King’s Brewhouse, Stepney

Above: Part of a map by Braun and Hogenberg, 1572.

For anyone seeking a visual impression of how Tudor London once looked, a good place to start is with the so-called ‘Agas Map’ which, from the places shown on it, can be dated to about 1561. A very similar map, although on a much smaller scale, was produced in 1572 by two men called Braun and Hogenberg. The strange fact about the two maps is that it is unlikely that either of the people who drew them ever actually visited London. The two maps are only known from existing paper copies.

In the 1970s, one section of a much more detailed map was found. That map – known as the Copper engraving. From the detail on the map, it is estimated that it was produced about 1550. The engraver is not known. Since the 1970s, two more copper plates from the same map have been discovered. The three copper plates are all that we know of this third map because, strangely, no paper copies are known to exist. Comparing the two paper maps against the Copper Engraving, it is easy to see that they were copied from it. The Copper Engraving is much more detailed than the paper maps and there are no additional details on the paper maps that are not shown on the Copper Engraving.

On the map by Braun and Hogenberg map, the words ‘Beere howse’ are shown near the right-hand border. The name does not appear on the Agas map. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent Copper Engraving for this part of the map. It is, therefore, only the Braun and Hogenberg map that has this name.

It can be seen that the small part of the map shows the Thames – with the Tower of London on the north bank and Tooley Street and Horselydown on the south. What is curious about the map is that beside each bank is the label ‘Beere howse’. Someone jokingly has said that, when the mapmaker had reached the eastern end of the land shown on the map, he probably enjoyed a pint of ale in a hostelry and added them to his map. However, there may well be more to the story than that trivial explanation.

Closer inspection of the map shown above will reveal that, on the north bank, to the east of the Tower of London is also shown the Hospital of St Katharine. Further east (right on the very edge of the map) is a small dock with a sailing ship moored there. The mapmaker draws our attention to the location with the words ‘Beere howse’. Much later in time, the St Katharine Docks were built on much of the land, occupying 24 acres, which means that the layout is very different from what we see on Braun and Hogenberg map.

Above: A small part of the Ordnance Survey map for 1895. It shows the Tudor site of the King’s Brewhouse relative to the entrance-lock to the St Katharine Docks.

Although it is not shown on the map, it is known that very close to the Hospital stood ‘The King’s Brewhouse’. Its site is shown on the OS map for 1895. In the 16th century, the area outside the Hospital consisted of many narrow streets, crammed with residents, largely composed of foreigners – mostly Flemish and Dutch or persons of foreign extraction. They carried on their trades near, yet outside, the City from which they were excluded, being aliens. Here on the quayside the little ships from Holland landed their goods and took on board cargoes for their homeward voyage. Beer would have been one of the commodities to be shipped. John Stow, writing in 1605, remarks that ‘the brewers remain to the friendly water of the Thames.’

In the narrow circuitous Nightingale Lane leading from East Smithfield to the banks of the river stood one of these breweries. It is recorded that ‘This part of the public sustenance was subject to regulation as early as Henry VII who, in 1499, licensed John Merchant, a Fleming, to export 50 tuns of Ale called ‘Berre’ and in the same reign one Geoffrey Gate, probably a King’s officer spoiled [took possession of] the brew-houses at St Katharine’s twice, either for sending too much abroad or brewing it too weak for home consumption.’ There was a steady demand for this beer from foreign parts and even when there was a scarcity of corn, its exportation was permitted by Royal Licence. The King’s brewhouse on the east of St Katharine’s stood at a place which bore the name of the Hermitage, where a small chapel sometime stood for prayer for the preservation of the embankment or river wall. While we shall never know for certain, it is just possible that the mapmaker knew about the King’s Brewhouse and the label ‘Beere howse’ was added for that reason. The approximate site of the King’s Brewhouse is just north of the junction of Burr Close with St Katharine’s Way.

As for the other label above Horselydown, there is no known reason for it to be there. Horselydown, which extended east from today’s Potter’s Fields to St Saviour’s Dock, was a tiny hamlet. Few people lived there (unlike the area just mentioned around the Hospital of St Katharine) and most of the land was open fields. In fact, the name Horselydown is believed to derive from horses grazing on the land. There are no recorded references to a brewery at this point on the Thames for Tudor times. However, it is interesting to note that, in 1787, John Courage bought the Anchor Brewhouse which stood on part of Horselydown. Today, hardly anyone ever refers to the land as Horselydown and the famous brewery, although still standing, has been converted into luxury apartments.

