London, Volume 1
There is as much, perhaps, in a bridge to take hold both of the affections and the imagination as in any other work whatever-dome, column, spire, or
--by which human hands have given durable expression to the ideal in that peculiar form of art which we distinguish as the architectural. Deeper thoughts of a certain class-thoughts that carry us out of this world may be awakened by the view of a church; but, as an object for our every-day feelings of regard and attachment, a bridge stands among buildings next after a man's own home. Whether it be but a simple arch crossing the humblest village brook, or the mighty structure whose far-extending line of piers breasts the flood of some broad river rolling through a populous capital, what other public accommodation is at once so universally and so palpably serviceable? Then, its essential beauty and elegance are equal to its utility. Spanning the otherwise impassable chasm with its firm roadway, it carries us over the flowing water, and through the air, as if it were a winged thing. It is the rainbow brought down from heaven to earth, and made substantial and permanent. And divers are the eternal bridges that poetry has built for itself, out of those sunbeams of its own that are far stronger and more lasting than any beams that were ever hewn in forest, from
and that asphaltic pavement erst thrown over the foaming deep between earth and hell by Death and his
| mother Sin, to that broken which Mirza, in his vision, beheld standing in the midst of the tide of eternity, with the multitudes of people passing over it, and continually dropping through its trap-doors and pitfalls, and that other, gleaming with prismatic light, and showing like |
into which the serpent, the emblem of Intellectual Strength, is finally transformed in Goethe's wondrous tale.[n.74.1] A bridge, too, figures conspicuously in some of the most poetic passages of history--from the expedition of Xerxes-
and the contemporary defence of the Pons Sublicius at Rome by the gallant Horatius Codes, down to Napoleon's brilliant carnage and victory at Lodi, and the still bloodier days of his baffled charges at Arcole. And in that poetry which is mixed of the imaginative and the real, shedding its supernatural light on earthly scenes, what has not Shakspere made the Rialto to all of us?
In the annals of the metropolis, at least, if not of the kingdom, has been of the most famous of our public monuments for not much short of a years. The Thames at London is now crossed by no fewer than magnificent bridges; but it is not yet quite a century ago since afforded the only passage from the bank of the river to the other, and the only entrance into the town from the south, as it had done for centuries previous. Whoever, therefore, went out or came in, to or from the wealthiest, the most populous, and in every sense the most important parts of the country, or to or from almost any of the ports of communication with other countries, passed, from the days of the Saxons to near the end of the reign of George II., either over this great thoroughfare or under it. There it stood, looking down upon the ever-flowing river, and coursed itself by almost as unresting a living tide, of the multitudes of generation pursuing those of another, amid
wherewith each successively sought to gild its mortality. But the bridge itself also underwent various transformations in this long course of ages.
Dion Cassius makes mention of a bridge over the Thames at the time of the expedition of the Emperor Claudius, in the year ; but it is much more probable that that historian, writing after the lapse of a century and a half, should have fallen into a mistake as to such a matter, than that any such work should have existed in the then state both of the Thames and of British civilization. Where the bridge stood he does not say; but his language would seem to imply that it was not very far from the mouth of the river--a notion which never could have entered into the head of a person knowing anything about the Thames, and which may almost be taken as a convincing proof that the story he tells should be referred altogether--in so far, at least, as the bridge is concerned--to another river, --perhaps, as has been suggested, to some mere tributary of the Thames, over which some rude description of bridge may even thus early have been thrown. There is every reason to believe that at this time, and down to a much later date, the Thames, even at the point where London now stands, and much higher up, flowed for the greater part through broad marshes; and nothing that we know of
|the Britons before the Roman conquest of the country warrants us in supposing that they possessed anything like the mechanical skill that would have been required to construct a bridge for so wide a water-course, even if the banks had been ever so suitable for the purpose. No other ancient writer has any notice of a bridge over the Thames at London or elsewhere, either at this date or at any time during the connexion of the Romans with our island. It is not improbable, nevertheless, that in the course of the period of between and centuries, during which Britain was a Roman province, and London continued to grow in extent and opulence, spreading itself, as it appears to have done, over the southern as well as the northern bank of the river, the inhabitants, or their governors, may have united the by of those structures which we know were erected in all other parts of the empire, and some of the examples of which left by the Romans are perhaps still unexcelled by the best efforts of modern science and skill. But if London had her bridge in the Roman times, both the structure itself, and the very memory and tradition of it, have wholly perished. There appears to have been no bridge of any kind over the Thames in the year , when, as the Saxon Chronicle tells us, King Anlaf, or Olave, of Norway, sailed up the river with a numerous fleet as far as Staines, which he plundered, without having encountered any impediment, as far as is mentioned, or any attempt having been made to bar his passage. But this very expedition of Olave's, perhaps, was the occasion of the erection of the Saxon bridge at London. It is at any rate certain that there was a bridge here within a few years from this time: the old Icelandic historian, Snorro Sturleson, who wrote in the century, has preserved a most curious relation of the Battle of , fought in the year . Under the disastrous rule of our Ethelred the Unready (Adalradr, the Norse writer calls him), the Danish pirates had overrun and conquered the greater part of England; and, in particular, they held possession both of the town of London, and also of the great