Survey of London: Bridges

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Of the Bridges of this Citie.
THe originall foundation of London bridge,
Londō bridge first of timber
by report of Bartholomew Linsled, alias Fowle, last Prior of S. Marie Oueries, Church in Southwarke was this: a Ferrie being kept in place where now the Bridge is builded, at length the Ferrimar and his wife deceasing,
A fire1 ouer the Thames be
tween Lon
and Southwarke
left the same Ferrie to their onely daughter, a maiden named Marie, which with the goods 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 O
aboue the Quier, where she was buried, vnto the which house she gaue the ouersight and profites of the Ferrie, but afterwardes the saide house of Sisters being conuerted into a colledge of Priestes, the Priestes builded the Bridge (of Tymber)
Londō bridge builded of timber.
as all other the greate bridges of this Land were, and from time to time kept the same in good reparations, till at length considering the greate charges of repayring the same there was by aide of the Citizens of London and others a bridge builded of stone as shal be shewed.
But first of the timber bridge, the antiquity thereof being vncer
taine, but I remember to haue red, that in the yeare of Christ, 994. Sweyn king of Denmark besieging the city of London, both by water and by land, the Citizens manfully defended themselues, and their king Ethelred, so as part of their ennemies were slaine in battaile, and parte of them were drouned in the Riuer of Thames, because in their hastie rage, they tooke no heede of the Bridge.
Moreouer in the yeare 1016. Canute the Dane with a greate nauie came vp to London, and on the south of the Thames, cau
sed a Trench to bee cast, through the which his ships were towed into the west side of the bridge, and then with a deepe Trench and streight siege he compassed the citie round aboute.
Also in the yeare 1052. Earle Godwin with the like nauie, taking his course vp the Riuer of Thames, and finding none that

Of London bridge and other in this Citie.
offered to resist on the bridge, he sayled vp by the southside of the said riuer. Furthermore aboute the yeare 1067. Wiliam the Con
in his Charter, to the church of S. Peter at westmin
, confirmed to the Monkes seruing God there, a gate in Lon
, then called Buttolphes gate, with a wharfe which was at the heade of London bridge.
Man went d2ryshod vnder Londō bridge Liber barmond.
We read likewise that in the yeare 1114. the 14. of Henry the first, the riuer of Thames was so dried vp, and such want of water there was that betwéene the Tower of London, and the bridge, and vnder the bridge, not one
ly with horse, but also a greate number of men, woemen and children, did wade ouer on foote. In the yeare 1122. the 22. of Henry the first. Thomas Arden gaue to the Monkes of Bar
, the church of S. George in Southwarke, and by the yere, out of the land perteyning to London bridge, I also haue seene a Charter vnder seale to the effect following. Hen
ry king of England
to Ralfe B. of Chichester. and all the Mi
nisters of Sussex sendeth greeting, know ye &c. I commande by my kingly authority that the Mannor called Alcestone, which my Father gaue with other Landes, to the Abbey of Battle, be free and quiete from shieres and hundredes, and all other Customes of earthly seruitude, as my father helde the same, most freely and quietely, and namely from the worke of London bridge, and the worke of the Castle at Penansey: and this I command vpon my forfeyture, witnesse VVilliam de Pontlearche at Byrry
, the which Charter with the Scale very fayre remaineth in the custody of Ioseph Holland Gentle
In the yeare 1136. the first of king Stephen,
Liber barmond. Liber trinitate.
a fire began, in the house of one Ailewarde, neare vnto Londonstone which consumed east to Aldgate and west to S. Erkenwals shrine, in Powles Church: the bridge of timber ouer the riuer of Thames, was also burnt, &c but afterwards againe repayred. For Fitzste
writeth 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 numbers on the bridge, wharfes, and hou
ses to beholde.
Now in the yeare 1163. the same bridge was not onely re

