Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century

Rodwell, G Herbert


OF this priest architect whose name must still be revered as the builder of the first stone bridge that ever crossed the river Thames, but little is known. It appears according to the account given by that learned antiquary, Thompson, in his Chronicles of London Bridge, page 45, that Peter was "a priest and chaplain of St. Mary Colechurch, an edifice, which, until the great fire of London, stood on the north side of the Poultry, at the south end of a turning denominated Conyhoop Lane, from a poulterer's shop having the sign of three conies hanging over it. This chapel, of which the skilful Peter was curate, was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and famous as the place where St. Edmund and St. Thomas a Beckett were presented at the baptismal font."
His great work, which has brought his name so honourably down to our own times, was began in
. It took thirty-three years to complete; but the architect had died in the year
, so that he never had the satisfaction of viewing his finished work. His body was buried in the chapel on the Bridge, which chapel was dedicated to St. Thomas a Beckett, and was familiarly called St. Thomas of the Bridge.
A more particular account of this famous Bridge will be found in the course of the Romance.
, the chapel on the Bridge was occupied by a Mr. Yaldwin, as a dwelling and warehouse; and in this year, while repairing the staircase leading to the lower chapel, he discovered the remains of a body, supposed to be those of Peter of Colechurch.
The last arch of Peter's Bridge was not destroyed until the latter end of the year
. The present London Bridge was opened to the public,
August 1st,1831
When we regard the miserable state of Westminster Bridge, dying, as we may say, of premature old age, for it has stood only about a hundred years, our admiration of Peter's gigantic effort, is surprisingly increased; for, notwithstanding the imperfect knowledge of civil engineering in his day, he yet constructed an edifice, which was not only regarded as one of the wonders of the world, but which stood the unceasing attacks of nearly a million of raging floods, during six entire centuries. The powerfully-destructive rush of waters may be easily conceived, when it is remembered that the river itself was no less than nine hundred feet wide, yet, at every rising and falling of the tide, it had to find its course through a water-way of only one hundred and ninety-four feet, caused by the thickness of the stone piers, and the piles, or sterlings, driven round them to prevent their foundations from being washed away