emporium, or market, called Sudrvirki (), on the opposite bank of the river, which they had fortified with a deep ditch and a strong rampart. But in this year, , Ethelred, who had been obliged to take refuge in France, returned home, collected an army, and prepared to make a great effort for the expulsion of the invaders. In this enterprise he was assisted by his old enemy, the Norwegian King Olave, who had now been baptised, and who, indeed, was afterwards canonised, and is the Saint Olave of the Calendar. At the part of the river where London and stood, there was, Snorro goes on to inform us, a bridge wide enough to allow carriages, if they met upon it, to pass each other; and upon it were erected defences of various kinds, both turrets, and also roofed bulwarks, raised breast-high: the bridge itself was sustained by posts fixed in the bed of the river. These defences were, we should suppose, a portion of the original and proper structure of the bridge, which had probably been erected as much for warlike purposes, and for barring the passage of the river, as for affording a means of transit between the bank and the other. For the present they were, like the towns, occupied and manned by the Danes; while below bridge lay King Olave with his fleet. An attempt was made in the instance by Ethelred to carry the bridge by an attack from the land; but this failed; and then at a council of the chiefs, which was called by the almost despairing Saxon King to|
| consider what should be or could be done, Olave offered that, if the rest would support him with their land forces, he would try if he could not manage the matter with his ships. The proposition having been adopted, the necessary preparations were set about on all hands; and the thing King Olave did was to direct some old houses to be pulled down, and with the wooden poles and twigs of osier thence obtained, to raise upon each of his ships a huge scaffolding, extending over the sides of the vessel, so as to enable the men to reach the enemy with their swords without coming from under cover; and at the same time, as he imagined, of such strength as to resist any stones that might be thrown down upon them from the upper works of the bridge. When everything was in readiness, both on the river and on shore, the ships rowed towards the bridge against the tide; but, as soon as they got near to it, they were assailed with so furious a shower of missiles and great stones, that, notwithstanding Olave's ingenious basket-work, not only helmets and shields gave way, but even some of the ships were sorely shattered, so that a considerable number of the men made off with themselves altogether. On this, driven to their last shifts, Olave and his brave Norsemen, rowing close up to the bridge, bound their barks with ropes and cables to the piles on which it was supported, and then, tugging their oars with all their might, and being assisted by the tide (we now see why they chose to make their attack while it was ebbing), they soon felt the fabric yielding to their efforts, and in no long time had the satisfaction of bringing down piers and bridge with great crash into the water--the loads of stones that had been collected upon it, with the crowd of its armed defenders, only helping to make the ruin more complete. Great numbers of the Danes were drowned; those who could, fled, some to London, some to . But both towns, blockaded as they were from the river, which then was almost their only highway of communication with the rest of the country, soon found it expedient to surrender to Ethelred. Snorro goes on to tell us that Olave's exploit was celebrated in song by more than Norwegian bard; and he even records some of their verses; but these do not enable us to add any material fact to the excellent old chronicler's own very lucid prose narrative.[n.76.1]
The bridge which King Olave thus pulled down with his ships and their strong cables was no doubt constructed only of wood; and it appears to have been soon rebuilt of the same material; for there certainly was once more a bridge over the Thames at London, when the Danish king, Canute, invaded the country in . His fleet, the Saxon chronicler informs us, after stopping for a short time at Greenwich, proceeded up the river to London; |
it is added,
The meaning seems to be, that they towed their ships past the bridge through a canal which they dug on the Surrey side of the river for that purpose. At any rate, the mention of the bridge is express. Maitland, the modern historian of London, even conceived that he had traced the course of Canute's canal:
This was written more than a century ago; and even at that time the ingenious and painstaking investigator admits that part of the line which he has so minutely described was not very discernible to ordinary eyes. But we fear that in the work of obliteration the last century has done more than all the that preceded it--that Canute's canal must henceforth be contented to live in our historian's description only--if even that be now perfectly intelligible to any but the most profound of parish antiquaries. The
where the trench was in Maitland's day
is now itself visible only to the
and as for the houses in Fields, their preservation would be as great a miracle as that of the sleepers in the cave at Ephesus. In support of his theory, Maitland adduces the fact, that in the year , when some ditches were making to drain the low grounds which were part of the marsh,
He also learned, from of the workmen, that when the great dock was made in ,
whence he came to the conclusion that here had been the south bank of the mouth of the canal. Nevertheless, it has been objected, that, Canute's object being merely to pass the bridge, a much shorter cut than this would have served his turn-that, instead of a canal beginning from the wet dock at Deptford and sweeping round to , it would have been as much as he had either use or time for, if he had dug merely from the place called in to in . But there was probably very little digging; Canute, in all likelihood, found the new passage he wanted for his ships made to his hands by the natural inundations from the river, and, in proceeding so far beyond the bridge, only followed the guidance of the deeper and more navigable parts of the great marsh which then extended all along the south bank of the Thames in this part of its course. Besides, it may have been advisable for him to get his fleet beyond the reach, not only of the bridge, but also of , where, as the name seems to imply, there was probably at this time some sort of military work erected to aid in the defence of the river. We have just seen that it was fortified by the Danes when King Olave made his attack upon the bridge in .
