Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 1

Wilkinson, Robert


City Wall.

City Wall.


The city of London, as reported by Simeon of Durham, was inwalled by Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, about the year of our Lord . The City having been destroyed and burnt by the Danes in , was repaired and restored by King Alfred, in . About the year , the Londoners being besieged by the Danes, shut up their gates, and defended their King Ethelred within their walls. Fitzstephen, who wrote in the reign of King Henry the , speaking of the Walls of the City, says:

The Wall is high and great, well toured on the north side, with due distances between the toures; on the south side also the Citie was walled and toured, but the fishfull river of Thames, with his ebbing and flowing, hath long since subverted them.

In the year of King John's reign, A.D. , the Barons repaired the walls and gates with stones taken from the Jews' houses; and in , Henry the caused the walls which were then decayed, to be again repaired. For the reparation of those walls, tolls and customs were at subsequent periods granted by the Crown. In , Ralf Joselene, then Mayor, caused part of the Wall between and Aldersgate to be repaired.[*]  The Company of Skinners completed that part between and ; the Drapers, between Bishopsgate and Allhallows, and the Wall towards the postern at . A great part also was repaired by the executors of Alderman Sir John Crosby; and other companies repaired the rest of the Wall to the postern at Cripplegate; and the Goldsmiths from Cripplegate to Aldersgate. The circuit of the Wall on the land side, from the east to , was perches; from to Bishopsgate, perches; from Bishopsgate to Cripplegate, perches; from Cripplegate to Aldersgate, perches; from Aldersgate to Newgate, perches; from Newgate to Ludgate, perches; in all perches: from Ludgate to the Fleet Ditch, perches; and from Fleet Bridge (south) to the river Thames, perches; making the total perches, every perch consisting of yards and a half, the number of yards being and a half, or feet, or miles and feet in circuit.

The Wall was formerly continued, from the remains described on the Plate, through the Tower to the Thames; vestiges whereof are still to be discovered: and that part of the Tower which is on the west side of the line of the Wall, is in the parish of Allhallows Barking, in the City of London, and is referred to by Lord Coke in his Institutes, where he says:

The ancient wall of London extendeth through the Tower; all that part on the west is within the city and parish of All Saints, Barking. Therefore, Weston, the principal, and Sir Gervas Elweys, the accessary in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, committed in the Tower, on the west of the City Wall, were tried in the City of London;

and in , Turnbull for a robbery of the Mint, situate on the west of the said Wall, was also tried in the City of London.

The late learned Dr. Woodward, of the Gresham professors, had an opportunity, in the year , of making several discoveries as to the manner and matter of building the ancient Walls of London, owing to the circumstance of certain foundations being dug for new houses near Bishopsgate; an account of which he afterwards published. On this occasion, the Wall was broke up, and part of the materials applied to the raising of the new buildings. The foundations of the Wall, on this spot, lay feet below the present surface of the ground; and from that almost up to feet in height, it was composed of free-stone, with single layers of broad tiles interposed, each layer at feet distance. To this height the workmanship was after the Roman manner, and there was the remains of the ancient Wall, supposed to be that completed or built by Constantine the Great. In this it was very observable, that the mortar was (as usual in the Roman works) so very firm and hard, that the stone itself as easily brake and gave way.

It was thus far from the foundation upwards, feet in thickness, and yet so vast a strength and bulk had not been able to secure it from being beat down, and nearly levelled with the ground.

The broad tiles, mentioned above, were all of Roman make. The Romans used commonly sorts of tiles, viz. Tegulæ bipedales & sesquipedales, i.e. feet tiles and tiles a foot and a half. Those of this Wall were of the latter sort. Each of them was in English measures, foot and a half in thickness, inches / in breadth, and inches / in length.

The old Wall having been demolished as above, was afterwards repaired again, and carried up the thickness of the former underneath, to or feet in height, or if higher, there was no more of that work then standing. All this was apparently additional, and of a make later than the other part underneath. It was composed chiefly of ragstone; only in the sides were interposed a few bricks uncertainly, and without any regular method. On the outside the stone was squared, and wrought into layers of inches in thickness. Between these were alternately interposed courses of brick, of the same form with those inside. These were very large and of the modern shape, but inches in length and in breadth, and and a half in thickness. There was not of the abovemen- tioned tiles in all this part; nor was the mortar here near so hard as that lower down.

As the ground within the City, by rubbish and the ruin of houses, was successively raised and heightened from age to age, it was requisite the Wall without should rise likewise in proportion; and by reason thereof in course of time, upon the before-mentioned additional work, it was found needful to build the after Wall. This was made of brick, of the statutable size, and the model now in use, and topped battlement-ways, with copings of stone. This latter was feet in thickness, and in height; and was without doubt the same that was built in the mayoralty of Ralph Jocelyn. Bishopsgate itself was built years afterwards (), in the way it appeared until pulled down. And the


workmen employed then, as the same writer (Dr. Woodward) affirms, sunk considerably lower than the foundations of this gate, and by that means found out, that they lay not so deep as the old City Wall, by or feet.

