Story Of London

The City Wards in 1731: IV

Our next instalment from the Gonzales guide to London in the early part of the 18th century explores the Langbourne, Billinsgate and Bridge Within wards. The first of these includes Lombard Street which housed the General Post Office and Gonzales gives us a detailed description of the early postal service in London. Billinsgate Ward includes, of course, the main fish market of London whilst the most notable feature of Bridge Ward Within is the Monument to the Great Fire of London.

8. Langbourn Ward, so called of a bourne, or brook, that had its source in it, and run down Fenchurch Street, contains these principal streets: part of Lombard Street, part of Fenchurch Street, part of Lime Street, and part of Gracechurch Street, with part of the courts, lanes, and alleys in them, particularly White Hart Court, Exchange Alley, Sherbourne Lane, Abchurch Lane, St. Nicholas Lane, Mark Lane, Mincing Lane, Rood Lane, Cullum Court, Philpot Lane, and Braben Court.The public buildings in this ward are, the Post Office, Ironmongers’ Hall, Pewterers’ Hall; the churches of Allhallows, Lombard Street, St. Edmund’s, Lombard Street, St. Mary Woolnoth, St. Dionis Backchurch, and St. Allhallows Staining.The General Post OfficeThe Post Office is situated on the south side of Lombard Street, near Stocks Market. It was the dwelling-house of Sir Robert Vyner, in the reign of King Charles II. The principal entrance is out of Lombard Street, through a great gate and passage that leads into a handsome paved court, about which are the several offices for receiving and distributing letters, extremely well contrived.Letters and packets are despatched from hence every Monday to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Flanders, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Kent, and the Downs.Every Tuesday to the United Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and to all parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Every Wednesday to Kent only, and the Downs.Every Thursday to France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and all parts of England and Scotland.Every Friday to the Austrian and United Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and to Kent and the Downs.Every Saturday to all parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland.The post goes also every day to those places where the Court resides, as also to the usual stations and rendezvous of His Majesty’s fleet, as the Downs, Spithead, and to Tunbridge during the season for drinking waters, &c.Letters and packets are received from all parts of England and Scotland, except Wales, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; from Wales every Monday and Friday; and from Kent and the Downs every day.His Majesty keeps constantly, for the transport of the said letters and packets, in times of peace.Between England andFrance, three packet-boats;Spain, one in a fortnight;Portugal, one ditto;Flanders, two packet-boats;Holland, three packet-boats; Ireland, three packet-boats.And at Deal, two packet-boats for the Downs.Not to mention the extraordinary packet-boats, in time of war with France and Spain, to the Leeward Islands, &c.A letter containing a whole sheet of paper is conveyed eighty miles for 3d., and two sheets 6d. and an ounce of letters but 1s. And above eighty miles a single letter is 4d., a double letter 8d., and an ounce 1s. 4d.9. Billingsgate Ward is bounded by Langbourn Ward towards the north, by Tower Street Ward on the east, by the River Thames on the south, and by Bridge Ward Within on the west. The principal streets and places in this ward are, Thames Street, Little East Cheap, Pudding Lane, Botolph Lane, Love Lane, St. Mary Hill, and Rood Lane.St Margaret PattensThe wharves, or quays, as they lie on the Thames side from east to west, are, Smart’s Quay, Billings gate, Little Somer’s Quay, Great Somer’s Quay, Botolph Wharf, Cox’s Quay, and Fresh Wharf which last is the next quay to the bridge; of which Billingsgate is much the most resorted to. It is a kind of square dock, or inlet, having quays on three sides of it, to which the vessels lie close while they are unloading. By a statute of the 10th and 11th of William III. it was enacted,”That Billingsgate should be a free market for fish every day in the week, except Sundays.” That a fishing-vessel should pay no other toll or duty than the Act prescribes, viz., every salt-fish vessel, for groundage, 8d. per day, and 20d. per voyage; a lobster boat 2d. per day groundage, and 13d. the voyage; every dogger boat, or smack with sea-fish, 2d. per day groundage, and 13d. the voyage; every oyster vessel, 2d. per day groundage, and a halfpenny per bushel metage. And that it should be lawful for any person who should buy fish in the said market to sell the same in any other market or place in London, or elsewhere, by retail.” And because the fishmongers used to buy up great part of the fish at Billingsgate, and then divide the same among themselves, in order to set an extravagant price upon them, it was enacted, “That no person should buy, or cause to be bought, in the said market of Billingsgate, any quantity of fish, to be divided by lot among the fishmongers, or other persons, with an intent to sell them afterwards by retail; and that no fishmonger should buy any more than for his own use, on pain of 20 pounds.” And by the 6th Annae it was enacted, “That no person should buy fish at Billingsgate to sell again in the same market; and that none but fishermen, their wives, or servants, should sell fish by retail at Billingsgate; and that none should buy or sell fish there before the ringing of the market bell.”The public buildings in this ward are Butchers’ Hall, and the churches of St. Mary Hill, St. Margaret Pattens, and St. George, in Botolph Lane.10. Bridge Ward Within contains London Bridge, New Fish Street, Gracechurch Street as far as Fenchurch Street, Thames Street from Fish Street to the Old Swan, part of St. Martin’s Lane, part of St. Michael’s Lane, and part of Crooked Lane.The MonumentThe public buildings in this ward are London Bridge, the Monument, Fishmongers’ Hall, and the churches of St. Magnus and St Bennet, Gracechurch Street.The Monument stands on the west side of Fish Street Hill, a little to the northward of the bridge, and was erected by the legislative authority, in memory of the Fire, anno 1666, and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It has a fluted column, 202 feet high from the ground; the greatest diameter of the shaft 15 feet, and the plinth, or lowest part of the pedestal, 28 feet square, and 40 feet high; the whole being of Portland stone, except the staircase within, which is of black marble, containing 345 steps, ten inches and a half broad, and six inches deep; and a balcony on the outside 32 feet from the top, on which is a gilded flame. The front of the pedestal, towards the west, contains a representation of the Fire, and the resurrection of the present city out of the ruins of the former.