Old Stow gives the following account of the original foundation of , from the report of Bartholomew Linsted, Fowle, last prior of the church of St. Mary Overy's, in :--
The legend has acquired a prescriptive right to a place in any account of , and pity indeed it were that any of those poetical transfigurations of old events, such as this story or that other of Whittington and his cat, should be discarded from the page of history, merely as not being an absolutely literal record of the fact; such touches or flourishes in the inventive line are part of that privilege of antiquity of which Livy has spoken in his genial way, admitting it, with that fine universal sympathy of his, to a much greater extent than we have any occasion to claim for it in the present instance. We have here, if not a true narrative, at least a true picture, which is quite as good: no rich old ferryman may have ever actually had an only daughter to inherit his wealth--no religious house, either of sisters or priests, may have ever arisen out of the profits of any ferry across this part of the river Thames--no such house may have had anything to do with the building of the ;--but still the fiction, if such it be, is all true to the spirit of the time and the state of society in which it is laid, and carries us back to that time and that state of society, just as effectually as if old Prior Linsted had been in a condition to make his affidavit to every word of it. It must be admitted, however, that to persons who care only about matters of fact, this report of the worthy prior's cannot be very conscientiously recommended.
is mentioned in a charter of the Conqueror's granted to the monks of in ; but the earliest historic notice we have of it, after that of the device by which Canute got his ships past it, is the account several of our old chroniclers give us of its destruction on the , on which day a furious south-east wind threw down private houses in the City, besides several churches, and the tide in the river came rushing up with a violence which probably a much stronger fabric than the bridge then was would have been unable to resist. It was, we are told, entirely swept away. From this date we hear nothing more of it, till we find the Saxon chronicler, under the-year , in the reign of Rufus, recording that
Upon the strength of this passage, --which, however, does not seem very clear or conclusive--the credit of a complete re-edification of has been given to Rufus. That it was rebuilt, however, soon after its destruction in is sufficiently probable; and if we may trust a charter of Henry I., quoted by Stow, exempting a certain manor,
| belonging to the monks of Battle Abbey, from |
it would seem that the expense of the restoration of the bridge, or of maintaining of it in repair, was at this time provided for-not, perhaps, as Maitland assumes, by contributions exacted from all the civil bodies and incorporations throughout the kingdom, but-by an assessment levied upon all lands in the county of Surrey (where this manor was), and, no doubt, also in that of Middlesex. Indeed, this would be only conformable to the ancient rule of the common law in regard to bridges. In another charter of the of Henry I. (A. D. ), a grant is made to the monks of of a year out of the lands pertaining to ; the small beginning of those endowments of landed property now forming what are called the Bridgehouse Estates, and yielding a revenue, we believe, of between and a year. was burnt down in by a fire, which began in the house of Ailward, near London Stone, and laid the City in ruins from to . Fitzstephen, however, who wrote his curious Description within years from this date, speaks, as we have seen, of the people as being accustomed in his day to throng the Bridge, all brimful of laughter, when the boat-tilting was exhibited at Easter on the river.[n.79.1] Stow asserts, without quoting his authority, that the bridge had been wholly rebuilt, in the year ,
It was, no doubt, this erection-like all the preceding ones, still only of timber--that Fitzstephen had in his eye; and this fact, by-the-bye, may help to fix, a little more nearly than has yet been done, the era of that writer, or rather of his account of London; which Pegge, his last editor, has shown must have been written some time between and , but which surely cannot be supposed to have been drawn up after the stone bridge over the Thames at London had been begun to be built, since, even while expressly noticing the bridge, it makes no mention of any other than which, from what is said of it, must have been at that time a structure, not in the course of building, but completed and in use. Now the of stone was begun to be built in the year , and was not finished till the year . The architect was the same who had built the last wooden fabric, Peter, curate of St. Mary Colechurch at the south-end of Conyhoop Lane (now Grocers' Alley), on the north side of the Poultry, a chapel distinguished as that in which Thomas à Becket had been baptised. Stow notes that the stone bridge was founded somewhat to the west of the old timber , which, as appears from the charter of the Conqueror mentioned above, was, at least in that king's time, close to St. Botolph's wharf, still marked by St. Botolph's Lane. The cost of the new erection is supposed to have been principally defrayed by a general tax laid upon wool-whence the popular saying, which in course of time came to be understood in a literal sense, that was built upon wool-packs. Stow conceives that
|will by no means allow his canal of Canute--for that is evidently what has given rise to Stow's notion--to be thus snatched out of his hands; he contends, from an actual inspection of the piers of the bridge, that it had evidently been raised upon strong frames of piles driven into the bed of the river, as might very easily have been done, without the water having been withdrawn, the layer of stones being in this way only about feet under low-water mark. On the outside of the wooden foundations on which the stone piers were thus built, were driven other piles, rising up to low-water mark, and forming the cumbrous trowel-shaped masses about each pier, known, as long as the old bridge existed, by the name of the Sterlings. It is doubted, however, whether the sterlings were coeval with the erection of the bridge, or were subsequently added to protect and strengthen the original foundations of the piers. Peter of Colechurch died in ; so that he had not the satisfaction of seeing his bridge in its finished state. But in the space of nearly years, during which the work had been proceeding under his superintendence, it may be presumed to have advanced to its last stage; and we are particularly informed that the original architect was buried within the chapel of St. Thomas a Becket, which was erected on the central pier of the bridge. The bridge consisted of arches supported upon piers; the roadway being feet in length, feet in height from the river, and feet wide from parapet to parapet. But if all this space was originally left as a free passage, it was afterwards reduced to a much narrower|
|thoroughfare. In a patent roll of the year of Edward I., A.D. , mention is made of |