London Bridge and other.
payred, but new made of Timber as afore by Peter of Cole
, Priest and Chaplaine.
Thus much for the olde timber bridge maintainde partly by the proper landes thereof, and partly by the liberality of diuers persons 215. yeares before the bridge of stone was finished.
Now touching the foundation of the stone bridge,
Londō bridge of stone foun
it followeth thus. Aboute the yeare 1176. the stone bridge ouer the riuer of Thames, at London, was begunne to be founded by the foresaide Peter of ColeChurch, neare vnto the bridge of timber, but some what more towardes the west, for I reade that Buttolfe wharfe was in the Conquerors time, at the head of London bridge. The king assisted this worke: A Cardinal then being Legate here,
Liber wauerley.
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 aboute by a Trench cast for that purpose be
ginning as is supposed East, aboute Rodriffe, and ending in the West about Patricksey now tearmed Batersey, this worke, to wit, the Arches and stone bridge ouer the riuer of Thames, at London, hauing beene 33. yeares in building
Londō bridge 33. yeares in building.
was in the yeare, 1209. finished by the worthy Marchants of London, Serle Mer
, Wiliam Almaine, and Benedict Botewrite, principall maisters of that worke, for Peter of Cole Church deceased foure yeares before this worke was finished, and was buried in the Chappell builded on the same bridge in the yeare 1205.
King Iohn gaue certaine voide places in London to builde vp
pon, the profites thereof to remaine towardes the charges of buil
ding and repayring of the same bridge: a Mason being maister workemam of the bridge, builded from the foundation, the Chaple on London bridge, of his owne proper expences, it was indowed for two Priestes, foure Clarkes and other. There was also a Chantrie for Iohn Hatfielde &c. So that in the yeare 23. of Henry the 6. there was 4. Chaplens in the saide chappell, after that example sundry houses were thereupon shortly after erected, the first action on this bridge was lamentable, for within 3. yeres after the finishing thereof, to wit, in the yeare 1212. on the 10. of Iuly at night, a maruelous terrible chance happened, for the citie of London vpon the south side of the riuer of Thames as also the

London bridge and other.
church of our Ladie of the Canons in Southwarke being on fire,
Liber dunmew. Gualter Co
and an exceeding greate multitude of people passing the bridge,
VV. packenton, London bridg perished with Fire.
eyther to extinguish and quench it, or els to gaze at and behold it, suddenly the north part, by blowing of the south winde was also set on fire, and the people which were euen now passing the bridge, perceiuing the same, woulde haue returned, but were stopped by fire, and it came to passe, that as they stayed, or protracted time, the other ende of the bridge also, namely the South ende, was fired, so that the people thronging themselues betwéene 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 vnadui
sedly rushed that the ships being drowned, they al perished: it was said that through the fire and shipwracke there were destroyed a
bout thrée thousand persons whose bodies were found in parte, or halfe burned, besides those that were wholy burnt to ashes, and could not be found. Aboute the yeare 1282. through a greate frost and deepe snow, 5. Arches of London bridge, were borne downe
5. Arches of London bridg borne downe
and carried away. In the yeare 1289. the bridge was so sore decayed, for want of reparations, that men were a
fraid to passe thereon, and a Subsidy was graunted towardes the amendement thereof, Sir Iohn Britaine being Custos of Lon
. In the yeare 1395. on S. Georges day , was a greate iusting on London bridge, betwixt Dauid Earle Craforde of Scotland, and the Lorde VVels of England: in the which, the Lord VVels was at the third course borne out of the saddle, which historie prooueth, that at that time the bridge being coaped on ey
ther 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 8. yeares olde, was conueyed from Kening
besides Lamhith, through Southwarke to the Tower of London, and such a multitude of people went out to see her, that on London bridge. 9. persons were crowded to death,
9. persons crowded to death on Lon
don bridge
Tower on London bridg builded.
of whome the Prior of Tiptre a place in Essex was one, and a Matron on Cornhil was an other. The Tower on London bridge, at the north ende of the draw bridge, for that bridge was then readily to be drawne vp, aswell to giue passage for ships to Queene hith, as