See also: Courage Brewery – 11 July 2018


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Piccadilly Circus Billboard

Above: Looking across Piccadilly Circus from the SW towards the new display board. It is flat for most of the display but the right-hand edge is curved around the building on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue.

The sign, which has displayed electrical advertisements for more than a century on the north side of Piccadilly Circus, was switched off in January 2017 and was replaced with a temporary banner. It was the first time since the Second World War that the lights had been switched off – apart from during power cuts and special events.

Piccadilly Circus was laid out in 1818 to connect Regent Street with the street called Piccadilly. The first electrical advertisements appeared in 1908, with Perrier being the first brand to be illuminated. In 1923 electric billboards were set up on the facade of the London Pavilion to advertise Bovril. Coca-Cola has advertised there since 1955. In 2011, LED displays completely replaced neon lamps on the signs, to be followed in 2017 by the new high-density LED display.

The famous Piccadilly lights were switched on – in the morning of 26 Oct 2017 – after nine months of renovation work to create a new ultra-HD digital screen. The six old illuminated advertising boards were replaced with one ultra-high definition curved screen. The patchwork, which became one of London’s most famous sights, was replaced with a single 4K LED screen that features six advertisers. The new state-of-the-art screen is interactive and fully responsive, allowing advertisers to include aspects such as live video streaming. The 790 square metre screen can produce 281 trillion different colours from 11 million pixels spaced just 8 millimetres (0.3 of an inch) apart. It is the largest display of its type in Europe — about the size of four tennis courts. The whole screen has a resolution that is equivalent to a TV screen but this digital billboard is more than 1000 inches (83.3 feet) wide.

In comparison with an Apple MacBook laptop, a 15-inch model has just over 5 million pixels (each pixel being a minuscule dot on the screen). The screen in Piccadilly Circus is rather like a scaled-up super display with its 11 million pixels (each represented by a tiny LED lamp).

The entire screen can be taken up by a single advert – something that had been tried on earlier versions of the display panels. It didn’t really work because the six original screens were of different sizes and made by different manufacturers. It is estimated that the new screen will generate £30 million in advertising revenue each year.

Coca-Cola, Samsung, Hyundai, L’Oréal Paris, eBay, Hunter and Stella McCartney were among the first to advertise on the newly-launched screen. It is managed by Ocean Outdoor. The screen, created by site owner Land Securities, can react to certain external factors, such as the weather or temperature. This feature enables brands to display creative and innovative content, such as weather-appropriate clothing. On the new screen, the brands will switch between each position in a 30-minute cycle. At the end of each run, one advert will take over the entire site before the rotation begins again. Each of the six brands will, therefore, take over the full screen in turn.

According to Land Securities, the technology does not collect or store any personal data and is unable to record images or audio. The huge screen will track cars and people who pass by and then display targeted ads. Hidden cameras can analyse the make, model, and colour of cars that drive by as well as the age, gender, and even the feelings of nearby pedestrians, in order to customise ads for the local audience. The technology can be used to program certain ads to play when specific cars drive past, for example, or in response to weather changes, or news and sports reports. The new screen will also provide complimentary Wi-Fi for people in the surrounding area.


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Keepier Wharf

Above: Keepier Wharf in dark brick (to the left of the view) in use as 25 flats, photographed in 2018 from the south side of the Thames.

Today, the address of Keepier Wharf is 12 Narrow Street. The wharf is now the site of a development of luxury apartments. It stands at the western end of Narrow Street – where it branches off The Highway.

Wharves beside the Thames have always been named and not numbered, a tradition going back several centuries. The word ‘wharf’ derives from Old English ‘hwearf’ meaning an embankment. Once firm ground had been created beside a river, it was possible to stack heavy goods and, at a later time to build warehouses on the land for storing the goods. The word wharf, therefore, is applied to an open space beside a river and also to a building storing goods on that land.

The name of a wharf was sometimes that of a person who was the owner of the land, the warehouse or the owner of the company that operated from the wharf. Some wharf names were related to where the warehouse stood – like Millwall Wharf which was situated in Millwall. Sometimes the name of the wharf was related to a commodity – as was this one. Keepier Wharf was built in 1830 as a coal depot, taking its name from a coal-mining area in County Durham. Coal was brought to London in vast quantities in colliers from places along the NE coast of England that had coal mines. Once landed at a wharf on the Thames, the coal was often referred to as ’sea coal’.

