Survey of London: Waters

This document is currently in draft. When it has been reviewed and proofed, it will be published on the site.

View the draft document.

Please note that it is not of publishable quality yet.

Of the Auncient and Present Riuers, Brooks, Boorns, Pooles, wels, and Conduites of fresh water, seruing the Citie, as also of the ditch, compassing the wall of the same.
AUnciently vntill the Conquerors time,1 and 200. yeres after, the Citie of London was watered be
sides the famous Riuer of Thames, on the South part, with the riuer of the wels, as it was then cal
led on the west, with a water called walbrooke, runing through the middest of the Citie into the riuer of Thames seruing the hart thereof. And with a fourth water or Boorne, which ran within the Citie, through Langboorne warde, wate
ring that parte in the East. In the west Suburbes was also an o
ther greate water, called Oldborne, which had his fall into the Riuer of wels: then was there 3. principall Fountaines, or wels in the other Suburbes, to wit Holly well, Clements well, and Clarkes wel. Neare vnto this last named fountaine, were diuers other wels, to wit Skinners well, Fags well, Tede well, Leders well, and Radwell. In west Smithfield there was a Poole, in recordes called Horsepoole, And one other Poole neare vnto the parish Church of S. Giles without Criplegate. Besides all which they had in euery streete and lane of the City diuers fayre wels, and fresh springes: and after this manner was this Citie then serued, with sweete & fresh waters, which being since decayed, other meanes haue beene sought to supply the want, as shall bee shewed, but first of the aforenamed Riuers and other waters, is to be said, as followeth.
Riuer of Thames.
the most famous Riuer of this Iland, beginneth a little aboue a village called winchcombe in Oxfordshire, and still in
creasing passeth first by the vniuersitie of Oxford, and so with a maruelous quiet course to London, and thence breaketh into the French Ocean by maine tides, which twise in 24. howers space doeth eb and flow, more then 60. miles in length, to the great

Rivers and other waters seruing this Citie
commodity of Trauellers, by the which all kinde of Marchandise be easily conueyed to London, the principall store house, and sta
ple of all Commodities within this Realme: so that omitting to speake of greate ships, and other vessels of burden, there perteyneth to the Cities of London, westminster and Burrough of South
aboue the number as is supposed of 2000. Wherryes and other small boates, whereby 3000. poore men at the least bee set on worke and maintained.
That the Riuer of the wels
whirries on the Thames. Riuer of wels
in the west parte of the Citie, was of old time so called: it may be prooued thus, william the Conquer
or in his Charter, to the Colledg of S. Martin, le Grand in Lon
, hath these wordes: I do geue and grant to the same church all the land and the Moore, without the Posterne, which is called Criplegate, on eyther parte of the Posterne, that is to say, from the North corner of the wal, as the ryuer of the wels, there neare running departeth the same More from the wal, vnto the runing water which entreth the Cittie, this water hath beene since that time called Turnemill Brooke: yet then called the riuer of the Wels, which name of Ryuer continued: and it was so called in the raign of Edwarde the first: as shalbe shewed, with also the decay of the saide riuer,
Decay of the Riuer of the Wels.
in a fayre booke of Parliament recordes,
parliament re
now lately restored to the Tower, it appeareth that a parl2iament being holden at Carlile in the yere 1307, the 35. of Edwarde the first, Henry Lacy Earle of Lincolne, complayned that whereas in times past the course of water, running at London, vnder Olde
, and Fleete bridge into the Thames, had. beene of such bredth and depth, that 10. or 12. Shippes, Nauies, at once with Marchandizes, were wont to come to the foresaide bridge of Fleete, and some of them to Oldborne bridge:
Riuer of wels bare shipes.
now the same course by filth of the Tanners and such others, was sore decayed: also by raising of wharses, but specially by a diuersion of the wa
ter made by them of the new Temple, for their milles standing without Baynardes Castle, in the first yeare of King Iohn
patent recorde Mils by Bay
nardes castle
made in the first of King Iohn.
and diuers other impedimentes, so as the saide ships could not enter as they were wont, and as they ought, wherefore he desired that the Mayor of London with the Sheriffes, and other discrete Alder
, might be appointed to view the course of the saide water, and

