Bridges of this Citie

A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603. Originally published by Clarendon, Oxford, 1908.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'Bridges of this Citie', in A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908) pp. 21-27. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

Bridges of this Citie

London bridge first of timber.; A Ferrie ouer the Thames between London & South warke.; First arched bridges, Stratford bow, made by Matiled, wife to Hen. the first.

The originall foundation of London bridge, by report of Bartholomew Linsted, alias Fowle, last Prior of S. Marie OueriesChurch in Southwarke was this: a Ferrie being kept in place where now the Bridge is builded, at length the Ferriman & his wife deceasing, left the same Ferrie to their onely daughter, a maiden named Marie, which with the goodes left by her Parents, as also with the profites rising of the said Ferrie, builded a house of Sisters, in place where now standeth the east part of S. Marie Oueries Church aboue the Queere, where she was buried, vnto the which house she gaue the ouersight & profites of the Ferrie, but afterwards the said house of sisters being conuerted into a colledge of priests, the priests builded the Bridge (of Timber) as all other the great Bridges of this land were, and from time to time kept the same in good reparations, till at length considering the great charges of repayring the same, there was by ayd of the Citizens of London, and others, a Bridge builded with Arches of stone, as shall be shewed.

William of Malmesbury.

But first of the Timber Bridge, the antiquitie thereof being great, but vncertaine, I remember to haue read, that in the yeare of Christ, 994. Sweyn king of Denmarke besieging the Citie of London, both by water and by land, the Citizens manfully defended themselues, and their king Ethelred, so as part of their enemies were slaine in battaile, and part of them were drowned in the Riuer of Thames, because in their hastic rage they tooke no heede of the Bridge.

Moreouer in the yeare 1016. Canutethe Dane, with a great nauie came vp to London, and on the South of the Thames, caused a Trench to be cast, through the which his ships were towed into the west side of the Bridge, and then with a deepe Trench and straight siege he compassed the Citie round about.

Also in the yeare 1052. Earle Goodwin with the like nauie, taking his course vp the riuer of Thames, and finding none that offered to resist on the Bridge, he sayled vp by the southside of the said riuer. Furthermore about the yere 1067. William the Conquerour in his Charter to the Church of S.Peter at Westminster, confirmed to the Monks seruing God there, a gate in London, then called Buttolphs gate, with a wharfe which was at the head of London bridge.

Men went dryshod vnder Londonbridg. Lib. Bermondsey.

We read likewise, that in the yeare 1114. the 14. of Henrie the first, the riuer of Thames was so dried vp, and such want of water there, that betweene the Tower of London, and the bridge, and vnder the bridge, not onely with horse, but also a great number of men, women and children, did wade ouer on foote.

In the yeare 1122. the 22. of Henrie the first, Thomas Arden gaue to the Monkes of Bermondsey, the Church of S. George in Southwarke: and fiue shillings rent by the yeare, out of the land pertayning to London bridge.

Henrie the 1:

I also haue seene a Charter vnder seale to the effect following. Henrie king of England, to Ralfe B. of Chichester, and all the Ministers of Sussex sendeth greeting, know ye, &c. I commaund by my kingly authoritie that the Mannor called Alcestone, which my father gaue, with other lands, to the Abbey of Battle, be free and quiet from shieres and hundredes, and all other Customes of earthly seruitude, as my father helde the same, most freely and quietly, and namely from the worke of London bridge, and the worke of the Castle at Peuensey: and this I command uppon my forfeyture, witnesse William de Pontlearche at Byrry, the which Charter with the Seale very faire, remaineth in the custodie of Ioseph Holland Gentleman.

Lib. Bermondsey.; Lib. Trinitate.; London bridge brent.

In the yeare 1136. the first of king Stephen, a fire began in the house of one Ailewarde, neare vnto London stone, which consumed east to Aldgate, and west to S. Erkenwalds shrine, in Powles Church: the bridge of timber ouer the riuer of Thames was also burnt, &c. but afterwardes again repayred. For Fitzstephenwriteth that in the raigne of king Stephen, and of Henry the second, when pastimes were shewed on the riuer of Thames, men stoode in greate number on the bridge, wharfes, and houses, to behold.

London bridge of timber new builded.

Now in the yeare 1163. the same bridge was not onely repayred, but new made of Timber as afore, by Peter of ColeChurch, Priest and Chaplaine.

Thus much for the olde timber bridge, maintainde partly by the proper lands thereof, partly by the liberality of diuers persons, and partly by taxations in diuers Shires, haue I proued for the space of 215. yeares before the Bridge of stone was builded.

London bridge of stone founded.; Lib. Wauerley.; London bridge 33 yeares in building.

