Story Of London

The City Wards

We launch our exploration of the topography of the City of London with a brief description of the ancient basis of the jurisdiction within the Liberties – its Wards. They first appeared in the Norman period and have remained the basis of the governance of the City down to the present day.

From very early times the city of London has been divided into wards for the purposes of government and go back to the Norman period more or less in their present forms. Each has its own Warden, or Alderman, to take care of running of the Ward. There were 20 wards in 1130 and this had grown to 24 by 1206. In 1394, the ward of Farringdon had become so large that it was divided into two – Farringdon within and Farringdon Without. The number remained at 25 until 1550 when the Mayor and Commonalty of the City acquired the liberties of he Borough of Southwark and created Bridge Ward Without. It was stipulated that the Aldermen for this Ward must be a former Lord Mayor and must also have held office as a Sheriff of the City. This Ward was abolished in 1978 when it reverted to the modern Borough of Southwark.

Once elected, Aldermen historically remained in office for life but this has changed and the 25 modern Aldermen are required at retire at the normal retiring age for magistrates, presently 70. The 25 Aldermen form the Court of Aldermen which must approve all newly elected Aldermen and also has the final vote on who is to be the Lord Mayor.

In general, the wards grew along the line of a main street, frequently about a main crossing. The street which forms the main artery of the Ward generally gives it its name. In addition, each of the principal gates of the City has given its name to a ward, which was formed about the main street leading to the gate. However, the in the earliest records the wards are, for the most part, known by the names of their respective Aldermen and not by their present topographical designations. This has led to the suggestion that the early wards represented the estates of the Aldermen who presided over them, or at least that they possessed very considerable property in them. It is also possible that the succession to them was hereditary.

The following table lists the 26 wards in the order given by John Stow in his 1598 Survey of London and gives a brief description of the boundaries of each. Future articles in the will carry Stow’s descriptions of the individual wards and also those give by Don Manuel Gonzales in 1731. The series will then move on to focus on the individual streets within each ward.