The 1843 Post Office London Directory carries an entry for ‘Ray, John, coal merchant, Keepier Wharf, Broad Street, Ratcliff’.

The London Gazette, for 18 July 1876’ carries an entry in the small adverts section reading ’Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore existing between us the undersigned, Samuel Stanley Jarvis and John Samuel Toye, trading at Penshurst Road, South Hackney, and Keepier Wharf, Ratcliff, both in the county of Middlesex, Coal and Coal Merchants, has been dissolved as and from the 24th December 1875 by mutual consent. Dated this 13th day of July 1876. Samuel Stanley Jarvis and John Saml. Toye’.

Keepier Wharf was not the only location for handling coal on the Thames. In addition, coal was brought to the City of London, to the mouth of the River Fleet, which had been brought by ship from the north of England. Seacoal Lane in the City is a reminder of this fact.

Above: The building in 1937. At the top left of the building are the words ‘Lendrum Ltd’ and top right is ‘Lendrum’s Wharf’. Below the two top names are the words ‘Paper Merchants’ – with ‘Paper’ on the far left and ‘Merchants’ on the fee right of the large wall facing onto the river.

Name Changed to Lendrum’s Wharf

At some time around 1900, the wharf ceased to handle coal. Its name was changed to Lendrum’s Wharf. The derivation of this name is not known. It is assumed it was the surname of the wharf owner.

The Pall Mall Gazette has an entry for Saturday 14 September 1918 entitled ‘The Army’s Waste Paper’:

‘The contract for the purchase of Arms waste paper from overseas has been placed by the War Office Salvage Department with Messrs Lendrum Ltd, who have built and equipped a large wharf on the Thames at Broad Street, Stepney, specially to deal with this work.

‘The overseas waste paper will, therefore, be dealt with exclusively at this wharf, as distinct from the general waste paper which is handled at Miller’s Wharf, St Katharine’s Way, Tower Bridge.

‘Lendrum’s have for some time past been dealing with the Army waste paper received from the Home Commands at their branches in Manchester, Glasgow and Liverpool. The head office of this firm is at 3 Temple Avenue, London, EC4’.

The Yorkshire Evening Post for Wednesday 15 June 1938 carries a report that ‘The heat of the sun was blamed for a serious fire which broke out among hundreds of bales of paper of the roof of Lendrum’s Wharf, Narrow Street, Stepney’.

The name ‘Lendrum’s Wharf’ is to be found on the 1966 Wharf Map of the Thames. It was not many years after that time that the wharf would have fallen into disuse – along with many other wharves along the Thames – as cargo became containerised and most of the cargo was handled at Tilbury Docks.

The large warehouse at Lendrum’s Wharf was converted into 25 flats in 1986. Because it is a conversion and not a rebuild, it accounts for the rather ‘chunky’ external appearance of the structure. It rises sheer from the beach and is on the west side of Ratcliff Cross Stairs. The riverside walkway, that runs for miles beside the Thames, diverts around the north side of the apartments. Instead of choosing the later name of Lendrum’s Wharf for the apartment block, the older name of Keeper Wharf was chosen but the building does not date from that earlier time.


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London Bridge Chapel

Above: A Victorian drawing showing the chapel standing beside the roadway on the east side of the bridge. Notice the two entrance doorways leading from the roadway. 

The first London Bridge built of stone was begun in 1176 and took over 30 years to complete. For Norman builders, the whole project was complex and revolutionary. It is believed that there had been a bridge at the same point on the Thames since Roman times but whether a bridge crossing was continuously in use for such a long space of time is also unclear. There may have been periods of time with no bridge due to the structure having partially or completely collapsed. The Thames has always been a wide and fast flowing river. Choosing to build a bridge in 1176 may, in a curious way, have had something to do with the murder of Thomas a Becket on 29 December 1170 at the age of approximately 50 years. Becket knew London well, having been born in Ironmonger Lane, a turning off Cheapside, and having grown up in the City. Only a few days before he died, his last public act of defiance was to deliver a sermon to the Augustinian foundation of the Priory of St Mary Overy on 23 December 1170. The Priory church still stands at the southern end of London Bridge but is now known as Southwark Cathedral.