the bridge; and as this was only about years after it had been finished, it seems most probable that there were some houses upon it from the . In course of time it became a continued
|street built on both sides, with the exception of only openings at unequal distances, from which there was a view of the river in each direction. Besides the private houses, however, there were some other erections which might be considered as forming properly a part of the bridge. Of these the most famous was the chapel, already mentioned, dedicated to St. Thomas à Becket, which stood upon the east side of the street, over the or central pier, which on that account was carried a long way farther out towards the east than the other piers. Its front to the street, which was feet in length, was divided by buttresses, crowned with crocketed spires, into compartments; of which the central contained a large arched window, and the others the entrances into the chapel from the street. The interior consisted of an upper chapel and a crypt--the latter, which was about feet in height, and the vaulted roof of which was supported by clustered columns of great elegance, having an entrance from the river by means of a flight of stairs leading from the sterling of the pier, as well as others from the upper room and from the street. Both apartments were lighted by rows of arched windows, looking out upon the water. This chapel continued to be used for divine worship down to the Reformation.|
|Between the chapel and the end of the bridge, of the arches, or junctions of the piers (the from the end), was formed by a drawbridge; and at the north end of this opening was a tower, which Stow tells us was begun to be built as it stood in his time in the year . But probably a similar building had stood there from the erection of the bridge. On the top of the front of this tower the heads of persons executed for high treason used to be stuck, till it was replaced in the latter part of the century by a very singular edifice of wood, called Nonsuch House, which is said to have been constructed in Holland, and brought over in pieces, when it was set up here without the assistance of either mortar or iron, only wooden pegs being used to hold it together. It extended across the bridge|
|by means of an archway, and was a very gay and fantastic structure, elaborately carved both on its principal front towards , and on its east and west gables, which protruded a considerable way beyond the line of the bridge, while the square towers at each of its corners, crowned by short domes, or Kremlin spires, and their gilded vanes, were seen from all directions ascending above all the surrounding buildings. When the old tower which had occupied this site was taken down in , the exposed heads were removed to the tower over the gate at the end, or the foot of the bridge, as it was commonly called; and that gate now received the name of Traitors' Gate. The tower here was also rebuilt about the same time, and with its circular turrets, connected by curtains and surmounted by battlements, all likewise carved in wood, formed another conspicuous and imposing ornament of this great highway reared on the bosom of the Thames.|
These brief notices will enable the reader, with the help of our engravings and of his own imagination, to get up for himself a vision of Peter of Colechurch's old bridge in all its glory. But, although remained substantially what its architect made it till it was taken down only about years ago, there was no part of it, not excepting even the arches and the piers themselves, that had not been, probably in most cases more than once, modified and transformed in the long interval between the years and . Not only had the mere lapse of time done its usual work, but visitations of a more violent character had, on several occasions, threatened it with destruction, and necessitated the most extensive repairs. It had scarcely been well finished, when on the night of the , it was greatly injured by a fire, which, having enveloped the church of St. Mary Overy's (then called Our Lady of the Canons), caught the gate, and thence was carried by the wind to the London end of the bridge, after a vast crowd of people had collected upon it, who were thus hemmed in between the advancing masses of flame, and perished miserably, to the number, Stow relates, of
Perhaps the newly-built bridge, in the confusions of the time, was allowed to remain without any effectual measures being taken to restore what this calamity had laid waste; for years after it is represented as in a ruinous condition, and it as threatening to fall down altogether unless it should be speedily repaired. This is the language of Edward I.'s patent roll of already quoted. In the very next year, , of the arches of the bridge were carried away by the ice or a swell in the river succeeding a severe snow-storm and frost. In , on the at noon, Stow records in his Annals,
On the , between and at night, a fire broke out in the house of Briggs, a needle-maker, near St. Magnus Church, occasioned by the carelessness of a maid-servant in placing some hot coals under a pair of stairs, which raged till in the morning, and consumed all the houses on the bridge, in number, from the north end to the opening on both sides. The houses thus destroyed do not appear to have been all rebuilt when the great fire of occurred; which, although it did not make its way across the bridge, reduced again to a heap of ruins as much of both sides of the street between the city end and the vacant space, as had been restored since the preceding conflagration. The stone-work of the bridge was so much shaken and weakened on this occasion, that it cost an expenditure of to make good the damage. After the piers and arches were repaired, however, building leases were eagerly taken, and in about years the line of houses was once more complete on both sides of the street. Again, on the night of Wednesday, the , a fire broke out, through the carelessness of a servant, in the house of a brush-maker, near , , (another account says, of a haberdasher of hats, on the bridge foot,) which consumed about houses in all, among which were several on the and arches of that end of the bridge, and so greatly damaged the bridge gate--the old Traitors' Gate--that it had to be taken down and rebuilt from the foundation. Various alterations were also made in later times, with the view of warding off the gradual decay of the structure, or improving both the roadway over it and the navigation under it, and accommodating it to the demands of a constantly increasing traffic both by land and water. In was erected at the London end the famous engine for raising water for the supply of the City--the invention of Peter Morris,
which was originally moved only by the tide flowing through the arch; but for the support of which several more of the water-courses at that end of the bridge were afterwards successively converted into cataracts or rapids, to the no small inconvenience of the navigation. The lease of the proprietors, which ran for years from the grant to Morris, at last comprehended all the stream of the river to the arch inclusive; and the water-works, which had by various improvements become of the most curious and powerful systems of hydraulic mechanism ever constructed, continued in operation till an Act of Parliament was obtained for their removal in . The imagination is
