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Story Of London

The City Wards in 1731: I


“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. The descriptions of the 26 wards are rich in topographical detail and give details of many features and places long since vanished. In our first abstract we present the description of the three easternmost wards, Portsoken, Tower and aldgate.

1. Portsoken ward is situate without Aldgate, the most easterly ward belonging to the City; and extends from Aldgate eastward to the bars. The chief streets and places comprehended in it, are part of Whitechapel Street, the Minories, Houndsditch, and the west side of Petticoat Lane.Whitechapel is a handsome broad street, by which we enter the town from the east. The south side, or great part of it, is taken up by the butchers who deal in the wholesale way, selling whole carcases of veal, mutton, and lamb (which come chiefly out of Essex) to the town butchers. On the north side are a great many good inns, and several considerable tradesmen’s houses, who serve the east part of England with such goods and merchandise as London affords. On the south side is a great market for hay three times a week.The Tower from the south bank2. Tower ward extends along the Thames from the Tower on the east almost to Billingsgate on the west, and that part of the tower itself which lies to the westward of the White Tower is held by some to be within this ward. The principal streets and places contained in it are Great Tower Street, part of Thames Street, Mark lane, Mincing Lane, Seething Lane, St Olave Hart Street, Idle Lane, St. Dunstan’s Hill, Harp lane, water Lane, and Bear Lane, with the courts and alleys that fall into them.Great Tower Hill lies on the outside of the Tower Ditch towards the north-west.Upon this hill is a scaffold erected, at the charge of the City, for the execution of noble offenders imprisoned in the Tower (after sentence passed upon them).The names of the quays or wharves lying on the Thames side in this ward between the Tower and Billinsgate, are:Brewer’s QuayChester QuayGalley QuayWool QuayPorter’s QuayCustom-House QuayGreat Bear QuayLittle Bear QuayWigging’s QuayRalph’s QuayLittle Dice QuayGreat Dice Quay andSmart’s Quay,of which next to Custom-House Quay, Bear Quays are the most considerable, their being one of the greatest markets in England for wheat and other kinds of grain, brought hither by coasting vessels.The public buildings in this ward (besides the western part of the Tower above-mentioned to be within the City) are the Custom House, Cloth-workers’ Hall, Bakers’ Hall, and the three Parish Churches of Allhallows Barking, St. Olave Hart Street and St. Dunstan’s in the East.The Custom House is situated on the north side of the Thames, between the Tower and Billingsgate, consisting of two floors, in the uppermost of which, in a wainscoted magnificent room, almost the whole length of the building, and fifteen feet in height, sit the commissioners of the customs, with their officers and clerks. The length of this edifice is a hundred and eighty-nine feet, and the general breadth twenty-seven, but at the west end it is sixty feet broad. It is built of brick and stone, and covered with lead, being adorned with the upper and lower orders of architecture.3. Aldgate, or Ealdgate Ward. The principal streets and places in it are Aldgate Street, Berry Street, part of St. Mary Axe, part of Leadenhall Street, part of Lime Street, Billiter Lane and Square, part of Mark Lane, Fenchurch Street, and Crutchedfriars.The public buildings in this ward are the African House, the Navy Office, Bricklayers’ Hall, the churches of St. Catherine Creechurch, St. James’s, Duke’s Place, St. Andrew Undershaft, St. Catherine Coleman, and the Jews’ Synagogues.The Royal African House is situated on the south side of Leadenhall Street, near the east end of it. Here the affairs of the company are transacted; but the house has nothing in it that merits a particular description.The Navy Office is situated on the south side of Crutchedfriars, near Tower Hill, being a large, well-built pile of buildings, and the offices for every branch of business relating to the navy admirably well disposed.The Jews’ synagogues are in Duke’s Place, where, and in that neighbourhood, many of that religion inhabit. The synagogue stands east and West, as Christian churches usually do: the great door is on the west, within which is a long desk upon an ascent, raised above the floor, from whence the law is read. The east part of the synagogue also is railed in, and the places where the women sit enclosed with lattices; the men sit on benches with backs to them, running east and west; and there are abundance of fine branches for candles, besides lamps, especially in that belonging to the Portuguese.