Riuers and other waters seruing this Citie
that by the othes of good men, all the aforesaide hinderances might be remoued, and it to be made as it was wont of olde: whereupon Roger le Brabason, the Constable of the Tower, with the May
and Sheriffes were assigned to take with them honest and dis
crete men, and to make diligent search & inquiry, how the said ry
uer was in olde time, and that they leaue nothing that may hurt or stop it, but keepe it in the same estate, that it was wont to bee: so farre the recorde. Whereupon it followed that the saide riuer,
Riuer socalled in the yeare 1307.
was at that time clensed, these mils remoued, and other thinges done for the preseruation of the course thereof, notwithstanding neuer brought to the old depth, and breadth, whereupon the name of riuer ceased, and it was since called a Brooke, namely Turn
or Tremill Brooke, for that diuers mils were erected vpon it, as appeareth by a fayre Register booke, conteyning the foun
dation of the Priorie at Clarkenwel, and donation of the landes, thereunto belonging, as also by diuers other recordes.
This brooke hath beene diuers times since clensed, namely and last of all to any effect. In the yeare 1502. the 17. of Henry the 7. the whole course of Fleete dike, then so called was scow
red (I say) down to the Thames, so that boates with fish and few
ell were rowed to Fleete bridge and to Oldborne bridge, as they of olde time had beene accustomed, which was a great com
modity to all the inhabitantes in that part of the City.
In the yeare 1589. was granted a fifteene, by a common Councell of the Cittie, for the clensing of this Brooke or dike and the money amounting to a thousand markes was collected,
Fleete dike promised to be clensed: the money collect
ed, but the Citizens de
and it was vndertaken that by drawing diuers springes about Hamp
stid hea
t4h, into one head and course, both the Citie should be ser
ued of fresh water, in all places of want, and also that by such a follower, as men call it the channell of this brooke shoulde bee scowred into the Ryuer of Thames, but much money being ther
in spent, she effect fayled, so that the brookes by meanes of conti
nuall incrochments vpon the banks gyttying ouer the water, and casting of soilage into the streame, is now become worse cloy
ed and choken then euer it was before.
The running water so called
A running water called Walbrooke.
by William the Conqueror in his saide Charter, which entreth the Citie &c. before there was

Riuers and other waters.
any ditch betwéene Bishopsgate and the late made Posterne cal
led Moregate, entred the wal and was truely of the wall called Walbrooke not of Gualo as some haue farre fetched: it ranne through the Citie with diuers windinges from the North to
wardes the South into the riuer of Thames, and had ouer the same diuers Bridges, along the Streetes and Lanes, through which it passed. I haue read in an olde writing booke intituled the customes
liber customs5
of London, that the Prior of the Holy Trinity within Aldgate ought to make ouer VValbrooke in the ward of Br6ed
, against the stone wall of the Citie, vz. the same Bridge that is next the Church of Al Saintes, at the wall. Also that the Prior of the new Hospitall, S. Marie Spittle, without Bishops
ought to make the middle parte of one other Bridge next to the saide Bridge towardes the North: And that in the 28. yeare of Edwarde the first, it was by inquisition found before the Ma
of London that the parish of S. Stephen vppon walbrooke, ought of right to couer the course of the saide Brooke, and there
fore the Shieriffes were commanded to distrayne the saide Pari
shioners so to doe in the yeare 1300. the keepers of those Bridges at that time were VVilliam Iordan, and Iohn de Bauer. This watercourse hauing diuers Bridges, was afterwardes vaulted o
uer with Bricke, and paued leuill with the streetes and lanes, where through it passed, and since that also houses haue beene builded thereon, so that the course of VValbrooke
Walbrooke vaulted and paued ouer.
is now hidden vnder ground, and thereby hardly knowen. Langborne water so called of the length thereof, was a greate streame of water brea
king out of the ground, in Fan Church streete, which ran downe with a swift course, west, through that streete, thwart Grastreet and downe Lombardestreete, to the west ende of S. Mary VVolnothes Church, and then turning the course South downe Shareborne lane, so termed of sharing or deuiding, it brake into diuers rilles or rillets to the Riuer of Thamès, of this Bourne that warde tooke the name, and is till this day called Langborne warde, this Bourne also is long since stopped vp at the heade and the rest of the course filled vp and paued ouer, so that no signe thereof remaineth more then the names aforesaide, Oldeborne or Hilborne was the like water, breaking out aboute the place

