Of Auncient and present Riuers,
Brookes, Boorns, Pooles, Wels, and Conduits
of fresh water, seruing the Citie, as also of
the ditch compassing the wall of the
same for defence thereof.
Aunciently, vntill the Conquerors time, and 200. yeres
after, the Citie of London was watered besides the famous
Riuer of Thames, on the South part, with the riuer of the
wels, as it was then called: on the west, with a water called
walbrooke running through the midst of the citie into the river
Thames, seruing the heart thereof. And with a fourth water
or Boorne, which ran within the Citie through Langboorne
ward, watering that part in the East. In the west suburbs
was also an other great water, called Oldborne, which had his
fall into the riuer of Wels: then was there 3. principall Fountaines, or wels in the other Suburbs, to wit Holy well, Clements well, and Clarkes well. Neare vnto this last named
fountaine, were diuers other wels, to wit, Skinners well, Fags
well, Tode well, Loders well, and Radwell. All which sayde
Wels hauing the fall of their ouerflowing in the foresayde
Riuer, much encreased the streame, and in that place gaue it
the name of Wel. In west Smithfield, there was a Poole in
Recordes called Horsepoole, and one other Poole neare vnto
the parish Church of Saint Giles without Cripplegate. Besides
all which they had in euerie streete and Lane of the citie
diuerse fayre Welles, and fresh Springs: and after this manner
was this citie then serued, with sweete and fresh waters, which
being since decaid, other meanes haue beene sought to supplie
the want, as shall be shewed: but first of the aforenamed
Riuers and other waters, is to be said, as following.
Riuer of Thames.; Whirries on the Thames.
Thames the most famous riuer of this Iland, beginneth a
little aboue a village called Winchcombe in Oxfordshire, and
still increasing passeth first by the university of Oxford, and
so with a maruelous quiet course to London, and thence breaketh into the French Ocean by maine tides, which twice in 24.
howers space doth eb and slow, more then 60. miles in length,
to the great commoditie of Trauellers, by which all kind of
Marchandise bee easily conueyed to London, the principall
store house, and Staple of all commodities within this Realme,
so that omitting to speake of great ships, and other vessels of
burden, there pertayneth to the Citties of London, Westminster, and Burrough of Southwarke, 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.
Riner of wels.; Decay of the Riuer of the Wels.; Parliament record.; Riuer of Wels bare ships.; Patent record: Mils by Baynards castell. made in the first of King Iohn.; Riuer so called in the yeare 1307.; Turnemill Brooke.
That the riuer of Wels, in the west parte of the Citty, was
of olde so called of the Wels, it may be proued thus, William
the Conqueror in his Charter, to the Colledge of S. Marten
le Grand in London, hath these wordes: I doe giue and graunt
to the same Church all the land and the Moore, without the
Posterne, which is called Cripplegate, on eyther part of the
Postern, that is to say, from the North corner of the Wall,
as the river of the Wels, there neare running, departeth the
same More from the Wall, vnto the running water which
entereth the Cittie: this water hath beene long since called
the riuer of the Wels, which name of riuer continued, and it
was so called in the raigne of Edward the first: as shall bee
shewed, with also the decay of the saide riuer. In a fayre
Booke of Parliament recordes, now lately restored to the
Tower, it appeareth that a Parliament being holden at Carlile
in the yeare 1307, the 35. of Edward the I. Henry Lacy
Earle of Lincolne complayned that whereas in times past the
course of water, running at London under Oldeborne bridge,
and Fleete bridge into the Thames, had beene of such bredth
and depth, that 10. or 12. ships, Nauies at once with marchandises, were wont to come to the foresaid bridge of Fleete, and
some of them to Oldborne bridge: now the same course by
filth of the Tanners & such others, was sore decaied, also by
raising of wharfes, but specially by a diuersion of the water
made by them of the new Temple, for their milles standing
without Baynardes Castle, in the first yeare of King Iohn, and
diuers other impediments, so as the said ships could not enter
as they were wont, & as they ought, wherefore he desired that
the Maior of London with the shiriffs, and other discrete Aldermen, might be appointed to view the course of the saide water,
and that by the othes of good men, all the aforesaide hinderances
might bee remoued, and it to bee made as it was wont of old:
whervpon Roger le Brabason, the Constable of the Tower, with
the Maior and Shiriffes were assigned to take with them honest
and discrete men, and to make diligent search & enquirie, how
the said riuer was in old time, and that they leaue nothing that
may hurt or stop it, but keepe it in the same estate that it was
wont to be: so far the record. Whervpon it folowed that the
said riuer was at that time cleansed, these mils remoued, and
other things done for the preseruation of the course thereof,
notwithstanding neuer brought to the olde depth and breadth,
wherevpon the name of riuer ceased, and it was since called a
Brooke, namely, Turnmill, or Tremill Brooke, for that diuers
Mils were erected vpon it, as appeareth by a fayre Register
booke, conteyning the foundation of the Priorie at Clarkenwell, and donation of the landes thereunto belonging, as also
by diuers other records.
