The wall about the Citie of London

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

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John Stow, 'The wall about the Citie of London', in A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908) pp. 5-10. British History Online [accessed 27 May 2024].

John Stow. "The wall about the Citie of London", in A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908) 5-10. British History Online, accessed May 27, 2024,

Stow, John. "The wall about the Citie of London", A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908). 5-10. British History Online. Web. 27 May 2024,

Wall about the Cittie of London.

Simeon of Durham.; The Romains left to gouern Britaine.; The Scots & pictes inuade this land.; Britaines vnskilfull of building with stone.

In few yeares after, as Simeonof Durham, an auncient Writer reporteth, Hellen the mother of Constantine the Great, was the first that inwalled this Citie, about the yeare of Christ, 306. but howsoeuer those walles of stone might bee builded by Hellen, yet the Britons, (I know) had no skill of building with stone, as it may appeare by that which followeth, aboute the yeare of Christ, 399, when Arcadius and Honorius the sonnes of Theodosius Magnus, gouerned the Empire, the one in the East, the other in the West, for Honorius hauing receyued Britaine, the Citie of Rome was inuaded and destroyed by the Gothes, after which time the Romaines left to rule in Britaine, as being imployed in defence of their territories nearer home, whereupon the Britaines not able to defende themselues against the inuasions of their enemies, were manie yeares together vnder the oppression of two most cruell nations, the Scots and Pictes, and at the length were forced to sende their Ambassadors with letters and lamentable supplications to Rome, requiring aide and succour from thence, upon promise of their continuall fealtie, so that the Romaines woulde rescue them out of the handes of their enemies. Hereupon the Romaines sent vnto them a Legion of armed Souldiers, which comming into this I land, and encountering with the enemies, ouerthrew a great number of them, and draue the rest out of the frontiers of the Countrie, and so setting the Britaines at libertie, counselled them to make a wall, extending all along betweene the two seas, which might be of force to keepe out their euill neighbours, and then returned home with great triumph: The Britaines wanting Masons, builded that Wall not of stone as they were aduised, but made it of turfe, and that so slender, that it serued little or nothing at all for their defence, and the enemie perceyuing that the Romaine Legion was returned home, forthwith arriued out of their boates, inuaded the borders, ouercame the country, and as it were bare down all that was before them.

Witchendus. Wall of stone builded by the Romains, betwixt the Britaines and Scots.

Whereupon Ambassadors were eftsoones dispatched to Rome lamentably beseeching that they would not suffer their miserable countrey to bee vtterly destroyed: then againe, an other Legion was sent, which comming vpon a sodaine, made a greate slaughter of the enemie, and chased him home, even to his owne Country. These Romaines at their departure, tolde the Britaines playnely, that it was not for their ease or leasure to take vpon them any more such long and laborious iourneys for their defence, and therefore bad them practice the vse of armour and weapons, and learne to withstand their enemies, whome nothing else did make so strong as their faint heart and cowardise, and for so much as they thought that it would bee no small helpe and encouragement vnto their Tributary friendes, whome they were now forced to forsake, they builded for them a Wall of harde stone from the west sea to the east sea, right betweene those two Citties, which were there made to keepe out the enemies, in the selfe same place where Seuerus before had cast his Trench. The Britaines also putting to their helping hands as laborers.

This Wall they builded 8. foote thicke in breadth, and 12. foot in height, right as it were by a line from east to West, as the ruines thereof remayning in many places til this day, do make to appeare. Which worke thus perfected, they gaue the people straight charge to looke well to themselues, they teach them to handle their weapons, and they instruct them in warlike feates. And least by the sea side southwardes, where their ships laye at harbor, the enemie shoulde come on land, they made vp sundrie Bulwarkes each somewhat distant from the other, and so bid them farewel as minding no more to returne. This happened in the dayes of the Emperour Theodosius the yonger, almost 500. yeares after the first arriuall of the Romaines here, aboute the yeare after Christs incarnation, 434.

Malmsbery: Bede.; The Britaines giuen to gluttony, drunkennes, pride and contention.; The Britaines plagued for their sinfull life.; Witchendus Bede. The Saxons sent for to defend the Britaines, but they draue them into the mountaines.