Portsoken WardDerives its name from the ‘soc’ or ‘soke’ (the franchise) within the ‘port’ or gate called Aldgate. It is without the walls, but within the liberties of the City. Bounded on the north by Bishopsgate, what are now Middlesex and Mansell Streets in the east, Tower Hill to the south and the city wall on the west.
Tower Street WardGets its name from its contiguity to the Tower of London. It is bounded on the north by Fenchurch-street, on the south by the Thames, on the east by the Tower, and on the west by Billingsgate.
Aldgate WardSo called from Aldgate, the city gate in the east. It is bounded by Bevis Marks and Duke’s Place to the north, the city wall to the east, Crutched Friars to the south and St. Mary Axe and Lime-street on the west.
Lime Street WardTakes its name from a street on its boundary. Bounded to the north by Camomile Street, to the east by St Mary Axe and Lime Street. The latter also forms part of the southern boundary which continues along the edge of Leadenhall Market. The western boundary runs along Gracechurch Street and Bishopsgate.
Bishopsgate WardTakes its name from the city gate. It is a long narrow ward, encompassing the whole of Bishopsgate Street both within and without the city wall. The northern boundary is at Worship Street, the eastern is at Spitalfields and Middlesex Street outside the wall. Inside the wall it is large confined to Bishopsgate Street on the east with part of Fenchurch Street on the south. Moorfields forms the western boundary outside the wall.
Broad Street WardTakes its name from Broad-street, the principal street within the ward. On the north it is bounded by London Wall with the eastern boundary along Bishopsgate Street. Threadneedle Street forms the southern boundary and Coleman Street the western limit.
Cornhill WardSo called from its principal street. Roughly triangular in shape, Threadneedle Street forms the northern boundary with parts of Bishopsgate and Gracechurch Streets on the east. Cornhill itself forms the south boundary the Mansion House to the west.
Langbourne WardNamed from a watercourse, or long bourne, which once ran along Lombard Street. Lombard-street and Fenchurch-street are in this ward. Cornhill, Lime Street and Crutched Friars form the northern boundary. The east lies along Billiter Street and Mark lane. Great Tower Street and Eastcheap define the southern boundary. The western boundary is along the line of the modern King William Street.
Billingsgate WardSo called from the quay or water-gate on the Thames of that name. Bounded to the north by Little East-cheap and several tenements adjoining; to the east by Smart’s quay, later Custom-house-stairs; to the south by the Thames and by Monument-yard and Pudding Lane on the west
Bridge Ward WithinNamed from London Bridge, which is a principal part of that ward. Bounded to the north by Gracechurch-street, as far as Fenchurch-street. to the east by Monument-yard and the east wall of St. Magnus Church, to the south by the Thames and to the west by Old Swan-stairs, and part of King-William-street.
Candlewick Street WardGenerally called “Candelwykstrete” Ward up to the 16ty century. Named after the street, which intersected it from east to west and which is now Cannon Street. Bounded on the north by Lombard Street, by fish Street Hill on the east, the Thames on the south and by Laurence Pounteney and Abchurch Lanes on the west.
Walbrook WardSo called from the river that ran from Moorfields down to the Thames. It northern boundary is Poultry and mansion House. Abchurch lane is the eastern boundary whilst the southern boundary runs a little below the south side of Cannon Street. The western boundary ran behind the tenements on the west side of Walbrook.
Downgate WardOr Dowgate Ward, derived its name from a Watergate of that name. Its northern boundary lies just to the south of Cannon Street, the eastern boundary is Swan lane. The Thames bounds it on the south and the western boundary is Dowgate Hill.
Vintry WardSo called from the Vintry where the wine merchants landed their wines. Bounded to the north by St. Thomas Apostle’s and to the east by Dowgate Hill. The Thames forms the southern boundary and Queenhithe the western one.
Cordwainer Street WardNamed from the Cordwainers or Shoemakers, currier and other workers of leather who lived in this area. The northern boundary is Cheapside and the eastern one the tenements on the west side of Walbrook. The southern boundary I s St Thomas Apostle whilst the western boundary is formed by the back of the tenements along the east side of Bread Street.
Cheape WardTakes its name from the Cheap or market which used to run along Cheapside. The northern boundary was Gresham Street and the north side of Guildhall. The eastern boundary was formed by Old Jewry and the mansion House. The southern boundary was the south side of Cheapside and the western boundary ran behind the tenements on the east side of Milk Street.
Coleman Street WardSo called from the street of that name. The northern boundary was London Wall, and the tenements on the east side of Coleman Street define the eastern boundary. The southern boundary is at Poultry and the western runs behind the tenements on the west side of Coleman Street.
Basinghall WardAlso called Bassishaw ward, a small ward basically running along Basinghall Street the tenements on which form the eastern and western boundaries. It stretches from London Wall in the north to Cheapside in the south.
Cripplegate WardSo called from the gate in the City wall of the same name. It is divided into two portions, Cripplegate Within, and Cripplegate Without. Outside the wall the northern boundary extended as far as Baltic Street in the west and Chiswell Street on the east with Moorgate forming the eastern boundary and Aldersgate Street the western. Inside the wall, Basinghall Street forms the eastern boundary, and Cheapside the southern. The western boundary runs behind the tenements on the west side of Wood Street.
Aldersgate WardSo called from the old City gate of the same name, which stood across the high road between Bull-and-Mouth-street and Little Britain. It is divided into two distinct portions – Aldersgate Within and Aldersgate Without but returns a single Alderman. Outside the walls the tenements on either side of Aldersgate and the west side of Little Britain define the eastern and western boundaries. The northern boundary lies at Fann Street. Inside the walls It runs along St Martins Le Grand with the eastern boundary to the west of Wood Street, the southern along Cheapside and the east end of Newgate Street.
Farringdon Ward WithinNamed after William Farringdon, a goldsmith and a Sheriff in 1281.Its northern boundary lies along the back of the tenements on the north side of Newgate Street, the eastern behind those on the west side of St Martins le Grand, Ave Maria lane, Creed lane and St Andrew’s Hill. The Thames forms the southern boundary whilst the western is defined by New Bridge Street and Old Bailey.
Bread Street WardTakes its name from Bread-street, the chief street within the ward. Bounded to the north by Cheapside, to the east by the back of the tenements on the east side of Bread Street, to the south by Old Fish Street and the west by Old Change.
Queenhithe WardSo called from the old part of London of the same name. The northern boundary is formed by Old Fish-street and Trinity-lane, the eastern by Bull-Wharf-lane, the southern by the Thames and the western by Paul’s-wharf, part of St. Peter’s-hill and the upper end of Lambert-hill.
Castle Baynard WardNamed from Baynard’s Castle which stood on the Thames bank south of Ludgate. The northern boundary consists of Warwick lane and Paternoster Row, the eastern by Old Change and Paul’s wharf. The Thames forms the southern boundary and the western is defined by St Andrew’s Hill, Creed Lane and Ave Maria Lane.
Farringdon Ward WithoutThe largest Ward and named after William Farringdon, a goldsmith and a Sheriff in 1281. It is bounded to the north by Holborn and Smithfield, to the east by Old bailey and New Bridge Street. The Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and Temple Stairs forms the southern boundary and the western is defined by Temple Bar and chancery Lane.
Bridge Ward WithoutNamed from London Bridge. The northern boundary was the Thames. The ward stretched eastwards towards Rotherhithe for half a mile and westwards towards Lambeth for a good mile. in the east almost as far as Lambeth in the west and as far south as the New Kent Road.