|impressed by the mere stability of a dead structure which long outlasts the ordinary date of the works of human hands, and has stood unmoved amid the changes of many generations, remaining among us an actual portion of that old time and scene of things, all the rest of which has passed away; but we are interested, perhaps still more vividly, by anything, in the contrivances of man, like movement and action sustained without interruption through the lapse of centuries--for this is, as it were, a portion of the very life of the past retained by us. The creaking and jingling of these London water-works, therefore, after it had been going on for years, must have been curious to listen to; and the last time the wheels went round was a solemn and touching thing, a sort of death, and that too of an existence that had done the world some service, as well as been protracted to no ordinary span. Latterly, by-the-bye, there were water-works also, though on a smaller scale, at the other end of the bridge, for the supply of the inhabitants of the Borough; they occupied of the arches. Here were anciently several corn mills, for the use of the citizens of both divisions of the metropolis, which were erected, Stow tells us, about the year . They are represented in an old picture in the Pepysian Library, as|
|covered by a long shed, which is raised on of the sterlings, and as moved by wheels, a pair placed in each of the water-courses.[n.84.1] On the bank of the river also, near this same end of the bridge, were the Bridge-house and yard, a considerable plot of ground, containing various buildings, some for the stowage of such materials as were required for keeping the bridge in repair; others used as granaries for storing up corn for the consumption of the City in times of scarcity; others containing the public ovens, of which Stow states there were very large, and others of only half the size, all erected at the cost of John Thurston, citizen and goldsmith, in the early part of the century. All these last-mentioned erections, however, had disappeared long before the old bridge was pulled down.|
| The true old historic character of the bridge was destroyed, however greatly it might be improved as a thoroughfare and means of communication, when the dwelling-houses and other buildings upon it were removed. This was begun to be done in , though the operations appear to have proceeded slowly, and were not completed till some years later. The gate at the end was left standing till . Pennant has described, from his own recollection, the singular features of the old street suspended between sky and water. |
The houses, he states, overhung the bridge on both sides in a most terrific manner --in most places hiding the arches, so that nothing was to be seen but the rude piers. But the best idea of these houses on old is to be obtained from the plate of Hogarth's
which may be seen in the , and of the portion of which representing the bridge we subjoin
|a copy on a reduced scale. At the widest parts the street was no more than feet broad, and in some places it was narrowed to ; so we may conceive what a scene of confusion and pass of peril it must have been, without any|
| footways, and with a torrent of carts, coaches, and other vehicles, constantly pouring along in both directions-unless when matters were made still worse by crossing wagons, more highly loaded than usual, being caught between the projecting floors, to the stoppage of the whole accumulating mass of traffic in the rear of each, and the entire blocking up of the passage. The common and the only tolerably safe plan for the pedestrian adventurer who sought to make his way along through the tumult, was to get into the wake of some carriage, and keep close to it at whatever rate it might be going, till he was fairly across the bridge, or had reached his point of destination. But the principal customers of the shopkeepers on the bridge came in carriages. |
Pennant informs us,
These pin and needle makers are probably the same that are styled in a list which has been preserved of the houses destroyed by the great fire of , which, as we have seen, burned down all the portion of the street on both sides between the London end of the bridge and the opening. Of the inhabitants of the houses consumed, only , Mr. John Briggs, at whose house the fire commenced, is designated a needle-maker; of the other houses, , according to this list, were tenanted by haberdashers of small wares, by hosiers, by a shoemaker, by haberdashers of hats, by silkmen, by a milliner (a man), by glovers, by mercers, by a distiller of strong waters, by a girdler, by a linen draper, by woollen drapers, by a salter, by grocers, by a scrivener, by the curate of St. Magnus Church, and another by the clerk. was inhabited by a female, who is not stated to be of any business; others- of them, No. ,
--are marked empty.[n.86.1] Much curious information has been collected by Mr. Thomson about the shops on . In the century this street ranked with , , and , as of the principal literary emporia of the city. The Bibles, The Angel, and the Looking Glass are some of the signs of publishers established on the bridge, which are mentioned on the title-pages of works of that time. The Bibles, indeed, is traced as a bookseller's shop down to the year , and The Looking Glass, which was over against St. Magnus Church, to years later. Another bookseller's sign, of the early part of the eighteenth century, was The Black Boy. Here, at The Golden Globe, under the Piazzas, was established, till the house was taken down with the rest in , William Herbert, the editor of Ames's
as a map and printseller; of his shop-bills, which has been preserved, with the date of , further announcing, along with
Other shop-bills, noticed by Mr. Thomson, are those of John Benskin, stationer, at The Bible and Star; of James Brooke, stationer, at The Anchor and Crown, who, among other things, sold
of William Osborne, leatherseller, at The Roebuck; of William Watkins, breechesmaker, leatherseller, and glover, at the sign of The Breeches and Glove, facing
|; of Churcher and Christie, leathersellers and breeches-makers, at The Lamb and Breeches; of John Allan, at The Lock of Hair, who sold |
From some tradesmen's brass and copper tokens, we learn that other signs on the bridge were The Lion, The Sugar-Loaf, The Bear, and The White Lion. In those days, it is to be remembered, such insignia were no mere figures of speech, as they have now for the most part become; a shopkeeper's sign was then of the most substantial and ponderous of realities projecting from or swinging over his door; and all these Sugar-Loaves, Angels, Lions, Bears, Blackboys, Bibles, and Breeches, dangling and creaking away, must have made wild enough work among them on , especially when the wind was at all high, and must have added not a little to both the noise and the terrors of the thoroughfare.