This brooke hath beene diuers times since clensed, namely,
and last of all to any effect, in the yeare 1502. the 17. of
Henrie the 7. the whole course of Fleete dike, then so called,
was scowred (I say) downe to the Thames, so that boats with
fish and fewel were rowed to Fleete bridge, and to Oldburne
bridge, as they of olde time had beene accustomed, which
was a great commoditie to all the inhabitants in that part of
Fleete dike promised to be clensed; the money collected, and the Citizens deceiued:
In the yeare 1589. was graunted a fifteene, by a common
Councell of the citie, for the cleansing of this Brooke or dike:
the money amounting to a thousand marks was collected, and
it was vndertaken, that by drawing diuerse springes about
Hampsted heath, into one head and course, both the citie
should bee serued of fresh water in all places of want, and
also that by such a follower as men call it, the chanell of this
brooke should bee scowred into the riuer of Thames, but much
mony being therein spent, ye effect fayled, so that the Brooke
by meanes of continuall incrochments vpon the banks getting
ouer the water, and casting of soylage into the streame, is now
become woorse cloyed and <choken> then euer it was before.
liber customs.; Walbrook vaulted and paned ouer.
The running water so called by William Conquerour in
his saide Charter, which entereth the citie,&c. (before there
was any ditch) betweene Bishopsgate and the late made
Posterne called Mooregate, entred the wall, and was truely of
the wall called Walbrooke, not of Gualo, as some haue farre
fetched: it ranne through the citie with diuers windings from
the North towards the South into the riuer of Thames, and had
ouer the same diuerse bridges along the Streetes and Lanes,
through which it passed. I haue read in a Booke intituled
the customes of London, that the Prior of the holie Trinitie
within Aldgate ought to make ouer Walbrooke in the ward of
Brodstreete, agaynst the stone wall of the citie, vz. the same
Bridge that is next the Church of All Saints, at the wall.
Also that the Prior of the new Hospitall, S.Marie Spittle
without Bishopsgate, ought to make the middle part of one
other Bridge next to the said Bridge towardes the North:
And that in the 28. yeare of Edwarde the first, it was by
inquisition found before the Maior of London, that the parish
of S.Stephen vppon Walbrooke, ought of right to scowre the
course of the saide Brooke, and therefore the shiriffes were
commaunded to distraine the sayde Parishioners so to doe: in
the yeare 1300. the keepers of those Bridges at that time were
William Iordan and Iohn de Beuer. This water course hauing
diuerse Bridges, was afterwards vaulted ouer with bricke, and
paued leuell with the Streetes and Lanes where through it
passed, and since that also houses have beene builded thereon,
so that the course of Walbroke is now hidden vnder ground,
and therby hardly knowne.
Langborne.; Shareborne lane. Langbourne ward.
Langborne water, so called of the length thereof, was a great
streame breaking out of the ground, in Fen Church street,
which ran downe with a swift course, west, through that
streete, thwart Grastreete, and downe Lumbard streete, to the
west ende of S. Marie Wolnothes Church, and then turning
the course South down Shareborne lane, so termed of sharing
or diuiding, it brake into diuerse rilles or rillets to the Riuer
of Thames: of this bourne that warde took the name, and is
till this day called Langborne warde. This Bourne also is
long since stopped vp at the head, and the rest of the course
filled vp and paued ouer, so that no signe thereof remayneth
more then the names aforesaid.
Oldborne, or Hilborne, was the like water, breaking out
about the place where now the bars do stand, and it ran
downe the whole streete till Oldborne bridge, and into the
Riuer of the Wels, or Turnemill brooke: this Bourne was
likewise long since stopped vp at the heade, and in other
places where the same hath broken out, but yet till this day,
the said street is there called high Oldborne hill, and both the
sides thereof togither with all the grounds adioyning, that lie
betwixt it and the riuer of Thames, remaine full of springs, so
that water is there found at hand, and hard to be stopped in
Fitzstephen. Holy well.
