“London in 1731” is a wonderful guide book to the city which was penned sometime in the early 18th century and subsequently brought up to date. The author is supposed to be a Portuguese merchant named Don Manoel Gonzales but the internal evidence demonstrates that this is almost certainly a nom de plume. It is more likely that our author was an accomplished native of London. The guide was edited by Professor Henry Morley and published by Cassell as part of their wonderful little National Library series in 1888. Here is his description of the London Bridge and the circuitn outside the walls guarded by the “Bars,2 including Temple Bar.
Not far from the Tower stands London Bridge. This bridge has nineteen arches besides the drawbridge, and is built with hewn stone, being one thousand two hundred feet in length, and seventy- four in breadth, whereof the houses built on each side take up twenty-seven feet, and the street between the houses twenty feet; there being only three vacancies about the middle of the bridge where there are no houses, but a low stone wall, with an iron palisade, through which is a fine view of the shipping and vessels in the river. This street over the bridge is as much thronged, and has as brisk a trade as any street in the city; and the perpetual passage of coaches and carriages makes it troublesome walking on it, there being no posts to keep off carriages as in other streets. The middle vacancy was left for a drawbridge, which used formerly to be drawn up when shipping passed that way; but no vessels come above the bridge at this day but such as can strike their masts, and pass under the arches. Four of the arches on the north side of the bridge are now taken up with mills and engines, that raise the water to a great height, for the supply of the city; this brings in a large revenue which, with the rents of the houses on the bridge, and other houses and lands that belong to it, are applied as far as is necessary to the repair of it by the officers appointed for that service, who are, a comptroller and two bridge-masters, with their subordinate officers; and in some years, it is said, not less than three thousand pounds are laid out in repairing and supporting this mighty fabric, though it be never suffered to run much to decay.I come next to describe that circuit of ground which lies without the walls, but within the freedom and jurisdiction of the City of London. And this is bounded by a line which begins at Temple Bar, and extends itself by many turnings and windings through part of Shear Lane, Bell Yard, Chancery Lane, by the Rolls Liberty, etc., into Holborn, almost against Gray’s-Inn Lane, where there is a bar (consisting of posts, rails, and a chain) usually called Holborn Bars; from whence it passes with many turnings and windings by the south end of Brook Street, Furnival’s Inn, Leather Lane, the south end of Hatton Garden, Ely House, Field Lane, and Chick Lane, to the common sewer; then to Cow Cross, and so to Smithfield Bars; from whence it runs with several windings between Long Lane and Charterhouse Lane to Goswell Street, and so up that street northward to the Bars.From these Bars in Goswell Street, where the manor of Finsbury begins, the line extends by Golden Lane to the posts and chain in Whitecross Street, and from thence to the posts and chain in Grub Street; and then runs through Ropemakers Alley to the posts and chain in the highway from Moorgate, and from thence by the north side of Moorfields; after which it runs northwards to Nortonfalgate, meeting with the bars in Bishopsgate Street, and from thence runs eastward into Spittlefields, abutting all along upon Nortonfalgate.From Nortonfalgate it returns southwards by Spittlefields, and then south-east by Wentworth Street, to the bars in Whitechapel. From hence it inclines more southerly to the Little Minories and Goodman’s Fields: from whence it returns westward to the posts and chain in the Minories, and so on more westerly till it comes to London Wall, abutting on the Tower Liberty, and there it ends. The ground comprehended betwixt this line and the city wall contains about three hundred acres.There is no wall or fence, as has been hinted already, to separate the freedom of the City from that part of the town which lies in the county of Middlesex, only posts and chains at certain places, and one gate at the west end of Fleet Street which goes by the name of Temple Bar.This gate resembles a triumphal arch; it is built of hewn stone, each side being adorned with four pilasters, their entablature, and an arched pediment of the Corinthian order. The intercolumns are niches replenished; those within the Bar towards the east, with the figures of King James I. and his queen; and those without the Bar, with the figures of King Charles I. and King Charles II. It is encircled also with cornucopias, and has two large cartouches by way of supporters to the whole; and on the inside of the gate is the following inscription, viz., “Erected in the year 1671, Sir Samuel Starling, Mayor: continued in the year 1670, Sir Richard Ford, Lord Mayor: and finished in the year 1672, Sir George Waterman, Lord Mayor.”