It is something like disinterring a Herculaneum or Pompeii to get in this way at the names, occupations, and distinctive badges of the old inhabitants of this extirpated street. Both the famous Nonsuch House and the venerable chapel of St. Thomas-a-Becket were latterly used as shops or dwelling-houses. The former is stated to have been occupied in the early part of the last century by a stationer and a drysalter.[n.87.1] The chapel, or, as it came to be called, Chapel-house, was inhabited about the same time (), according to Maitland, by a Mr. Yaldwyn, who, while repairing a staircase, discovered under it the remains of the sepulchral monument of Peter of Colechurch --or at least what was conjectured to be such, for there was no inscription, nor was any search made for the body.
|It is stated in Nichols's |
on the authority of Dr. Ducarel, that at a later date the house over the chapel belonged to a Mr. Baldwin, a haberdasher, who was born there, and who, we suppose, is the same person called Yaldwyn by Maitland, the name being misprinted either in his history or in Nichols's publication. When Mr. Baldwin, the latter adds, at the age of , was ordered to go to Chislehurst for a change of air, he could not sleep in the country for want of the roaring lullaby of the river he had always been used to hear. The last occupants of the chapel were Mr. Gill and Mr. Wright, who used the lower apartment as a paper warehouse; and
we are told,
[n.88.1] In the sterling of the long pier upon which the chapel principally stood a fish-pond had been made, with an iron grating over it, by which the fish were detained after they had been carried in by the tide; and Mr. Thomson mentions that, in , when he wrote, there still survived an ancient servant of , then verging upon his hundredth year, who well remembered having gone down through the chapel to fish in this pond. The original external form and appearance of the eastern extremity of the chapel had been obliterated long before its destruction: the upper part of it was covered with brickwork or boarding, and to the paper warehouse below was attached a crane for taking in goods from the river.
Few of the old inhabitants of the street on the bridge have left names that are now remembered; but it is remarkable that the memories of or individuals are, traditionally at least, associated with it, whose peculiar talents the influences of so peculiar a local habitation seem to have had some share in awakening or fostering. The eminent painter of marine subjects, Peter Monamy, who died about the middle of the last century, is stated by Walpole to have
and it is added,
Another marine painter, Dominic Serres, of later date, is also said to have once kept a shop upon the bridge. But the greatest artist that is reported to have ever fixed his studio in of the breezy attics of the river street was old Hans Holbein.
Holbein's house, therefore, must have been in the division of the street nearest to the London end.
The most illustrious memories associated with the old bridge are not of persons who ever lived there, but of some of those whose ghastly heads, stuck upon poles or spikes, were set up to pinnacle its towers after the executioner had made them trunkless. The of the of whom there is any record was the Scottish patriot and hero, William Wallace, whose resistance to a foreign yoke Edward I. could never subdue till he had made his true heart be plucked from his bosom, and his head fixed up aloft here, to be gazed at in comparative tranquillity by many who would have stood short space to scan his living visage, wherever they might have encountered it. This was in . Here, in , after his overthrow at Horselwood, was similarly exposed the grey-haired head of the Earl of Northumberland, the father of the gallant Hotspur, by the crafty master whom he had served too well ever to be repaid otherwise than by being destroyed. But the most extraordinary heads, if we may believe all that
| is related of them, that were ever thus elevated were those of Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and his friend Sir Thomas More, both executed in for their refusal to acknowledge the king's spiritual supremacy. Fisher was executed on the morning of the , and, according to his biographer Hall, his head would have been set up on Traitors' Tower that same night, but that it was kept to be shown to the Queen, Anne Boleyn. The next day, however, continues Hall, |
But the miracle was not put down by this substitution: More's head proved as indestructible as the bishop's, according to the account of his great-grandson and biographer, who tells us that, after it had remained exposed for some months, being about to be cast into the Thames,
it was bought by his daughter Margaret, when not only was his
found to be
In general about this time, and throughout the century, the collection of traitors' heads at would have made a respectable craniological museum: the German traveller Hentzner, when he was here in , by which time they had been removed to the gate, counted above of them; and in some of the old prints the structure looks as if its roof were covered with quite a crop of spiked skulls. And heads continued to be exposed here, principally those of seminary priests, executed for violation of the statute prohibiting their entry into the kingdom, throughout the reigns of Elizabeth and James, and down even to the breaking out of the civil war in that of Charles I. After the Restoration, too, the heads of some of the regicides were set up on .
And many another strange sight, as well as this long succession of ghastly traitors' heads, had the old bridge beheld during its existence of above centuries. From its parapets, in the year , Eleanor of Provence, the hated queen of Henry III., when, leaving the Tower, in which Henry and she had taken refuge from De Montfort and the associated barons,
was assailed by the Londoners assembled in great numbers on the bridge, not only with
but also with
so that she was constrained to return again to the Tower; on which, continues Stow,
By this entrance in the next century--on the -Wat Tyler forced his way into the city at the head of his commons of Kent, notwithstanding all the activity of the mayor, Sir William , whose loyalty had been sharpened by the insurgents having that same morning broken down the stews on the south bank of the river, which, it seems, were his property, and farmed from him by
--and who before the arrival of the Kentish-men had fortified the bridge, caused the drawbridge to be drawn up,
A few years after--in -the bridge was the scene of a rencontre of another kind--the famous passage of arms waged on day, amid all the pomp of heraldry, between the Scottish knight Sir David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford, and the English Lord Wells, who, being King Richard's ambassador in Scotland, and attending at a solemn banquet there, where
proposed to settle the controversy as to the comparative valour of the nations by a single combat between Lindsay and himself.