There are (saith Fitzstephen), neare London, on the North
side, special wels in the Suburbs, sweete, wholsome and cleare,
amongst which Holywell, Clarkes wel, & Clements well, are
most famous and frequented by Scholers and youthes of the
Citie in sommer euenings, when they walke forth to take the
The first, to wit, Holy well, is much decayed and marred
with filthinesse purposely laide there, for the heighthening of
the ground for garden plots.
The fountaine called S. Clements well, North from the
Parish Church of S. Clements, and neare vnto an Inne of
Chancerie, called Clements, Inne, is faire curbed square with
hard stone, kept cleane for common vse, and is alwayes full.
Clarks well.; Playes by the parish Clarks at Clarks well.; Playes at the Skinners well.
The third is called Clarkes well, or Clarken well, and is
curbed about square with hard stone, not farre from the west
ende of Clarken well Church, but close without the wall that
incloseth it: the sayd Church tooke the name of the Well, and
the Well tooke name of the Parish Clarkes in London, who
of old time were accustomed there yearely to assemble, and
to play some large hystorie of holy Scripture. And for
example of later time, to wit, in the yeare, 1390. the 14. of
Richard the second, I read the Parish Clarks of London, on
the 18. of July, playd Enterludes at Skinners well, neare vnto
Clarkes well, which play continued three dayes togither, the
King, queence, and Nobles being present. Also the year
1409. the 10. of Henrie the 4. they played a play at the
Skinners well, which lasted eight dayes, and was of matter
from the creation of the worlde. There were to see the same,
the most part of the Nobles and Gentiles in England,&c.
Skinners well.; Wrestling place.
Other smaller. welles were many neare vnto Clarkes well,
namely Skinners well, so called for that the Skinners of
London held there certaine playes yearely playd of holy
Scripture,&c. In place whereof the wrestlings haue of later
yeares beene kept, and is in part continued at Bartholomew
Then was there Fagges well, neare vnto Smithfield by the
Charterhouse, now lately dammed up, Todwell, Loders wel,
and Radwell, all decayed, and so filled vp, that there places
are hardly now discerned.
Somewhat North from Holywell, is one other well curbed
square with stone, and is called Dame Annis the cleare, and
not farre from it but somewhat west, is also one other cleare
water called Perillous pond, because diuerse youthes swimming therein haue beene drowned, and thus much bee said for
Fountaines and Wels.
Horsepoole in Westsmithfield, was sometime a great water,
and because the inhabitants in that part of the Citie did there
water their Horses, the same was in olde Records called
Horspoole: it is now much decayed, the springs being stopped
vp, and the land water falling into the small bottome,
remayning inclosed with Bricke, is called Smithfield pond.
Poole without Creplegate.
By S. Giles Churchyard was a large water called a Poole,
I read in the yeare 1244, that Anne of Lodburie was drowned
therein, this poole is now for the most part stopped vp, but
the spring is preserued, and was cooped about with stone by
the Executors of Richard Wittington.
Patent. 1236.; Water conuayed from Teyborn.
The said riuer of the Wels, the running water of Walbrooke,
the Bournes aforenamed, and other the fresh waters that were
in and about this Citie, being in processe of time by incrochment for buildings and heighthnings of grounds vtterly
decayed, and the number of Citizens mightily increased, they
were forced to seeke sweete waters abroad, wherof some at
the request of king Henry the third, in the 21. yeare of his
raigne, were for the profite of the Citty, and good of the
whole realme, thether repayring, to wit, for the poore to
drinke, and the rich to dresse their meate, granted to the
Cittizens, and their successors by one Gilbert Sanforde, with
liberty to conuay water from the Towne of Teyborne, by
pipes of leade into their Citty.
Andrew Horn Great Conduit in west Cheape. Water conueyed from Teyborn to London.
The first Cesterne of leade castellated with stone in the
Citty of London, was called the great Conduit in west Cheape,
which was begunne to bee builded in the yeare 1285. Henry
Wales being then Mayor, the water course from Padington to
Iames hed hath 510. rods, from Iames hed on the hil to the
Mewsgate, 102 rods, from the Mewsegate to the Crosse in Cheape
Tonne vpon Cornhill.
The Tonne vpon Cornhill was Cisterned in the yeare 1401.
Iohn Shadworth then being Mayor.