Now touching the foundation of the Stone Bridge, it followeth: About the yeare 1176. the Stone Bridge ouer the riuer of Thames at London, was begunne to be founded by the foresaide Peter of Cole Church, neare vnto the Bridge of timber, but some what more towardes the west, for I read that Buttolfe wharfe was in the Conquerors time, at the head of London bridge. The king assisted this worke: A Cardinall then being Legate here, and Richard Archbishop of Canterbury, gaue one thousand markes towardes the foundation, the course of the riuer for the time was turned an other way about by a Trench cast for that purpose beginning as is supposed East about Radriffe, and ending in the West about Patricksey, now tearmed Batersey, this worke to wit, the Arches, Chaple & stone bridge ouer the riuer of Thames at London, hauing beene 33. yeares in building was in the yeare 1209. finished by the worthy Marchants of London, Serle Mercer, William Almaine, and Benedict Botewrite, principall Maisters of that worke, for Peter of Colechurch deceased foure years before, and was buried in the Chappell on the Bridge, in the yeare 1205.

Chapple on London bridg.; Chappel on the Bridge on the East side.; Gifts giuen to maintenance of London Bridge in a table noted for posterity.

King Iohn gaue certaine voide places in London to build vppon, the profites thereof to remaine towardes the charges of building and repayring of the same bridge: a Mason being Maister Workeman of the Bridge, builded from the foundation the large Chapple on that Bridge, of his owne charges, which Chapple was then endowed for two Priestes, foure Clearks, &c. besides Chanteries since founded for Iohn Hatfieldand other. After the finishing of this Chapple, which was the first building vppon those Arches, sundry houses at times were erected, and many charitable men gaue lands, tenements, or summes of money towards maintenance thereof, all which was sometimes noted, and in a table fayre written for posterity, remayning in the Chapple, til the same Chapple was turned to a dwelling house, and then remoued to the Bridge house: the effect of which Table I was willing to haue published in this booke, if I could haue obtained the sight thereof: but making the shorter worke, I find by the accompt of William Mariner and Christopher Eliot Wardens of London Bridge from Michaelmas in the 22. of H. the 7. vnto Michaelmas next ensuing by one whole yeare, that all the paymentes and allowances came to viii. C. xv. li. xvii.s. ii.d. ob. as there is shewed by particulars, by which accompt then made, may be partly gessed the great charges and discharges of that Bridge at this day, when thinges be stretched to so great a prise. And now to actions on this Bridge.

Actions on London bridge to bee noted.; Lib. Dunmow.; Walter of Couentry.; William Packenton.; London bridge perished with fire.

The first action to be noted was lamentable, for within foure yeares after the finishing thereof, to witte in the yeare, 1212. on the tenth of July at night, the Borough of Southwarke vpon the South side the riuer of Thames, as also the Church of our Lady of the Canons there beeing on fire, and an exceeding great multitude of people passing the Bridge, eyther to extinguish and quench it, or else to gaze at and behold it, suddenly the north part, by blowing of the Southwind was also set on fire, and the people which were euen now passing the Bridge, perceyuing the same, would haue returned, but were stopped by fire, and it came to passe, that as they stayed or protracted time, the other end of the Bridge also, namely the South end was fired, so that the people thronging themselues betweene the two fires, did nothing else but expect present death: then came there to aide them many ships and vessels, into the which the multitude so vnaduisedly rushed, that the ships being drowned, they all perished: it was saide that through the fire and ship wracke there were destroyed about three thousand persons whose bodies were found in part, or halfe burned, besides those that were wholy burnt to ashes, and could not be found.

Fine arches of London bridge borne downe.

About the yeare 1282. through a great frost and deepe snow, fiue Arches of London bridge were borne downe and carryed away.

Pattent the 14. of Edward the second.

In the yeare 1289. the Bridge was so sore decayed for want of reparations, that men were afraid to passe thereon, and a subsidie was graunted towards the amendment thereof, Sir Iohn Britaine being Custos of London. 1381. a great collection or gathering was made, of all Archbishops, Bishops, and other Ecclesiasticall persons, for the reparations of London bridge. 1381. Wat Tiler, and other rebels of Kent, by this bridge entered the Citie, as ye may reade in my Summarieand Annales.

Nine persons crowded to death on London bridge.

In the yeare 1395. on S. Georges day, was a great iusting on London bridge, betwixt Dauid Earle of Craford of Scotland, and the Lord Wels of England. In the which the Lord Wels was at the third course borne out of the saddle, which hystorie proueth, that at that time the Bridge being coaped on either side was not replenished with houses builded thereupon, as since it hath beene, and now is. The next yeare on the 13. of Nouember, the young Queene Isabell, commonly called the little, for she was but eight yeares olde, was conueyed from Kenington besides Lamhith, through Southwark to the Tower of London, and such a multitude of people went out to see her, that on London bridge nine persons were crowded to death, of whom the prior of Tiptre a place in Essex, was one, & a Matron on Cornehil, was an other.

Tower on London bridge builded.