says Stow, following the animated narrative of Hector Boecius,
--an incident combining all the finest points in the brilliant morality of chivalry. Over , on the , King Richard, having come from Windsor by the way of Richmond and Wandsworth, passed in joyous procession, along with his consort, the good Queen Anne, after having been reconciled, chiefly through her mediation, with the citizens of London, who, meeting him at the Gate,
presented him with
[n.91.1] On the , years after, Richard and his new queen, the infant Isabel of France, made their entry
Here Henry V. was received in triumph, on Saturday, the , on his return from Agincourt; and along this same great civic highway, about the same day years after, passed on from conquered France the mournful splendour of his funeral procession-the body laid in a chariot drawn by great horses, and above it
By this bridge again, on the , the young Henry VI. made his magnificent entry into the capital of his native dominions after his coronation at Paris--as sung by the poet Lydgate in many substantial stanzas, and more briefly related in prose by Fabian and Stow, the latter of whom tells us that,
And nearly as sumptuous were the pageants exhibited at the bridge on Friday, the , at the reception of Henry's bride, Margaret of Anjou--the
of France--as she was conducted from Blackheath by the king's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, and attended by
--being met at the bridge-foot toward by
while upon the bridge stood
--both figures plentifully adorned with Latin texts from the Vulgate, as well as with scrolls of English verse. Only a few years before this--on Wednesday the -Gloucester's own wife, the unfortunate Eleanor Cobham, had passed along part of the same street, and through the midst of probably as thronging and eager a multitude of spectators, but in a guise and fashion as different as was that wintry season from
--performing her penance for the abhorred crime of sorcery,
--though she too was accompanied throughout her weary days' perambulation by the mayor, sheriffs, and crafts. But it was not long before the royal Margaret also had her days of humiliation and misery enough, in the chances and changes of that tumultuous time. Her forces had been scattered at Tewkesbury, her son, Prince Edward, had been murdered almost before her eyes, and she lay herself a prisoner in the Tower along with her husband, also on the eve of having his life reft from him by an act of darker violence, when, on Tuesday the , the Bastard of Faulconbridge, making a last attempt for Henry's deliverance,
assaulted , and was not driven back till he had burned the Gate,
Other accounts say that houses on the bridge were burned down on this occasion. Before this, in , on the evening of Thursday the , the bridge-gates were opened by the London commonalty to Jack Cade, who, as he entered at the head of his men, cut the ropes of the drawbridge asunder with his sword; but on the night of the following Sunday, when the rebels and their leader were retired to the south end of the river, the mayor and aldermen, having collected a force of the better disposed among the citizens, repossessed themselves of the bridge, and kept the passage, driving back any of the Kentishmen who attempted to cross it; and this led to the bloodiest and most obstinate conflict ever waged for this key to the city. Cade, as soon as he saw the bickering, to quote the account which Stow has collected in his Annals from preceding chroniclers,
Hall asserts, however, that the Londoners were several times beaten back
--that is, quite to the northern extremity of the bridge. He and other authorities also state that the rebels set fire to some of the houses on the bridge.
At last both parties, faint, weary, and fatigued, agreed to rest them all the next day; and during this pause the king's pardon was proclaimed, on which the rebels broke up and dispersed. In a more peaceful hour, again, by this ancient approach entered London, on Friday the o , the Lady Katherine of Arragon to her nuptials with the young Prince Arthur:
| old annalist, |
--the of exhibitions of the same character which greeted her in her progress through the city. The next grand procession that the bridge witnessed was that of Katherine's arch-enemy, the gorgeous Wolsey, as he departed on his embassy to France, on the , marching, as his biographer Cavendish relates, from his house at , all through London and over the bridge, having before him of gentlemen a great number, in a rank, in black velvet livery-coats, and the most part of them with great chains of gold about their necks; and all his yeomen, with noblemen's and gentlemen's servants following him, in French tawny livery-coats, having embroidered upon the backs and breasts of the said coats these letters, T. and C. under the cardinal's hat.
rode like a cardinal, very sumptuously, on a mule trapped with crimson velvet upon velvet, and his stirrups of copper and gilt, and his spare mule following him with like apparel; and before him he had his great crosses of silver, great pillars of silver, the great seal of England, the cardinal's hat, and a gentleman that carried his valence, otherwise called a cloak-bag, which was made altogether of fine scarlet cloth, embroidered over and over with cloth of gold very richly, having in it a cloak of fine scarlet.
