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where now the bridge is builded, at length the ferryman and his wife deceasing, left the same ferry to their only daughter, a maiden named Mary, which, with the goods left her by her parents, as also with the profits rising of the said ferry, builded an house of sisters in place where now standeth the east part of St. Mary Overy's church, above the quire, where she was buried, unto which house she gave the oversight and profits of the ferry. But afterwards the said house of sisters being converted into a college of priests, the priests builded the bridge of timber, as all other the great bridges of this land were, and from time to time kept the same in good reparations; till at length, considering the great charges which were bestowed in the repairing the same, there was, by aid of the citizens and others, a bridge builded with stone.” The legend has acquired a prescriptive right to a place in any account of London Bridge, and pity indeed it were that
any one 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 Southwark 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 first London Bridge ;—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 aslidavit 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.
London Bridge is mentioned in a charter of the Conqueror's granted to the monks of Westminster Abbey in 1067; but the carliest 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 16th of November, 1091, on which day a furious south-east wind threw down six hundred 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 1097, in the reign of Rufus, recording that “ many counties, that were confined to London by work, were grievously oppressed on account of the wall that was building about the Tower, and the bridge that was nearly all afloat, and the King's Hall that they were building at Westminster ; and many men perished thereby." Upon the strength of this passage, -which, however, does not seem very clear or conclusive--the credit of a complete re-edification of London Bridge has been given to Rufus. That it was rebuilt, however, soon after its destruction in 1091 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 “ shires and hundreds, and all other customs of earthly servitude, and namely, from the work of London Bridge and the work of the Castle at Pevensey," 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 22nd of Henry I. (A. D. 1122), a grant is made to the monks of Bermondsey of five shillings a year out of the lands pertaining to London Bridge; 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 twenty and thirty thousand pounds a year. London Bridge was burnt down in 1136 by a fire, which began in the house of one Ailward, near London Stone, and laid the City in ruins from St. Paul's to Aldgate. Fitzstephen, however, who wrote his curious Description within forty 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. * Stow asserts, without quoting his authority, that the bridge had been wholly rebuilt, in the year 1163, " by Peter Colechurch, priest and chaplain.” 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 1170 and 1182, but which surely cannot be supposed to have been drawn up after the first 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 one 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 first London Bridge of stone was begun to be built in the year 1176, and was not finished till the year 1209. 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 one, 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 London Bridge was built upon wool-packs. Stow conceives that “ the course of the river, for a time, was turned another way about, by a trench cut for that purpose ; beginning, as is supposed, east about Radriffe (Rotherhithe), and ending in the west about Patrickscy, now termed Battersey." Maitland, however,
* See our First Number—“The Silent Highway."
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 first layer of stones being in this way only about three 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 1205; so that he had not the satisfaction of seeing his bridge in its finished state. But in the space of nearly thirty 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 à Becket, which was erected on the central pier of the bridge. The bridge consisted of twenty arches supported upon nineteen piers; the roadway being 926 feet in length, 60 feet in height from the river, and 40 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 9th year of Edward I., A.D. 1280, mention is made of “innumerable people dwelling upon" the bridge; and as this was only about seventy years after it had been finished, it seems most probable that there were some houses upon it from the first. In course of time it became a continued
street built on both sides, with the exception of only three 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 tenth 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 thirty feet in length, was divided by four buttresses, crowned with crocketed spires, into three compartments;
[Upper Chapel of St. Thomas.] of which the central one contained a large arched window, and the two others the entrances into the chapel from the street.
The interior consisted of an upper chapel and a crypt—the latter, which was about twenty 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 Southwark end of the bridge, one of the arches, or junctions of the piers (the eleventh from the Southwark end), was formed by a drawbridge; and at the north end of this opening
(Lower Chapel, or Crypt, of St. Thomas.) was a tower, which Stow tells us was begun to be built as it stood in his time in the year 1426. bably a similar building had stood there from the first 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 sixteenth 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 Southwark, 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 four 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 1577, the exposed heads were removed to the tower over the gate at the Southwark 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 four 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 London Bridge remained substantially what its first architect made it till it was taken down only about nine 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 1205 and 1832. 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 10th of July, 1212, it was greatly injured by a fire, which, having first cnveloped the church of St. Mary Overy's (then called Our Lady of the Canons), caught the Southwark 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 two advancing masses of flame, and perished miserably, to the number, Stow relates, of “above three thousand persons, whose