Imágenes de página
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Snuff-box, formed out of the old foundation Piles of London Bridge. Designed by W. Knight, and drawn on wood by W. H. Brooke, Esq. F.S.A.

[ocr errors]


THE demolition of this most ancient Bridge in the metropolis, however necessary for the embellishment and convenience of the city and river Thames, cannot fail to excite the regret of the antiquary, who still clings to the reliques and ruins of other days. The work of removal commenced on the 22d of November, 1831, at daybreak. As this bridge is one of the links of that fast-decaying chain which connects our modern ar

chitecture with the works of our rude ancestors, and as the site will soon be. lost in empty space, we presume it will not be uninteresting to lay before our readers a short history of this structure, with some remarks as to the mode of its construction, which has developed itself during the period of its removal.

The original structure had nineteen arches, together with a draw arch, making twenty openings, at the period

For there observations we are indebted to the experienced eye of Mr. William Knight, the Resident Engineer of the new Bridge, whose cominunication to the Society of Antiquaries, on the removal of a portion of the old Bridge, in the years 1925 and 6, was quoted in our vol. C. i. 294.

GENT. MAG. March, 1832.


[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

In the middle of the years 1826 and 1827, it became necessary to remove two piers, one on each side of the river, north and south, for the purpose of clearing the water-way at the period the cofferdams were up for the construction of the new Bridge, and there consequently then only


{remained seventeen openings,

above the starlings was 562 feet, and the space occupied by the piers 369 feet.

The water-way below the starlings at low water is 299 feet, and the space occupied by the starlings is 632 feet. The water-way at high water spring tides of the old Bridge was 485 feet.

The new Bridge has a water-way of 690 feet clear at all times of tide, and the piers occupy 92 feet. The annexed is a plan of the old and new Bridges.



A, the old Bridge, showing the starlings; B, the new Bridge; C, St. Magnus Church; D, Lady Chapel of St. Mary Overies.

It appears from historical documents, that the original London Bridge was of wood, and was erected in the place of a ferry which was under the care of the Priests of St. Mary Overies. The precise period when this Bridge was built remains in much obscurity. The first mention of it is in the laws of Ethelred, which fixes the tolls of vessels coming to Billingsgate, or ad pontem. William of Malmsbury says it was standing at the time when Swayne King of Denmark besieged the city of London, anno 994. That a Bridge existed about 1008 is manifest, from the old Danish history, which states it to be composed of piles driven down into the bed of the river; and to have been wide enough for two carriages to drive past each other; and

on the sides of the Bridge which fronted the stream, were blockhouses on redoubts of wood, and parapets breast high. It is stated by Stow that' this Bridge originated from the public spirit of the College of Priests of St. Mary Overies; but this seems improbable, as from the very nature of the work it must have been a very expensive undertaking, and perfectly beyond the means of the revenue of a small nunnery. It is the more probable to have been defrayed out of the public purse, as we find in Henry the First's time a grant of lands to have been appropriated for the repairs of London Bridge. In the reign of Stephen, in. 1136, it was partly destroyed by fire, after which it was repaired; but in 1163, it was found so ruinous that it


Memoir of Old London Bridge,

was found necessary to rebuild it. The maintaining of the wooden structure having been found to be very burthensome to the people, it was resolved to erect a stone Bridge in its stead.

This ancient structure, which has agitated the minds, and called into action the talents of our scientific men, for more than half a century, was commenced in the reign of Henry the Second, in the year 1176; the architect was Peter, the priest of St. Mary Colechurch. It was the work of 33 years, and finished in the reign of King John, in the year 1209. About four years previous to its completion, the architect died; and we are informed that another clergyman, Isenbert, master of the schools of Xainctes, (who had built the bridges of Xainctes and Rochelle,) was recommended to the citizens by King John, for the honour of finishing it; but for some unknown reason they rejected their Prince's choice, and committed the work to three merchants of London, who completed it in 1209. The expence of its erection was partly defrayed by a tax upon wool. The king contributed towards this great work; and we find that Richard Archbishop of Canterbury gave 1000 marks to wards its expense. This Bridge, as was usual in many structures of the kind built at this period, had a chapel


upon it.* In Stow's time, it was partly covered with houses chiefly occupied by needle-makers. It‍ had three openings in different parts of the roadway, with stone parapets and iron rails over, to afford a view of the river; these were over the three widest arches, called the Navigable Locks. About four years after the completion of the work, a fire broke out in Southwark, which destroyed the Church of St. Mary Overie and several houses on the Bridge; and by the interception of the passage way, upwards of 3000 persons perished. By this accident, the stone-work of the Bridge was so much injured, that we are told the king granted a brief to the bridge-keeper to ask subscriptions of his subjects towards its repair; but, this plan not succeeding, he granted a toll to defray the expense.

In the year 1282, the Bridge was rendered completely useless by the destruction of five of its arches, which were borne away and destroyed by the breaking up of a most severe frost.‡ After its restoration to the year 1426, nothing material appears to have taken place; but at this period the navigation was found to be insufficient for commercial purposes, through the then existing very narrow locks, and in consequence a drawbridge was con

The Chapel on the Bridge, dedicated to St. Thomas, stood on the east side, in the ninth pier from the north end, and had an entrance from the river as well as the street, by a winding staircase; it was also said to be beautifully paved with black and white marble, and in the middle was the tomb supposed to contain the remains of Peter of Colechurch. The lock next the pier has always retained the name of the Chapel Lock, and the pier itself is of an enormous thickness, being 30 feet. The report that the remains of Peter of Colechurch were lately found here is incorrect; but some human bones were found in the 5th pier.