and at the same time the bridge-gates were shut, and the drawbridge, not merely raised as it had been when Wat Tyler made his attack, but cut down and thrown into the river. Ordnance were also brought up and planted on the bridge. In these circumstances Wyatt did not
|venture to attempt to force an entry. But it is told that at a late hour at night he himself, accompanied by a few of his friends, contrived, by ascending to the leads of a house adjoining the bridge, to make his way into the porter's lodge, where he found the porter asleep, but his wife and some other persons keeping watch, with a coal fire burning in the chimney; on which he commanded them, as they loved their lives, to remain silent, and then proceeded with his companions to the edge of the drawbridge, where, lurking themselves in the shade, they saw and heard the lord admiral, the lord mayor, and or others, consulting about the defence of the bridge on the other side of the chasm. This were a subject for the pencil of a Rembrandt or a Salvator Rosa. We can merely glance at other memorable day of public pomp in which old is recorded to have borne a share-Tuesday, the -that of the triumphant return home to his capital of Charles II., when, having arrived in about o'clock in the afternoon, he proceeded over the bridge, riding between his brothers, the Dukes of York and Gloucester, while before him passed on all the gaiety of military and civic display, and on all sides around the splendid cavalcade rolled perhaps a fuller tide of genuine popular jubilation than was ever, before or since, witnessed on any occasion of national rejoicing in England.|
But old age, with its infirmities that no art can cure, was now fast coming upon Peter of Colechurch's venerable structure, as it comes alike surely, sooner or later, upon man himself, and upon all the works of his hands; and throughout the next century the ancient pile was only sustained in a serviceable condition by incessant propping and tinkering. The less service, too, it was able to render, the more was required from it; for, while it was growing old and crazy, mighty London was becoming every day more extensive, more populous, more alive with the spirit of traffic and industry of all kinds; and the progress of refinement and luxury was also making people discontented with accommodations which had satisfied earlier times. It was slowly and reluctantly, however, that the Londoners gave up the notion of still repairing their old bridge. In their eyes, indeed, it seemed to be looked upon as a sort of counterpart to the shepherd's boy in the Arcadia,
Yet the corporation, so early as the year , found itself compelled to make the thoroughfare over it in some degree more suitable to the demands of a state of society very different from that for which it had been originally contrived: an inscription of that date upon the north side of Nonsuch House recorded that the street had then been widened from the breadth of feet to that of . Again, in , an Act of Parliament was procured for widening the street at the south end of the bridge; and, in , another for the establishment of certain regulations with the object of keeping the passage free, and securing both the easier transit of carriages and the greater safety of foot-passengers. At last, after the opening of in , a loud demand arose from the public for the erection of a new bridge in the city also; and, in ., the subject was forced upon the Common Council. After much violent debate and controversy, it was conceded that a new bridge should be built at Blackfriars; but it was resolved that should still be left standing, and only be repaired, and have the houses upon it pulled down.
|This was done; and the bridge, as a means of communication, was thereby rendered greatly more commodious; but, architecturally, it was probably rather|
|weakened than strengthened by the operations that were at the same time resorted to with the view of improving the navigation. In Smeaton the engineer, who had been hastily called in upon some alarming appearances presenting themselves, found, besides other dilapidations that were in progress, of the piers undermined to the extent of feet, and in such a state that it must have sunk and fallen down in a few days. Fortunately the city gates had just been taken down, and the stones, having been sold to a builder, lay ready in ; they were instantly repurchased, and, on a Sunday morning, brought as fast as carts could carry them, and thrown under the tottering pier, which was the next to the north or city end of the bridge.|
The work of paring and patching the old bridge went on for years longer; but at length, in , notwithstanding the continued resistance of the corporation, a select committee of the , to which the subject had been referred, recommended the erection of a new bridge; on which an Act of Parliament for that purpose was passed the following year. The new bridge was built after the designs of the late John Rennie, Esq., who died, however, before the work was begun; it was superintended throughout by his son, the present Sir John Rennie. The pile of the coffer-dam, being that for the south pier, was driven on Monday the ; the foundation-stone was laid by the Lord Mayor, John Garratt, Esq., in the presence of the Duke of York and many other distinguished personages, on the ; and the finished bridge was opened by his late Majesty King William IV., and Queen Adelaide, on the . The cost of the bridge, with the approaches, amounted to not much short of millions. It stands about a feet higher up the river than the old bridge, which was left standing till its successor was built, nor was its last arch pulled down till
|towards the end of the year . It is needless to say that the , bestriding the broad river with its vast elliptical arches, is a far more magnificent, and in every way more perfect work, than Peter of Colechurch's structure ever was in its best days; and, looking there, in its firm and massive strength, as if it might last a years, it is to the imagination, if we may so speak, as expressive and impressive a monument of the far future as the old bridge was of the past.|
[n.74.1] Entitled Das Märchen, that is, The Tale-regarded by the Germans as the tale of tales, and nobly translated into English by Mr. Carlyle, in his Miscellanies; London, 1839.
[n.76.1] See this passage of Snorro's History extracted, with a Latin translation, in Johnson's Antiquitates Celto-Scandicae, 4to., Hauniae (Copenhagen), 1786; pp. 89-93.
[n.79.1] See our First Number- The Silent Highway.
[n.84.1] See a copy of a part of this drawing at p. 356 of Mr. Richard Thomson's Chronicles of London Bridge, 8vo. London, 1827; a work into which the author has poured the contents of a whole library of preceding publications and manuscript authorities, and from which the materials of every shorter and less elaborate account must henceforth be mainly borrowed.
[n.86.1] See extract in the Gentleman's Magazine for November, 1824, from the MS. Journal of Nehemiah Wallington, in the possession of Mr. Upcott.
[n.87.1] Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, by Robert Seymour, Esq. Fol. Lon. 1734. This work is known to have been compiled by the Rev. John Motley, the same person who collected Joe Miller's Jests.
[n.88.1] Ancient Topography of London, by J. T. Smith, Esq. 4to. London, 1791.
[n.91.1] Under the date of the preceding year, 1391, Stow, in his Annals, has the following story:-- The same Christmas-day a dolphin came forth of the sea, and played himself in the Thames at London, to the bridge, foreshowing haply the tempests that were to follow within a week after; the which dolphin, being seen of the citizens and followed, was with much difficulty intercepted and brought again to London, showing a spectacle to many of the height of his body, for he was ten feet in length. These dolphins are fishes of the sea, that follow the voices of men, and rejoice in playing of instruments, and are wont to gather themselves at music. These, when they play in rivers, with hasty springings, or leapings, do signify tempest to follow. The seas contain nothing more swift nor nimble; for oftentimes with their skips they mount over the sails of ships.