We all live in a highly visual world. These days we all take so many pictures that for those of us with an interest in history, it is often frustrating to find how few pictures exist of a particular building. However, there is also another way that we can obtain visual information – through the power of the written word. This article uses the words of a highly respected historian to describe the Chapel on London Bridge. His name is Charles Welch. If his name is unfamiliar to you, then here are a few details about him.

Charles Welch FSA (1848 – 1924) was the Librarian of the Guildhall for more than 40 years. He was born in 1848 and attended the City of London School. On leaving school, he at once joined the then small staff in the Guildhall Library, which consisted of a librarian and two assistants. During his service, he helped the library to develop into the largest in London, second only to the British Museum. Welch compiled the original book catalogue and later laid down the plan for compiling the present excellent card index. Those of us who have used the library in the last part of the 20th century have all used his card index before computers took over.

Regarding the history and antiquities of the City, Welch became an authority and contributed to the Victoria County Histories. With the late Canon Benham, he wrote the well-known ‘Medieval London’. He also wrote books on London Bridge and on London coins. He was actively associated with the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, the Society of Antiquaries and other learned institutions. Charles Welch retired in 1906 and died in 1924, in his 76th year.

From what has been said, it should be evident that Welch would have been just the man to ask for details of the chapel on London Bridge. It was built on the structure of the bridge which was started in 1176 and completed in 1209. The man responsible for its construction was a priest in a City church called St Mary Colechurch. He was known simply as ‘Peter of Colechurch’.

The stone London Bridge had to cross the Thames which is approximately 900 feet wide between the banks of the City and Southwark. To support the arches, 19 irregular shaped islands (called ‘starlings’) were constructed in the river. On top were 19 arches of varying widths, built on top, carrying an almost level roadway. A drawbridge was built, instead of the 20th arch – to allow ships with tall masts to pass through the bridge. At the southern (Southwark) end, a Stone Gate was built on the second starling. The Drawbridge Gate was built on the seventh starling, to hold the mechanism for raising and lowering the drawbridge. On the largest starling of all (the eleventh) was built a chapel.

Reproduced below are part of the writings of Charles Welch, relating to the Chapel. In his position as Librarian at the Guildhall, he knew where to look for detailed information about the Bridge. His description provides considerable insight into how the chapel looked as well as details of its day-to-day running. Many people are interested in any details they can pick up about London Bridge and especially about the Chapel. There are only a handful of drawings that were made when the chapel existed (from 1209 until the Dissolution when the chapel was converted into a shop, around 1539). The chapel was eventually demolished and, of course, since those early days, there have been two later bridges at a slightly different location. The prints in this article are not contemporary with the chapel, they were drawn by artists creating engravings of how the chapel probably looked – no doubt based on descriptions like the one below by Charles Welch.

Above: A Victorian drawing showing the interior of the chapel. It is the view you would have seen on walking through one of the two doorways on the above print.

Notes to Help with the Text Below

(1) Prices below like – £4 14s. 4d. – should be read as ‘Four Pounds, 14 shillings and four pence’. The price – 54s. 7. 1/2d – should be read as ’54 shillings, seven pence and a half-penny’. There were 20 shillings in £1 and 12 pence in one shilling.

(2) For measurement of length, there are 3.218 feet in one metre so, one foot is about a third of a metre.

(3) Spiral stairs sometimes referred to in architectural descriptions as a ‘vice’, wind around a newel (or central pole). They typically have a handrail on the outer side only. On the inner side is just the central pole.

(4) The arches of the bridge rested on irregular-shaped islands – called Starlings – each built on the river-bed. Welch calls the roadway over the bridge ‘Bridge Street’.

Text by Charles Welch Describing the Chapel on London Bridge

Next in interest to the bridge itself is the famous Chapel dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, and familiarly called St Thomas of the Bridge. This was erected on the eleventh pier, which measured 35 feet in breadth and 115 feet from point to point. The building was 60 feet in length by 20 feet broad and stood over the parapet on the eastern side of the bridge. The western front facing the Bridge Street was 40 feet in height, having a plain gable surmounted by a cross; and was divided by four buttresses into three parts. The centre of these divisions contained a rich pointed arched window of one mullion, with a quatrefoil in the top, and the two sides were occupied by the entrances to the Chapel from the Bridge Street, each being ascended by three steps.