Of London bridge and other.
for the resistance of any forraigne force, was begunne to bee buil
ded in the yeare 1426. Iohn Reinwell being Maior.
An other tower there is on the saide Bridge ouer the gate at the South end towards Southwarke, whereof in an other place shalbe spoken.
In the yeare 1481. an house called the common stage on London bridge fell downe
An house on Londō bridge fel down.
into the Thames: through the fall whereof 5. men were drouned: to conclude I affirme of this bridge ouer the saide riuer of Thames, as in other my descriptions, that it is a worke very rare, hauing with the drawe bridge, 20. Arches made of squared stone, of height 60. foote, and in breadth 30. foote distant, one from an other, 20. foote, compact and ioy
ned together with vaultes and sellers: vpon both sides bee houses builded, so that it seemeth rather a continuall streete then a bridge for the continuall fortifying, whereof against the incessant assaults of the riuer, it hath ouerseers and Officers, vz.
Fleete bridge in the west without Ludgate, a bridge of stone faire coaped, on eyther side with iron piked, on the which towards the south be also certaine Lanthornes of stone, for lightes to bee placed in the winter eueninges, for commodity of trauellers. Under this bridge runneth a water sometimes called (as I haue said) the riuer of the VVels, since Turnemill brooke, now Fleete dike, because it runneth by the Fleete, and so vnder Fleete bridge, in
to the riuer of Thames. This bridge hath beene far greater in times past, but hath beene lessened, as the water course hath béene narrowed. It seemeth, this last bridge to bee made at the char
ges of Iohn VVels Mayor in the yeare, 1431. for on the coping is engrauen Wels imbraced by Angels, like as on the Standarde in Cheape, which he also builded: thus much of the Bridge: for of the water course and decay thereof I haue spoken in an other place.
Oldebourne bridge ouer the saide riuer of the VVels more towardes the North was so called, of a Bourne that sometimes ranne downe Oldborne hill into the saide Riuer, this bridge of stone like as Fleet bridge, from Ludgate west, serueth for passen
gers with carriage or otherwise from Newgate toward the west and by North.

Bridges in London.
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 Chicke lane, &c.
Bridges ouer the Towne ditch,
Bridge ouer the town ditch
there are diuers: to weete without Aldgate, without Bishopsgate, the Posterne called Moregate, the Posterne of Cripplegate without Aldersgate, the Posterne of Christes Hospitall, Newgate and Ludgate, all these be ouer paued likewise with stone leauell with the streetes. But one other there is of Timber ouer the riuer of wels, or Fleete dike betweene the precinct of the Blacke Friers, and the house of Bridewel.
There haue been, of old time also diuers bridges in sondrie pla
ces, ouer the course of Walbrooke.
Bridges ouer the course of Walbrooke.
I read that euery person ha
uing landes on eyther side of the saide walbrooke, should vaulte, or bridge, and clense the same so farre as his landes extended. The 11. of Edwarde the thirde, the inhabitantes vpon the course of this Brooke were forced to pile and wall the sides thereof. In the thirde of Henry the fift, this watercourse hauing had many brid
ges, (as ye haue hearde) I haue reade of one by the name of Hor
shew bridge
, by the Church of S. Iohn Baptist now called S. Iohns vpon walbrooke, which hath béene since vaulted ouer with bricke, and the Streetes and Lanes where through it passed so pa
ued, that the same watercourse or brooke is now hardly discerned. Order was taken the 2. of Edwaarde the fourth, that such as had ground on eyther side of walbrooke, shoulde vaulte and paue
Walbrooke vaulted and paued.
it ouer so farre as his grounde extended. And thus much for Bridges may suffice.


  1. I.e. ferry (SM)
  2. Scan cut off. (SM)


Cite this page

MLA citation

Stow, John, and William fitz Stephen. Survey of London: Bridges. The Map of Early Modern London, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 20 Jun. 2018,

Chicago citation

Stow, John, and William fitz Stephen. Survey of London: Bridges. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed June 20, 2018.

APA citation

Stow, J., & fitz Stephen, W. 2018. Survey of London: Bridges. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London. Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Stow, John
A1  - fitz Stephen, William
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Survey of London: Bridges
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
PY  - 2018
DA  - 2018/06/20
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 


RT Web Page
SR Electronic(1)
A1 Stow, John
A1 fitz Stephen, William
A6 Jenstad, Janelle
T1 Survey of London: Bridges
T2 The Map of Early Modern London
WP 2018
FD 2018/06/20
RD 2018/06/20
PP Victoria
PB University of Victoria
LA English
OL English

TEI citation

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