Bosse of Belinsgate and other Bosses.
Bosses of water at Belinsgate, by Powles wharfe, and by
S. Giles Church without Cripplegate made about the yeare
Water conueyed to the Gaoles of Newgate and Ludgate,
Water was first procured to the Standard in West Cheape
about the yeare 1285. which Standard was againe new builded,
by the Executors of Iohn Welles, as shall bee shewed in an
other place. King Henry the sixt in the yeare 1442. graunted
to Iohn Hatherley Mayor, licence to take vp 200. fodar of
Leade, for the building of Conduits of a common Garnery
and of a new Crosse in West Cheape for the honor of the
The Conduit in West Cheape by Powles gate, was builded
about the yeare 1442. one thousand markes was graunted by
Common Counsell for the building thereof, and repayring of
the other Conduits.
The Conduit in Aldermanbury and the Standard in Fleetstreete, were made and finished by the Executors of Sir
William Eastfield in the yeare 1471. a Sestern was added to
the Standerd in Fleetestreete, and a Sestern was made at
Fleetbridge, and one other without Cripplegate in the yeare,
Conduit in Grastreete, in the yeare, 1491.
Conduit at Oldbourne Crosse about 1498, againe new made
by William Lambe 1577.
Little Conduit by the Stockes market about 1500.
Conduit at Bishopsgate, about 1513.
Conduit at London wall, about 1528.
Conduit at Aldgate without, about 1535.
Conduit in Lothbury, and in Colemanstreet, 1546.
Conduit of Thames water at Dowgate, 1568.
Thames water conueyed into mens houses in the east parte of the Citty.
Thames water conueyed into mens houses by pipes of leade,
from a most artificial forcier standing neare vnto London
bridge and made by Peter Moris Dutchman in the yeare
1582, for seruice of the Citty, on the East part thereof.
Conduits in old fishstreet
Conduits of Thames water by the parish Churches of
S. Mary Magdalen, and S. Nicholas Colde Abbey neare vnto
olde Fishstreet, in the yeare 1583.
Thames water conueyed into the west part of the city.
One other new Forcier was made neare to Broken wharfe,
to conuey Thames water into mens houses of West Cheape,
aboute Powles, Fleetestreet,&c., by an English Gentleman,
named Beuis Bulmer, in the yeare 1594. Thus much for
waters, seruing this Cittie: first by Riuers, Brookes, Boornes,
Fountaines, Pooles,&c. And since by Conduits partly made
by good and charitable Citizens, and otherwise by charges of
the Communaltie, as shalbe shewed in description of Wardes,
wherein they be placed. And now some Benefactors to these
Conduits shalbe remembred.
Benefactors towardes the water conduites.
In the yeare 1236. certaine Marchant Strangers of Cities
beyond the Seas, to wit, Amiens, Corby, and Nele, for
priuiledges which they enioyed in this Cittie, gaue 100. l.
towardes the charges of conueying water from the towne of
Teyborne. Robert Large Mayor, 1439. gaue to the new water
Conduits then in hand forty markes, and towardes the vaulting
ouer of Walbrooke neare to the parish Church of S. Margaret
in Lothbery 200. Markes.
Sir William Eastfield mayor 1438. conueyed water from
Teyborne to Fleetstreete, to Aldermanbury, and from Highbery,
|William Combes Sheriffe 1441. gaue to the worke of the
|Richard Rawson one of the Sheriffes 1476. gaue||xx.li.|
|Robert Reuell one of the shiriffes 1490. gaue||x.li.|
|Iohn Mathew Maior, 1490. gaue||xx. li.|
|William Bucke Tailor, in the yeare, 1494. towards repairing
of Conduits, gaue||C. Markes.|
|Dame Thomason widow, late wife to Iohn Perciuall Taylor,
Maior in the yeare 1498. gaue toward the Conduit in Oldbourne||xx. Markes.|
|Richard Shore one of the Shiriffes 1505. gaue to the Conduit in Oldbourne||x. li.|
|The Ladie Ascue, widow to sir Christopher Ascue, 1543 gaue towards the Conduits||C.li.|
|Dauid Wodrooffe shiriffe 1554. gaue towardes the Conduit
|Edward Iackman one of the shiriffes, 1564. gaue towarde
|Barnard Randulph, common Sergeant of the Citie, 1583.
gaue to the water Conduits||900 li.|
Thus much for the Conduits of fresh water to this Citie.