The interior consisted of two chapels, one above the other; the upper chapel was lofty, being supported by 14 groups of elegant clustered columns and lighted by eight pointed windows. Below each of the windows was three arched recesses, separated by small pillars. The roof was originally formed of lofty pointed arches. The eastern end of this beautiful building formed a semi-hexagon, having a smaller window in each of its divisions. The lower chapel (or crypt) was constructed in the bridge itself and was entered from the upper chapel and the street, as well as (at low water) from the starling surrounding the pier. It was about 20 feet in height, with a roof supported by clustered columns, from each of which sprang seven ribs, whose intersections were bound by fillets of roses and clusters of regal and ecclesiastical masks. This chapel also contained a rich series of windows similar to, though much smaller than, those above; and the floor was paved with black and white marble. Under the Chapel staircase, in the middle of the building, were buried the remains of Peter of Colechurch, but neither brass plate nor any inscription marked the site of his tomb.

London seems to have rivalled Canterbury in its devotion to St Thomas. This is not surprising because Becket was the son of a prominent London citizen, and his rise in fortune must have been watched with particular interest by his fellow citizens. The horror with which the country generally received the news of his murder was, for the same reason, intensified in the City of London. The ‘martyrdom’ of Becket took place on the 29th December 1170 and he was canonised in 1173 – only three years before the foundation of the bridge. In dedicating the Bridge Chapel to St Thomas, Peter of Colechurch’s decision may have been affected by some shrewd elements of worldly wisdom. The good priest’s task was heavy enough. Copious funds were required and the Archbishop’s was a name to conjure with. Public bodies in London vied with each other in doing honour to the Saint. The City in its corporate capacity placed itself under the patronage of St Thomas, whose effigy, with that of St Paul, appeared on both the Mayoralty and the Corporate seal. The latter seal contained the legend ‘Me que te peperi ne cesses Thoma tueri’ (Cease not, O Thomas, to protect me who gave thee birth). The Hospital of St Thomas of Acon in Cheapside was also founded by Becket’s sister in his honour, close to the site of his birthplace, about twenty years after his death. In 1466 the authority of Rome was invoked to replenish the bridge coffers, and ‘Master Godard, of the Order of the Friars Minor,’ was rewarded for two Papal bulls which seem to have been procured through his instrumentality. The first granted ‘an indulgence for forty days to those who should yearly visit the chapel on the feast of St Thomas the Martyr, and on the day of the translation of the same from the first vespers to the second vespers, and give to the repairs of the chapel.’ The second extended the indulgence to one hundred days to those who should in addition pay visits on Good Friday and the Assumption of the Blessed Mary the Virgin.

The Chapel, as already stated, was built by Peter of Colechurch and formed part of his design for the erection of the bridge, as is shown by the extension eastwards of the Chapel pier. It was the first and also the most beautiful of the buildings on the bridge. No particulars of its construction are preserved, but it would appear that only one of the two apartments (probably the lower) was at first used for religious purposes, as the accounts for the years 1384 to 1397 contain many items of the cost of building the ‘new chapel’. In 1384–5, 300 feet of Portland stone was supplied at 6d. a foot for a stall. In 1388-9 ‘twenty great pieces of hard stone from Kent called noweles ‘for the steps of the new chapel cost 15d. each, and in the latter year ’140 feet of hard stone called skeutable’ was bought at 6d. per foot. With the increase in the number of endowed chantries, further additions became necessary. In 1392 the wardens paid £4 14s. 4d. for twenty-one cartloads of stone from Reigate for the new chapel, including carriage to the ‘Breghous’. What may perhaps have been a third chapel, situated probably in a corner of the two larger chapels, is mentioned in 1387-8, when a small (sanctus?) bell was bought for the little Chapel. In September 1396, the large sum of £14 3s. 6d. was spent on forty-three cartloads of Reigate stone for the ‘upper vault’, the battlements, and ‘le vys’ (i.e. the vice or spiral staircase) of the new Chapel. The great number of windows in both chapels made the provision of glass a heavy expense. The accounts for 1397 show that 69 feet of white glass was provided for two windows, costing 54s. 7. 1/2d; besides 37 1/2 feet of white, and 150 feet of stained glass containing images and shields, costing together £6 17s. 6d. A payment for mending broken windows was made in 1418 to Hugh Wyse ‘Ducheman glasyere’. Other payments for decorative repairs occur. In 1420 ‘J Londones, peyntour’, received 13s. 4d. for painting a pane in the chapel vault. In 1427 certain shields hanging on the ‘perclos’ (or screen) in the chapel were repaired. These probably contained the arms of benefactors. A payment of 10s. occurs in 1426 for painting the image of the Virgin. In 1489 a substantial gift was received from Anneys Breteyn, widow, of £40, as an instalment of £60 ‘towards the new making of the two stone walls with two images in tabernacles thereupon standing in the void room on the north side of the said chapel’. The west side of the Chapel was in need of extensive repair in 1533, when new ‘brestes of stone work’ were made.