The gate eastward through the City Wall, was that which adjoined the fragment we have delineated in the Plate, viz. the Postern Gate next the Tower. This, according to Stowe, fell down in , and was never again built of stone, but its place supplied by a sort of humble lath and plaster erection, through which was an entry or passage. The former gate, he adds, from the remains of it standing in his time, appeared to have been a fair arched gate, partly built of Kentish stone, and of Caen stone from Normandy. The cause of this gate's going to ruin, he states, was the impolicy of William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, Chancellor of England, in , who caused a part of the City Wall,

to wit, from the said gate

towards the river Thames to the White Tower

, to be broken down for enlarging of the said Tower; which he then compassed far wide about with a wall, embattled, and which is now the outward wall of the Tower: this loosed and weakened the foundations of the gate, which


years after fell down, as mentioned.

To this account of Stowe, his editor Strype () adds:—

This postern gate is now all taken down, and in the room thereof a few posts are set to keep off carts and coaches; there being only a narrow passage left for foot passengers there.—This wall here was about




feet in breadth, and cemented together with irregular pieces of stone like rock.

The following is his description of the exact piece of Wall here drawn:—

There is a yard hard by called George Alley, built on each side with dwelling houses, and is a passage to

Tower Hill

, through the wall that was beat down since the


Fire of London. This passage through the Wall, sometime since remained in the fashion of an arch, through which carts might pass; but now also the arch is demolished, and all that piece of Wall taken away. Here



may take a view of the inside of the breadth of

London Wall:

it appears like a natural rock, with the stones so cemented into the work, that nothing but the greatest violence can separate them. On the west side, about




feet high, are seen several old Roman bricks put into the work, between the stones.


[*] In a record which I have seen, says Strype, and affirmed also by John Rouse, and after him by Ralph Hollingshed, I find thus written: 'Anno MCCCCLXXVII. by the diligence of Ralph Joceline, Maior of London, the wall about London was new made betwixt Aldgate and Cripplegate. He caused the Moorefields to be searched for clay and brick, to be made and burnt there. He caused chalk also to be brought out of Kent, and in the same Moorefields to be burnt into lime, only for the furtherance of that work.'

View all images in this book
 Title Page
 Howell's View of London
 View of the Fire of London
 City Wall
 The Conduits of Cheapside and Cornhill
 Plan of the Fire in Bishopsgate Street, Cornhill, and Leadenhall Street: November 7th, 1765
Frost Fair on the River Thames
 Part of the Strand: St. Clement's Danes
 Ancient Structure in Ship Yard: Temple Bar
 St. Paul's Cross and Cathedral: With King James I and his Court at a Sermon
 Ancient Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London
 Paul's Cross (and Preaching There)
Elsinge Spital, Sion College, and the Church of St. Alphage, London Wall
 Elsinge's Hospital; or, as it is otherwise denominated, Elsynge Spittle
 Sion College
 The Priory and Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield
 The Church of St. Bartholomew the Less: Giltspure Street, West Smithfield, in the Ward of Farringdon Without
Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate Street
The Priory and Church of St. Helen, Bishopsgate Street
 Monument of Sir Andrew Judde, Knight: In the Church of St. Helen, Bishopsgate Within
St. Michael's Church: Cornhill
The Parish Church of St. Paul, Shadwell: In the County of Middlesex
 The Parish Church of St. Peter upon Cornhill: In Cornhill Ward
Extracts from the Vestry Books of the Church of St. Peter upon Cornhill
 St. Saviour's Church
 St. Saviour's Church, Southwark
 Winchester Palace, Southwark
 Chapels at the Eastern End of the Church of St. Saviour, Southwark
 Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem
 An Account of Bermondsey, its Manor, Priory, and Abbey
 Priory of the Holy Trinity: In the Ward of Aldgate
 St. Martin-le-Grand College, and St. Vedast, Foster Lane
 Guildhall Chapel
 A short Account of Lazar Houses in and near London
 Knightsbridge Chapel
 Lambe's Chapel and Alms-Houses: Monkwell Street, Cripplegate
 The late Mr. Skelton's Meeting House, Erected Near the Site of the Globe Theatre, Maid Lane, Southwark
 Zoar Street, Gravel Lane, Meeting House and School
 Oratory, Under the Antient Mansion, or Inn, of the Priors of Lewes in Sussex
 Whitehall: Plate I
 Whitehall: Plate II
 Whitehall: Plate III
 St. James's Palace
 Fawkeshall, or Copped Hall, Surrey
 Toten-Hall, Tottenham Court Road
 King John's Palace
 Clarendon House, called also Albemarle House
 Somerset House
 Suffolk House
 York House
 Durham, Salisbury, and Worcester Houses
 Sir Paul Pindar's House
 Montagu House: Great Russel Street, Bloomsbury
 The British Museum
 Bedford House, Bloomsbury Square
 Peterborough House, afterward Grosvenor House, Millbank, Westminster
 Craven House, Drury Lane
 Ancient Mansion called Monteagle House: Montague Close, Southwark
 Oldbourne Hall, Shoe Lane: In the Parish of St. Andrew, Holborn