The Tower on London Bridge at the north end of the drawbridge, (for that bridge was then readily to be drawn up, aswell to giue passage for ships to Queenehith, as for the resistance of any forraigne force) was begun to be builded in the yeare 1426. Iohn Rainwell being Maior.

An other tower there is on the sayd bridge ouer the gate at the South end towards Southwarke, whereof in an other place shall be spoken.

Iacke Cade entered the Citie by the bridge.

In the yeare 1450. Iacke Cade, and other Rebels of Kent, by this bridge entered the Citie, he strake his sword on London stone, and said himselfe then to be Lord of the Citie, but they were by the Citizens ouercome on the same Bridge, and put to flight, as in my Annales.

Bastard Fawconbridge besieged the bridge.

In the yeare 1471. Thomas the bastard Fawconbridge besieged this Bridge, burned the gate, and all the houses to the draw bridge, that time 13. in number.

An house of the bridge fell downe.

In the year 1481. an house called the common siege on London bridge fell downe into the Thames: through the fall whereof fiue men were drowned.

Sir Tho. Wiat lay in Southwarke at the bridge foote.; The drawebridge cut downe.

In the year 1553. the third of February, sir Thomas Wiat and the Kentish men marched from Depeford towards London, after knowledge whereof, forthwith the drawe bridge was cut downe, and the Bridge gates shut, Wiat and his people entered Southwarke, where they lay till the sixt of Februarie, but coulde get no entrie of the Citie by the bridge, the same was then so well defended by the Citizens, the Lord William Howard assisting, wherefore he remoued towards Kingstone, &c. as in my Annales.

The bridge described.

To conclude of this bridge ouer the said riuer of Thames, I affirme, as in other my descriptions, that it is a worke verie rare, hauing with the draw bridge 20. Arches made of squared stone, of height 60. foote, and in bredth 30. foote distant one from another 20. foote, compact and ioyned togither with vaults and cellers, vpon both sides be houses builded, so that it seemeth rather a continuall streete then a Bridge: for the fortifying whereof against the incessant assaults of the riuer, it hath ouerseers and officers, vz. wardens, as aforesaid, and others.

Fleet bridge.

Fleete bridge in the west without Ludgate, a Bridge of stone faire coaped, on either side with iron pikes, on the which towards the south be also certaine Lanthornes of stone, for lights to be placed in the winter euenings, for commoditie of trauellers. Under this bridge runneth a water, sometimes called (as I haue said) the river of the Wels, since Turnemill brooke, now Fleet dike, because it runneth by the Fleete, and sometime about the Fleete, so under Fleete bridge into the riuer of Thames. This bridge hath beene farre greater in times past, but lessened, as the water course hath beene narrowed. It seemeth this last bridge to be made, or repayred at the charges of Iohn Wels Maior, in the yeare 1431. for on the coping is engrauen Wels imbraced by Angels, like as on the Standard in Cheape, which he also builded: thus much of the Bridge: for of the water course and decay thereof I haue spoken in another place.

Oldborne bridge.

Oldbourne bridge ouer the said riuer of the Wels more towards the North was so called, of a Bourne that sometimes ranne downe Oldborne hill into the sayd Riuer, this Bridge of stone like as Fleet bridge from Ludgate west, serueth for passengers with carriage or otherwise from Newgate toward the west and by North.


Cowbridge more North ouer the same water by Cowbridge streete or Cowlane: this bridge being lately decayed, an other of timber is made somewhat more north, by Chicklane, &c.

Bridge ouer the town ditch.

Bridges ouer the Towne ditch, there are diuerse: to witte, without Aldgate, without Bishopsgate, the Posterne called Mooregate, the Posterne of Creplegate without Aldersgate, the Posterne of Christes Hospitall, Newgate, and Ludgate, all these bee ouer paued likewise with stone leuell with the streetes. But one other there is of Tymber ouer the riuer of wels, or Fleet dike, betweene the precinct of the Blacke Friers, and the house of Bridewell.

Bridges ouer the course of Walbrooke.; Horshewe bridge.; Walbrooke vaulted ouer and paued with stone.

There haue beene of olde time also, diuerse Bridges in There haue beene of olde time also, diuerse Bridges in partly noted, besides Horshew bridge, by the Church of saint Iohn Baptist, now called S. Iohns vpon Walbrooke. I reade that of olde time euery person hauing lands on either side of the sayd brooke, should clense the same, and repayre the Bridges so farre as their landes extended. More, in the II. of Edward the third, the inhabitants vpon the course of this brooke, were forced to pile and wal the sides thereof. Also that in the third of Henrie the fift, this water course had many Bridges, since vaulted ouer with Bricke, and the streetes where through it passed, so paued, that the same watercourse is now hardly discerned. For order was taken in the second of Edward the fourth, that such as had ground on either side of Walbrooke, should vault and paue it ouer, so farre as his ground extended. And thus much for Bridges in this Citie, may suffice.