It may be a rather long description but, with the two engravings, it should give the reader a much better idea of how the medieval chapel would have looked.

See also: London Bridge – 6 November 2015

See also: London Bridge – Three Stone Bridges – 6 October 2017

To see all the articles on London Bridge, click on ‘1-London Bridge’ under the Categories (on the right-hand side of this Webpage).


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Deptford Creek

Above: Part of John Rocque’s map of 1746 showing Deptford Creek. Deptford Bridge is shown with an arrow. North of the bridge is shown the words ‘Tide Mill’ and south of the bridge is shown ‘Water Mill’.

For those who want to become familiar with the tributaries of the Thames, it can be rather confusing because each tributary has a mouth with a different name from the stream. The mouth of the River Lea, for example, is called Bow Creek. Deptford Creek is not the name of a river, it is the name of the mouth of the River Ravensbourne. The mouth of a river or stream is usually the part that is navigable for small ships or more navigable than the rest of the waterway.

The River Ravensbourne rises at Keston where it is fed by springs that also supply large lakes. From that point, the river flows through Bromley, Downham, Catford, Lewisham, and Deptford before entering the Thames. Well-known tributaries of the River Ravensbourne are the River Poole (which joins just south of Catford) and the River Quaggy (which joins near Lewisham Station). Because the source at Keston is high ground, the River Ravensbourne is quite a fast flowing river.

The above map by John Rocque in 1746, shows the River Ravensbourne, with the tidal part coloured blue. It is this part that is technically Deptford Creek. Of course, all the fields shown beside the Creek are now covered by commercial premises, apartment blocks or rows of houses and streets. What is remarkable about the map is not that the fields have been built on but that the Ravensbourne is almost the same shape and width today as it was when the map was produced in 1746 – over 270 years ago. The mouth of the Creek, where it joins the Thames, has altered slightly but the rest of the watercourse is almost the same as on the old map.

Deptford is only three miles from London Bridge so it is a busy London suburb. Towards the bottom of the map can be seen ‘Deptford Bridge’ which was built of stone in 1628 across the River Ravensbourne. It was the place where the ancient Roman road forded the exact same piece of river. Apparently, it was a ‘deep ford’ and this description of the crossing gradually became corrupted to ‘Deptford’ which is how the place name arose.

At the point where the blue colouring ends, a ‘Water Mill’ is shown. Being a fast-flowing river, the Ravensbourne produced plenty of water-power to drive the mill. In fact, there were four mills recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) on the River Ravensbourne listed under the Manor of Greenwich and a further 11 mills listed for the Manor of Lewisham. In Norman times through to the Victorians, it was a hard-working river. Look again at the map. Just north of Deptford Bridge is shown the words ‘Tide Mill’ indicating that the tidal power of the Ravensbourne – as the river level was influenced by the ebb and flow of the Thames – was also being used to power yet another water mill.

Above: Modern day map with all bridges over the Creek labelled.

Since Rocque’s map was produced, several more bridges have been constructed over Deptford Creek. To see the position of the individual bridges, refer to the modern map of the River Ravensbourne. The most obvious change is that the river has a distinct double-bend where it connects with the Thames, which is not shown on Rocque’s map. Each bridge is listed in the order of being built.

Deptford Bridge • In early times the site was a ford. The road either side of the ford had been part of the Roman road from the site of today’s Borough High Street via Deptford, Shooter’s Hill, Dartford, Faversham and Canterbury to Dover. The first bridge in wood was replaced by one of stone in 1628. A new stone bridge was constructed in 1829. That one remained in use until 1980 when the present bridge was rebuilt to carry a much wider road to provide for modern traffic.

Creek Bridge • Also called Creek Road Bridge, Deptford Creek Bridge or Deptford Creek Lifting Bridge. As can be seen from Rocque’s map, Creek Road did not exist in the 18th century and neither was there a road bridge. During the middle of the 18th century (the time of Rocque’s map), a ferry was established at this point on the Ravensbourne. Creek Road was laid out in 1896, cutting across the older street pattern aligned with the remaining Albury Street. Creek Bridge was first built in 1815 but was subsequently bombed in 1940 during the Second World War and a new bascule lifting bridge was completed in 1954.

