighbourhood to the wool staple, from woolneah, or woolnigh; a beam for the weighing of wool, having been formerly in the church-yard of St. Mary Woolchurch Haugh on the east side of Stocks market. The antiquity of this church is not traced higher than the year 1355, when John de Norton was rector; but there had probably always been a place of devotion on this spot, from heathen times. For in digging a foundation for the present church in 1716, there were discovevered, at the depth of 15 and 22 feet, a great variety of Roman earthen vessels, broken; a considerable number of the tusks and bones of boars and goats; several medals and pieces of metal; some tesselated work, part of an aqueduct, and at the bottom of all a well full of dirt, which was no sooner removed, than a fine spring arose, in which is now placed a pump. By the great quantity of pot-sheards, &c. found in this place, Mr. Maitland is of opinion, that here was a pottery; and from the tusks and bones he imagines, that near this place stood the temple of Concord, mentioned by the Romans.

The new church was finished in the year 1719, and is a handsome structure built with stone. On the north side which fronts Lombard-street, instead of windows there are three very large and lofty niches adorned with Ionic columns, and surrounded with a bold rustic. Over these is a large cornice, upon which is placed a balustrade. The entrance is at the west end by a lofty rustic arch, over which rises a broad thin tower, ornamented with six. Composite columns in the front, and two on the sides; upon this are raised two small towers in front, crowned with balustrades, from one of which rises a flag staff with a vane. The windows are on the south side, where the edifice is entirely surrounded with houses; and the front of the church, which is bold and majestic, is so obscured. that it can no where be seen to advantage; nor can the tower be compleatly viewed but from the tops of the houses.

This church is a rectory, and was in the patronage of the nuns of St. Helen's London till the suppression of their convent; when king Henry VIII. granted the advowson to Sir Martin Bowes, in whose family the right of presentation has continued ever since. It was not totally destroyed by the fire of London: the steeple escaped the flames, and all the walls, except the north side, were repairable. But the condition of the living became much improved by having the parish of St. Mary Woolchurch annexed to it; the patronage of which is in the crown: and from that time St. Mary Woolnoth has been the parochial church for both parishes.

Quakers Principal meeting.

In White Hart court, which turns from the south east end of Lombardstreet through into Gracechurch-street, is the principal meeting house of the Quakers in London, and indeed in the world: as deputies are sent from all parts to the yearly meeting which is there held. But as only the north end of this court is in Langbourn ward, this meeting house ought properly to have been mentioned under the ward of Bridge within.


  • 1. Anderson's Hist. of Comm. vol. I. p. 278.
  • 2. Stat. 2 & 3 Edward. VI. c. 3.
  • 3. Anderson, ut supra. p. 422.
  • 4. Idem, vol, II. p. 51.
  • 5. Idem, p. 89, 90.
  • 6. Idem, p. 10 See Stat. 12 Car. II. c. 35.
  • 7. Idem, p. 112.
  • 8. Stat. 9 Ann, c. 10.
  • 9. Anderson, vol. II. p. 208.
  • 10. Vid. p. 234, ante.
  • 11. Vid. p. 603.