The Britaines after this continuing a lingering and doubtful war with the Scots and Pictes, made choice of Vortiger to bee their king and leader, which man (as sayeth Malmesbery) was neither valourous of courage, nor wise of counsell, but wholy giuen ouer to the vnlawfull lusts of his flesh: the people likewise in short time being growne to some quietnes gaue themselues to gluttony, and drunkennes, pride, contention, enuie and such other vices, casting from them the yoke of Christ. In the meane season a bitter plague fell among them, consuming in short time such a multitude, that the quicke were not sufficient to bury the dead, and yet the remanant remayned so hardened in sinne, that neyther death of theyr friendes, nor feare of their own daunger, could cure the mortality of their soules, wherevpon a greater stroke of vengeance insued vpon the whole sinfull nation. For being now againe infested with their old neighbors the Scots and Pictes, they consult with their king Vortiger, and send for the Saxons, who shortly after arriued here in Britaine, where saith Bedethey were receyued as frends: but as it proued they minded to destroy the countrie as enemies, for after that they had driuen out the Scots and Pictes, they also draue the Britains some ouer the seas, some into the waste mountaines of Wales and Cornewall, and deuided the Countrey into diuers kingdomes amongst themselues.

Saxons vnskilful of building with stone. Benet a Monk brought in Masons.; Woden churches and golden priestes.; Monasteries of rotten timber.

These Saxons were likewise ignorant of building with stone, vntill the yeare 680. for then it is affirmed that Benet Abbot of Wirrall, maister to the reuerend Bede, first brought artificers of stone houses, and glasse Windowes into this Iland amongst the Saxons: Arts before that time vnto them vnknown, and therefore vsed they but wodden buildings. And to this accordeth Policronicon, who sayeth that then had yee wodden Churches, nay wodden Chalaces and golden Priestes, but since golden Chalaces and wodden Priestes: And to knit vp this argument, king Edgar in his Charter to the Abbey of Malmesbury, dated the yeare of Christ 974. hath wordes to this effect: All the Monasteries in my Realme, to the outward sight, are nothing but worme eaten and rotten tymber, and boordes, and that worse is, within they are almost emptie, and void of diuine seruice,


Thus much be said for walling, not only in respect of this Citie, but generally also of the first within the Realme. Now to returne to our Trinobant, (as Cæsar hath it) the same is since by Tacitus, Ptolomeus, & Antonius called Londinium, Longidinium, of Amianus, Lundinum, and Augusta who calleth it an auncient Citie, of our Brytaines Lundayne, of the old Saxons, Lundenceaster, Lundenbirig, Londennir, of strangers Londra, and Londres, of the inhabitants, London, whereof you may read a more large and learned discourse, and how it tooke the name, in that worke of my louing friend M. Camden now Clarenceaulx, which is called Britania.

The Citie of London destroued by the Danes, and again repaired. The Citie of London lay wast, and not inhabited for the space of almost 50. yeres.

This Citie of Londonhauing beene destroyed and burnt by the Danes and other Pagan enemies, about the yeare of Christ, 839. was by Alfred king of the west Saxons, in the yeare 886. repaired, honourably restored, and made againe habitable. Who also committed the custodie thereof vnto his son in law, Ethelred Earle of Mercea, vnto whome before he hath giuen his daughter Ethelfled.

W: Malmesbery. Asser. Marianus Florentius.

And that this Citie was then strongly walled, may appeare by diuerse accidents, whereof William of Malmesberie hath that about the yeare of Christ 994. the Londoners shut vp their gates, and defended their king Ethelred, within their walles against the Danes.

In the yeare 1016. Edmond Ironside raigning ouer the west Saxons, Canute the Dane bringing his nauie into the west part of the bridge, cast a trench about the Citie of London, and then attempted to haue won it by assault, but the Citizens repulsed him, and draue them from their walles.

Also in the yeare 1052. Earle Goodwin with his nauie sayled vp by the South ende of the Bridge, and so assailed the walles of this Citie.

W. Fitzstephen. The Citie of London walled round about by the Riuer of Thames.

William Fitzstephen in the raigne of Henrie the second, writing of the wals of this Citie, hath these wordes. The wall is high and great, wel towred on the Northside, with due distances betweene the towres. On the Southside also the Citie was walled and towred, but the fishfull riuer of Thames with his ebbing and flowing, hath long since subuerted them.