On clearing away the ground of the roadway, during the removal of the old Bridge, a few days ago, the remains of the old Chapel presented itself, together with a few of the winding steps leading to it from the original roadway. The building appears to have been a very beautiful structure, with a groined roof springing from clustered pillars. The workmanship of the masonry, moulded ribs, caps, bases, heads, &c. was of a very excellent description; this, together with a number of fragments of mullions of windows, door lintels, caps, bases, and regal heads, proved we had workmen in the 12th century of no ordinary description. The stone with which it was built was of the same nature as the Bridge was originally erected, viz. fire stone; but all the chief parts, such as caps, bases, heads, &c. where it was desirable to keep a sharp arris, was of the Caen Norman stone, with the exception of the ribs. The bottom of the Chapel was paved with Dutch clinkers, neatly jointed; this probably took place at the period the Lower Chapel was turned into two stories for warehouse purposes; as the holes where the ends of beams were inserted to support the floor, were visible towards the west end. W. K.

+ Large concreted burat masses of pins and needles were found in the excavation for the works of the south abutment, fallen over from dwellings during the fire. W. K.

Stow's Chronicles. "Anno 1282, from this Christmas till the Purification of our Ladie, there was such a frost and snow as no man living could remember the like, where through five arches of London Bridge and all Rochester Bridge, were borne down and carried away with the stream, and the like happened to many bridges in England."

structed to admit a free passage of vessels, with a tower on the north side. This drawbridge was constructed over the 7th opening or lock from the Surrey shore, and always retained the name of the draw-lock. The tower over the lock proved an excellent defence against Fauconbridge the bastard in 1471, in the wild attempt upon the City, at the head of a lawless banditti, under pretence of rescuing the unfortunate Henry VI. at that time a prisoner in the Tower of London. Sixty houses on the Bridge were burned in the desperate attack, and no less desperate defence. It also served to check, and in the end annihilate, the ill-conducted insurrection of Sir Thomas Wyatt in the reign of Queen Mary. The check which that rash adventurer received in endeavouring to force the Bridge, brought on a series of disasters which ended in the total destruction of his disorganized force.

In those unhappy times, when the hearts of men, uncontrolled by the restraints imposed by civilization, indulged in a savage ferocity which sought to satiate revenge, even after life itself was extinct in the breasts of their enemies, and denied a little earth to the slaughtered victims of their ambition or their vengeance, the top of this tower formed the shambles for human flesh, and was covered with the heads and quarters of wretches inhumanly butchered on a scaffold by the prevailing party. So late as the year 1598, Hentzner the German traveller enumerated above thirty heads, which he had counted with apathetical accuracy; and the old map of the City, 1597, represents them in a horrible cluster.

About ten years after the appropriation of the draw-lock, two arches at the south end, together with the bridge gate, fell down; and the ruins

of the latter remaining in one of the locks, rendered it completely useless; hence it received the name of the Rock lock, which it retained.*

On Feb. 13, 1632, the buildings on the north end of the Bridge on both sides, containing about 42 houses, were destroyed by fire.† The Thames at this period was frozen over, and there was consequently a great scarcity of water; this disaster causing the burning wreck to continue for more than a week. From this period till 1646, the Bridge remained in a most desolate state. Deal boards were set up on each side, to prevent passengers from falling into the Thames; many of these by high winds were often blown down, and the passage was very dangerous. In 1646 the buildings were re-constructed in what was then termed a very substantial and beautiful manner, but of timber. The houses were three stories high, besides the cellars, which were within and between the piers. Over the houses were stately platforms sur rounded with railings, with walks, gardens, and other embellishments. The south side did not receive these convenient additions, but appeared a mass of awkward structures and narrow passages, the street at this end being not above fourteen and in some places twelve feet broad, whilst that at the other side was twenty feet wide.

This Bridge again suffered in the general conflagration of the City in the year 1666, when most of the buildings on the north end were demolished; whilst the old erections built in the reign of King John again escaped destruction, after having continued four hundred and ninety years. By this disaster the stone work was much injured; but we find that in the space of five years it was completely renovated, the houses rebuilt, and the street made of its accustomed

*During the removal of the pier and arches in Jan. 1832, aud the rock lock on the south side, this old work showed itself. The foundations of the second pier from the shore had evidently been rebuilt, as there were piles over the whole surface, which did not prove to be the case in the two piers removed in the years 1825 and 6. See Mr. Knight's letter extracted from the Archeologia, in our vol. C. 1. 294. The work both of the arches and piers was evidently of a better description than the original structure; and the foundations of this pier were with much difficulty removed, owing to the old work having been cramped and cemented together, and having remained so long under water. The third and fourth piers had no piles under their original foundation, and correspond in construction with those removed in 1825-6. W. K.

↑ A curious contemporary account of this Fire was published in our vol. xcıv. ii. 387. “ These cellars have shown themselves during the demolition.

Four of the arches on this side of the Bridge appear to have been rebuilt partly with

« AnteriorContinuar »