Deptford Creek Lifting Bridge • In 1834 it was proposed to build a railway from Greenwich via Deptford to a terminus at London Bridge Station. The two tracks were constructed on brick arches along the whole route. The railway was opened in 1836, running between London Bridge Station and Deptford. It was London’s first railway. The problem arose when the engineers decided how to continue the line to Greenwich. The railway had to pass over Deptford Creek which in those days was in use by Thames sailing barges which had right of way over the passage of steam engines. Due to the height of the mast, the barges could not pass under the railway lines. An ingenious solution was found – there would be a lifting bridge over the Creek. When a sailing barge needed to pass through, the rails would be laboriously unbolted from the permanent track, the bridge was raised to allow the sailing barge to pass through. The track on the bridge would then be bolted onto the main tracks to allow the trains to pass over the bridge once more. Unbelievably, the lifting bridge is still in position, along with its cumbersome lifting mechanism. It should be pointed out that the present lifting bridge is not the original one. It is probably about 50 years old.

Docklands Light Railway bridges • Two bridges for the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). One long span carries the railway over Deptford Creek at a point approximately in the centre of the modern map. A second bridge runs very close to the Creek near Deptford Bridge DLR Station. They were both completed for the DLR line to Lewisham which opened in 1999.

Deptford Creek Footbridge • A new footbridge, which can be opened to allow vessels to pass through, was constructed and opened about 2001. It is beside the south side of Deptford Creek Lifting Bridge.

Deptford Creek Pedestrian Swing Bridge • The new ‘kid on the block’ as far as Deptford Creek is concerned is the pedestrian bridge – cable-stayed swing bridge – which was officially opened on a site north of Creek Bridge in 2015. Further details are contained in a separate blog.

See also: Deptford Creek Pedestrian Swing Bridge – 31 March 2017


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St Clare, Abbey of

Above: The Abbey as it appears on the Agas map of about 1561. The Roman Wall can also be seen along the medieval gateway called Aldgate. Drawn on the west side of the Abbey is a wide cart-track, known as Minories in the days of the map, has become a modern street with the same name today.

If only you did but realise the significance of the street names on a modern map of London, you only need to look at it to see where all the historic places once stood. Our story concerns an ancient abbey, situated near the eastern boundary of the City of London, and we are on the lookout for two street names in particular. Since 1994 there have been various boundary changes to the City London which also affect the boundaries of some of the surrounding London Boroughs. In earlier times, the Abbey of St Clare, which stood on the east side of the old Roman Wall, was outside the boundary of the City of London. It was on land in the old Metropolitan Borough of Stepney (which is now part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets). However, the boundary changes since 1994 have affected the land on which the Abbey once stood and so the ancient site was on land that is now part of the City of London.

Above: The Abbey perimeter, with its church and cloisters, have been added a Google map. Notice the two streets named after the Abbey.

The Abbey of St Clare was founded in 1293, just outside the wall of the City largely due to Edmund, the Earl of Lancaster, and his wife. Edmund was the brother of Edward I. The Abbey was also called the ‘Nunnery of the Poor Clares or Minoresses’. This community, described as the ‘Abbess and Sisters Minoresses of the Order of St Clare of the grace of the Blessed Mary the Virgin’, belonged to the second order of St Francis of Assisi, who founded the ‘Fratres Minores’ or Friars Minor, better known as the Greyfriars.

The sister order was founded by St Clare of Assisi, a contemporary of St Francis, with rules along the same lines as the Greyfriars, who were Franciscans. In Latin, the Friars Minor (Greyfriars) were called ‘Fratres Minores’. The Clares in Latin were ‘Sorores Minores’ – Sisters Minor – shortened to Minoresses, which gave the nearby street called Minories its name.

There were only three religious houses of the Poor Clares in England – (1) The Abbey of St Clare, just outside Aldgate, in London. (2) The Abbey of Bruisyard, in Suffolk. (3) The third was originally Waterbeach Abbey, in Cambridgeshire, but the Poor Clares on that site moved to nearby Denny Abbey, also in Cambridgeshire. Parts of Denny Abbey remain today and are looked after by English Heritage.