Riuers and other waters.
where now the bars do stand, and it ran downe the whole streete till Oldebourne bridge, and into the Riuer of the VVels, or Turnemil Brook: this Bourn was likewise long since stoped vp at the head, & in other places where the same hath broken out, but yet till this day, the saide streete is there still called high Oulde
, and both the sides thereof together with al the grounds adioyning that lye betwixt it, and the riuer of Thames remayne full of springes, so that water is there found at hand, and harde to be stopped in euery house.
There are (saith Fitzstephen
Fitzstephen. Holywell
) neare London, on the North side speciall wels, in the Suburbes: sweete, wholesome, and cleare, amongst which Holywel, Clarkes wel, & Clementes wel, are most famous and frequented by Schollers, and youths of the City in sommer euenings, when they walke foorth to take the aire. The first, to wit, Holywel is much decayed and marred with filthinesse, purposely layd there, for the heighthening of the ground, for garden plots: the fountaine called S. Clements wel, North from the Parish church of S. Clements, and neare vnto an Inne of Chan
, called Clements Inne, is thereof yet fayre curbed square with harde stone, and is alwaies kepte cleane for common vse: it is alwaies ful, and neuer wanteth water, the third is called Clarks well, or Clarken well, and is also curbed aboute square with stone. Not far from the west ende of this Clarkes well Church without the stone wall that incloseth the Church, the other smal
ler wels that stood neare vnto Clarkes wel, to wit Skinners wel, Fagges well, Todwell, Loders well, and Redwell, are all de
cayed and so filled vp. that their places are now hardly discerned: somewhat North from Holywell is one other well curbed square with stone, and is called Dame Annis the cleare, and not farre frō it but somewhat west, is also one other cleare water called Pe
, because diuers youthes by swimming therein haue béene drouned, and thus much be saide for fountaines and wels.
Horsepoole in West Smithfielde was sometime a greate water, and because the inhabitantes in that parte of the Citie did there water their Horses, the same was in olde recordes called Horsepoole, it is now much decayed, the springs being stoped vp and the land water falling into the small bottome, remayning

Riuers and other waters.
inclosed with Bricke, is but fowle: and is called Smithfielde Ponde.
The Poole
poole without Cripplegate.
by S. Giles Churchyarde was a large water in the yeare 1244. for it is read that Anne of Lodbury was drou
ned therein, this Poole is now for the most parte stopped vp, but the spring is preserued, and it was coopped about with stone by the Executors of Richarde VVhittington.
The said riuer of the Wels, the running water of Walbrooke, the Bournes aforenamed, and other the fresh waters that were in and aboute this Citie, being in processe of time by incrochment for buildinges and otherwise vtterlie decayed, and the number of Citizens mightely increased, they were forced to séeke swéete waters abroade, whereof some at the request of king Henry the thirde, in the 21. yeare of his raigne, were for the profite of the Citie, and good of the whole Realme thether repayring, gran
ted to the Citizens and their Successors by one Gilbert Sanford,
Patent 1236.
with liberty to conuey water from the towne of Teiborne, by Pypes of leade into their Citie, & the first Cesterne of leade ca
stellated with stone in the Citie of London was called the greate Conduit in west Cheape, and was begunne to bee builded in the yeare 1285. Henry Wales being then Maior: the water course from Padington to Iames hed hath 510. roddes, from Iames hed on the hill to the Mewsgate, 102. roddes, from the Mewsgate to the crosse in Cheape 484. roddes.
The Tonne vpon Cornhil was Cisterned in the yere 1401. Iohn Chadworth then being Maior.
Bosses of water, at Belinsgate, by Powles wharfe, and by S. Giles Church without Cripplegate made aboute the yere 1423.
Water conueyed to the Gaoles of Newgate and Ludgate, 1432.
Water procured to the Standarde in west Cheape aboute the yeare 1431. king Henry the sixt in the yeare 1442. graun
ted to Iohn Hatharley, Maior licence to take vp 200. fodar of Leade for the building of Conduites of a common Garnery and of a new Crosse in west Cheape, for honor of the Citie.
The Conduit in Aldermanbury and the Standarde in Fleete streete were made and finished by the executors of Sir William

Riuers, and other waters
Eastfielde in the yeare 1471. a Sesterne was added to the stan
derd in Fletestreete, and a Sesterne was made at Fleete bridge, and one other without Criplegate in the yeare 1478.
Conduite in Grastreete in the yeare. 1491.
Conduite of Oldbourne Crosse aboute 1498. againe new made by William Lambe, 1577.
Little Conduite by the Stockes market aboute. 1500.
Conduite at Bishopsgate aboute 1513.
Conduite at London wall aboute 1528.
Conduite at Aldgate without, aboute, 1535.
Conduite in Lothbury, and in Colemanstreete. 1546.
Conduite of Thames water, at Dowgate. 1568,
Thames water conueyed into mens houses
Thames wa
ter conueyed into mens houses, in the east parte of the City.
by pypes of lead from a most artificiall forcier standing neare vnto London bridge and made by Peter Moris Dutch man in the yeare 1582. for seruice of the Citie, on the East part thereof.
Conduites in old fishstreet.
of Thames water by the parish churches of S. Ma
rie Magdalen
, and S. Nicholas Colde Abby neare vnto olde Fishstrete, in the yeare 1583.
One other new Forcier was made neare to Broken wharfe, to conuey Thames water
Thames wa
ter conueyed into the west part of the City.
into mens houses of west Cheape, a
bout Powles, Fleetestreete &c. by an English Gentleman, na
med Beuis Bulman, in the yeare 1594. Thus much for waters, seruing this Citie, first by Riuers, Brookes, Boornes, Foun
taines, Pooles, &c. And since by Conduites partly made by good and charitable Citizens, and otherwise by chardges of the com
mi7naltie, as shalbe shewed in description of Wards wherein they be placed.
And now some Benefactors to these Conduites shalbee re
In the yeare 1236. certaine Marchants strangers,
Benefactors towardes the water condu
of cities beyonde the Seas, to wit Amiens, Corby, and Nele for priui
ledges which they enioyed in this Citie, gaue 100. £. towardes the charges of conueying water from the towne of Teyborne. Robert Large then Maior 1439. gaue to the new water Condu
ites then in hand, forty Markes, and towarde the vaulting ouer of Walbrooke 200 markes.