By the Northside, he meaneth from the riuer of Thames in the east to the riuer of Thames in the west, for so stretched the wall in his time, and the Citie being farre more in length from East, to West, then in breadth from South, to North, and also narrower at both endes then in the middest, is therefore compassed with the wall on the land side, in forme of a bow, except denting in betwixt Creplegate and Aldersgate: but the wall on the southside, along by the riuer of Thames, was straight as the string of a bow, and all furnished with Towres or Bulworkes, (as we now terme them) in due distance euery one from other, as witnesseth our Authour, and our selues may behold for the land side. This may suffice for proofe of a wall, and forme thereof about this Citie, and the same to haue beene of great antiquitie as any other within this Realme.

Walles of London repaired: Roger of Wendouer: Mathew Paris: Ranulph Cogshall.; Math. Paris.; Patent.; Circuit of the wall from the east to the west.

And now touching the maintenance, and repairing the saide wall, I reade that in the year 1215. the 6. of king Iohn, the Barons entring the City by Ealdgate, first tooke assurance of the Citizens, then brake into the Jewes houses, searched their coffers to fill their owne purses, and after with great diligence repaired the walles and gates of the Citie, with stones taken from the Jewes broken houses. In the yeare 1257. Henrie the third caused the walles of this Citie, which was sore decaied and destitute of towers, to be repaired in more seemely wise then before, at the common charges of the Citie. Also in the yeare 1282. king Edward the first, hauing graunted to Robert Kilwarby Archbishop of Canterburie, licence for the enlarging of the blacke Friers Church, to breake and take downe a part of the wall of the Citie, from Ludgate to the riuer of Thames: he also graunted to Henry Waleis Maior, and the Citizens of London, the fauour to take toward the making of the wall, and inclosure of the Citie, certaine customes, or toll, as appeareth by his graunt: this wall was then to bee made from Ludgate west to Fleetebridge along behinde the houses and along by the water of the Fleet, vnto the riuer of Thames. Moreouer, in the yeare 1310. Edward 2. commaunded the Citizens to make vp the wall alreadie befunne, and the tower at the ende of the same wall, within the water of Thames neare vnto the blacke Friars,&c. 1328. the second of Edward the 3. the walles of this citie was repaired. It was also graunted by king Richard the second in the 10. of his raigne, that a toll should bee taken of the wares, solde by lande or by water for ten yeares, towardes the repairing of the walles, and clensing of the ditch about London. In the 17. of Edward the 4. Ralfe Ioseline, Maior, caused part of the wall about the citie of Londonto bee repayred, to wit, betwixt Aldgate, and Aldersgate. He also caused the Moorefield to bee searched for clay, and Bricke thereof to be made, and burnt: he likewise caused chalke to be brought out of Kent, and to be burnt into lime in the same Moorefield, for more furtherance of the worke. Then ye Skinners to begin in the East made that part of the wall betwixt Aldgateand Buries markes, towardes Bishopsgate, as may appeare by their armes in three places fixed there: the Maior with his companie of the Drapers, made all that part, betwixt Bishopsgate and Alhallowes church in the same wall, and from Alhallowes towardes the Posterne called Mooregate. A great part of the same wall was repayred by the Executors of sir Iohn Crosby, late Alderman, as may appeare by his armes, in two places there fixed: and other companies repayred the rest of the wall to the Posterne of Creplegate. The Goldsmiths repayred from Creplegate towards Aldersgate, and there the worke ceased. The circuit of the wall of London on the landes side, to wit from the tower of London in the East, vnto Aldgate, is 82. perches: from Aldgate to Bishopsgate, 86. perches: from Bishopsgate in the North, to the Posterne at Creplegate, 162. perches: from Creplegate to Ealdersgate, 75. perches: from Ealdersgate to Newgate, 66 perches: from Newgate in the west, to Ludgate, 42. perches, in all 513. perches of assise. From Ludgate to the Fleete dike west, about 60. perches: from Fleete bridge south to the riuer Thames, about 70. perches: and so the totall of these perches amounteth to 643. euery perch consisting of 5. yeards and a halfe, which do yeeld 3536. yardes and a halfe, containing 10608. foote, which make vp two English miles and more by 608. foote.