Although the London Abbey of St Clare had been founded for nuns to live there under strict rules of poverty and chastity – the nuns were not allowed to wear any form of woollen stockings on their legs and no sandals on their feet – the inmates gradually relaxed the rules so that they were living very easy lives. This abbey was no different from others (for men or for women) and it could be said that, by the 16th century, life in the Abbey of St Clare was quite a comfortable one.

The land on which the Abbey stood was a liberty – that means it was not under any local administration. It was not even part of a parish. This was the case for all religious houses across London and in other towns and Cities in England. Long after they were closed in the 16th century an Act of Parliament was passed in the 19th century to finally repeal all liberties. This was necessary because criminals were deliberately living on land that was a liberty and escaping arrest because they claimed that the land was outside any form of administration.

Above: The street name Minories is a reminder of the Abbey that once stood beside it.

The Abbey of St Clare in London was surrendered to the Crown in 1538. Their church later became a parish church called Holy Trinity, Minories. A considerable part of the abbey buildings remained until they were destroyed by fire in 1797. No evidence for the abbey church or any other parts of the Abbey remains today. St Clare Street, running east off Minories, is a reminder of the name of the abbey.

The Two Princes of the Tower

The Abbey has a surprising connection with the two young princes who are believed to have been murdered in 1483 in the Tower of London on the orders of their uncle, Richerd III. The two young boys were Edward V (aged 12) and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, first Duke of York (aged 9). They were the sons of Edward IV.

On 15 January 1478, when only four years old, the younger brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, was married in St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, to Anne Mowbray. Aged only five, she was the 8th Countess of Norfolk, later Duchess of York and Duchess of Norfolk (10 December 1472 – c. 19 November 1481).

Anne was born at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, the only surviving child of John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk and Lady Elizabeth Talbot. The death of her father in 1476 left Anne a wealthy heiress. Anne died at Greenwich, at the age of eight, nearly two years before her husband disappeared in the Tower of London with his older brother, Edward V.

Anne was entombed in a lead coffin in the Chapel of St Erasmus of Formiae in Westminster Abbey. When that chapel was demolished in about 1502 – to make way for the Henry VII Lady Chapel – Anne’s coffin was moved to a vault under the Abbey of St Clare. Her coffin eventually disappeared. In December 1964, construction workers in Stepney accidentally dug into a vault on the site of the Abbey and found Anne’s coffin. It was opened, and her remains were analysed by scientists and then entombed in Westminster Abbey in May 1965. Her red hair was still on her skull and her shroud was still wrapped around her. The Henry VII Chapel of Westminster Abbey is the presumed resting place of her husband, Richard Duke of York, and his brother Edward V.


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Wapping Station Murals

Above: Photograph of the station roundel alongside one of the murals – a delightful view of Wapping High Street in which the station is situated. The large curved Victorian warehouse is known as Gun Wharves.

Wapping Station used to be one of the few stops on the East London Line – an underground line running between the southern termini at New Cross and New Cross Gate and the northern terminus of Shoreditch Underground Station. The station at Shoreditch was demolished in 2007 when the whole line was prepared for being integrated into the Overground, which opened in 2010.

Some of the old stations on the East London Line were given a face-lift in the 1990s when shiny new enamel murals were added to the walls beside the platforms. Wapping Station was one of the lucky few. Attractive murals were installed – telling the story of the immediate area of Wapping.

The murals on large enamel panels were created by Nick Hardcastle who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1981. Originally from Norfolk but now living in Bridport, Dorset, he is well-known for his paintings connected with railways and trains – both old and new, including steam engines and diesel trains. One of his paintings, showing the Royal Train, is now owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Above: Drawing of New Crane Wharf, spread over two enamel panels. The extensive enclave of warehouses, now in use as apartments and commercial premises, stands a short distance to the east of Wapping Station.

Hardcastle was commissioned in 1995 by London Underground to produce the murals, being asked to make illustrations of Wapping both past and present. He primarily uses pen and ink and watercolour for his illustrations and, in this case, he started with the drawings which were scaled up for display on the station.

The resulting illustrations were reproduced as large vitreous enamel panels which would ultimately form part of the station walls beside the two platforms. Producing the panels proved to be quite complex because each colour used on each panel had to be fired separately. They form a splendid collection – showing the various warehouses that line the local streets, as well as depictions of the old underground station in earlier times.

The detailed drawings certainly liven up what is otherwise a rather drab pair of platforms. It is also to be hoped that they inform those waiting for their train about the grand architecture to be seen above ground in the form of the elegant warehouses.


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