Riuers and other waters.
Sir Wiliam Eastfielde conueyed water from Teyborne and from Highbery.
Thus much for the Conduits of fresh water to this Citie.
The ditch which partly now remaineth,
Liber Dunsta
and compassed the wal of the Citie, was begun to be made by the Londoners in the yere 1211. & was finished in the yere 1213. the 15. of king Iohn , this ditch being then made of 200. foote brode,
Ditch about London 200 foote brode. Liber Trinitate
caused no smal hind
rance to the Canons of the holy Trinity, whose church stoode neare vnto Aldgate: for that the saide ditch passed through their grounde, from the Tower of London, vnto Bishopsgate. This ditch being originally made for the defence of the cittie was long together carefully clensed and mainteyned as neede required, but now of late neglected and forced eyther to a very narrow and the same a filthy channel, or altogether stopped vp for gardens planted, and houses builded thereon euen to the very wall, and in many places vpon both ditch and wall, to what danger of the ci
tie, I leaue to wiser consideration: and can but wish, that reforma

Riuers and other waters seruing this Citie.
tion might be had.
In the yeare of Christ, 1354. the 28. of Edwarde the third, the ditch of this citie flowing ouer the banke into the Tower ditch the king commanded the saide ditch of the citie to be clensed, and so ordered, that the ouerflowing thereof, should not force any filth into the Tower ditch. Anno 1379. Iohn Filpot Maior of Lon
caused this ditch to be clensed and euery household to pay v.ď. which was for a daies worke towardes the charges thereof. Ri
the 2. in the tenth of his raigne
, granted a Tole to bee ta
ken of wares solde by water, or by lande for 10. yeares towardes repayring of the wall and clensing of the ditch.
Thomas Fawconer Mayor 1414. caused the ditch to be clensed. Ralf Ioceline, Maior 1477. caused the whole ditch to be cast and clensed, and so from time to time it was clensed and otherwise re
In my remembrance also the same was clensed, namely the Moore ditch, when Sir Wiliam Hollies was Maior in the yeare 1540. And not long before or after, from the Tower of London, to Aldgate. It was againe clensed in the yere 1549. Henry Amcotes being Mayor,
Plentie of fish in the towne ditch.
at the charges of the companies at which time the saide ditch lay open without eyther wall or pale, hauing therein great store of very good fish of diuers sortes, as many men yet liuing who haue taken and tasted them, can well witnes: but now no such matter the charge of clensing that ditch is saued & great profit made by letting out the banks with the spoile of the whole ditch. I am not ignorant of two fifeteenes granted by a common counsell in the yeare 1595. for the reformation of this ditch, and that a smal portion thereof, to wit, betwixt Bishopsgate, and the Posterne called Moregate, was clensed and made some
what broder: but filling againe very fast, by reason of ouer raising the ground neare adioyning, therefore neuer the better: and I will so leaue it.



  1. I.e. the reign of William the Conqueror (SM)
  2. Letter missing; context obvious. (SM)
  3. Letter missing. (SM)
  4. Letter missing; context obvious. (SM)
  5. Unclear. (SM)
  6. Letter missing. (SM)
  7. Underinking. (SM)
  8. Underinking. (SM)
  9. Unclear. (SM)


Cite this page

MLA citation

Stow, John, and William fitz Stephen. Survey of London: Waters. 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: Waters. 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: Waters. 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: Waters
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: Waters
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

<bibl type="mla"><author><name ref="#STOW6"><surname>Stow</surname>, <forename>John</forename></name></author>, and <author><name ref="#FITZ1"><forename>William</forename> <surname><nameLink>fitz</nameLink> Stephen</surname></name></author>. <title level="a">Survey of London: Waters</title>. <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>, edited by <editor><name ref="#JENS1"><forename>Janelle</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></name></editor>, <publisher>U of Victoria</publisher>, <date when="2018-06-20">20 Jun. 2018</date>, <ref target=""></ref>.</bibl>