Tag Archives: City wall

A Survay of London (John Stow, 1598)

Braun & Hogenberg map (1572)

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of London,  this one from John Stow’s “A Survay of London … ”, written in 1598:

“William FitzStephen, in the reign of Henry II, writing of the walls of this city, hath these words: ‘The wall is high and great, well towered on the north side, with due distances between the towers.  On the south side also the city was walled and towered, but the fishful river of the Thames, with his ebbing and flowing, hath long since subverted them’.

… [T]he [walled] city being far more in length from east to west than in breadth from south to north, and also narrower at both ends that in the midst, is …  compassed with the wall on the land side, in form of a bow, except denting in betwixt Cripplegate and Aldersgate … .

And now touching the maintenance and repairing the said wall,  … in the year 1257, Henry III caused the walls …, which were sore decayed and destitute of towers, to be repaired in more seemly wise than before … .  Also in the year 1282, King Edward I, having granted … license for the enlarging of the Blackfriars’ Church, … also granted to Henry Wales, mayor, and the citizens of London, the favour to take, toward the [re-]making of the wall … , certain customs or toll … .  This wall was then to be made from Ludgate west to Fleet Bridge along behind the houses, and along by the water of the Fleet unto the … Thames.  … In the 17th of Edward IV [1477], Ralph Joceline, mayor, caused part of the wall …  to be repaired: to wit, between Aldgate and Aldersgate.  He also caused Moorfield to be searched for clay, and brick thereof to be made … , for … furtherance of the work.

The circuit of the wall of London on the land side, to wit, from the Tower of London in the east unto Aldgate  is 82 perches; from Aldgate to Bishopsgate, 86 perches; from Bishopsgate … to Cripplegate, 162 perches; from Cripplegate to Aldersgate, 75 perches; from Aldersgate to Newgate, 66 perches; from Newgate … to Ludgate, 42 perches; … [f]rom Ludgate to the Fleet Dike … , about 70 perches; [and] from Fleet Bridge … to the … Thames, about 70 perches: and so the total of these perches amounteth to 643, every perch consisting of five yards and a half, which do yield 3536 yards and a half, containing 10,608 feet [actually, 10,609.5 feet], which make up two English miles, and more by 608 feet [*]”.

[*] Stow’s “English miles” were evidently each of 5000 feet.  A “statute mile” – as defined in the Weights and Measures Act of 1593  – is of eight furlongs, 320 perches, poles, or rods, 1760 yards,  or 5280 feet.