Above: Agas map (c1561) showing Tooley Street and Morgan’s Lane. The RED dotted line shows the land covered by Leybourn’s map (below).
If you walk along Tooley Street from the London Bridge end, you will pass Hay’s Galleria on your left and then the fork in the road where Bermondsey Street runs south on your right. Keeping on the pavement on the north side of Tooley Street, you will then notice a side turning called Morgan’s Lane and then a rather elegant building now known as Aston Webb House. The building was erected early in the 20th century as the offices for Booth’s Gin but it is now in use as apartments. Having walked past that building, the next turning is Braidwood Street.
The name of Braidwood Street came into being some time after 1900 and relates to Alfred Braidwood, the fire chief who was killed in action while fighting the epic fire of 1861 in the warehouses in Tooley Street. From at least the 1600s, the street was simply called Green Bank. The point where Aston Webb House stands was once a stream that flowed across the line of Tooley Street and was flanked by two narrow thoroughfares – Morgan’s Lane on the west of the stream and Green Bank on the east side.
If you want to see maps of the Tooley Street area, you will not be surprised to hear that most of the reference libraries in London carry a good selection. However, rather surprisingly, one of the most detailed maps of Morgan’s Lane and Green Bank is to be found many miles away – in a reference library in Magdalen College, Oxford. By the way, ‘Magdalen’ is always pronounced ‘Maudlin’ by those who frequent the college. This article will explain how an Oxford college is associated with a little piece of land in Tooley Street.
The earliest map to show the stream and the two thoroughfares is the Agas Map (of c1561). At the river-end of the stream is also shown a tide-mill. That part of the map is shown at the top of this article. In the 16th century the land around Tooley Street was flat and quite marshy. At least two streams – maybe three – crossed Tooley Street and flowed into the Thames. Mills were built over the streams and were powered by the water in them. The streams were quite narrow and the flow of water from the stream would not have been sufficient to power a water-wheel. Because the streams meandered for quite a distance across the nearby fields, the Thames at high tide would fill the streams with a large quantity of water. The mill owners waited until the tide had gone out and then released the water in the stream which powered the mill. This was why they were called ‘tide-mills’.
Although the Agas map appears quite a simple drawing, it gives a good idea of the surroundings. The streams and mills also appear on John Rocque’s map (1746) but in less detail and by the time of Horwood’s map (1799) the mills and the streams were no longer in evidence – probably having been built over.
Just a few weeks ago that I found out there was another much more detailed map – showing Morgan’s Lane, the ‘The Mill Pond or Stream’ and Green Bank. It was drawn by a surveyor called William Leybourn in 1684. The Agas map is rather like a three-dimensional view but Leybourn’s map was a true plan and was in great detail. It turns out that the land around the stream – as well as much more land on the north side of Tooley Street – was acquired by Sir John Fastolf in 1446. His name may be familiar to you for two reasons. Firstly, Sir John Fastolf KG (1380 – 5 November 1459) was an English knight during the Hundred Years War, who became very rich from service for his sovereign. In 1415 he fought at the the Battle of Agincourt. Secondly, Sir John Fastolf is presumed to be the original of the character ‘Falstaff’ written about by Shakespeare. There is, however, little connection between the real life of Fastolf and that of Falstaff as portrayed by Shakespeare’s plays.
Above: A small version of Leybourn’s map. This map is copyright Magdalen College, Oxford.
It was Sir John Fastolf who acquired land on the north side of Tooley Street and built himself a large moated manor house. When he died, in 1549, he left all his land to Magdalen College, in Oxford. They administered the land for at least the next two hundred years and derived income from the rents from the mill and other tenements on the land. They sent their best surveyor – William Leybourn – to London to draw a detailed plan of of the land around Morgan’s Lane and Green Bank. A small version is shown in this article.
Above: Detail of the tide-mill on Leybourn’s map showing the mill standing over the stream which entered the Thames to the north. This map is copyright Magdalen College, Oxford.
The Agas map (c1561) shows the tide-mill but the detail is quite poor because the drawing is so small. The Leybourn drawing (1684), however, shows considerable detail for the stream and the tide mill. By Leybourn’s time the mill was no longer in use and the building was in use only as a granary. Notice how the stream has been narrowed on the lower side of the mill house. This would at one time have guided the stored water from the stream to power the water-wheel mounted underneath the mill building. It is interesting that Leybourn writes ‘The Mill Pond or Stream’ on the blue-coloured water. It had been a stream above ground – as Agas clearly shows – but by 1684 it may well have been that only the stream on the north side of Tooley Street was filled with water, giving the impression of a long rectangular mill-pond and not a stream.