Every November the new Lord Mayor of London holds his Show – a colourful procession of the City Guilds and dignitaries through the streets of the City. At the head of the procession are two enormous effigies of giants. These are Gog and Magog, the traditional guardians of the City of London and they have been carried in the Lord Mayor’s Show since the reign of Henry V. Their origins lie in the distant past and are quite unknown to us. Over the centuries, many people have produced various “explanations” of their origins. Perhaps the most entertaining was that of John Galt who published his History in 1819. In this series we will present his full text, Chapter by chapter. Here is Chapter 14.
CHAPTER XIV.HOW THE PRINCESS WAS SOUGHT IN MARRIAGE BY SEVERAL GREAT CHARACTERS; AND, HAVING, PREFERRED TOOLY, PRINCE OF SOUTHWARK, ABOVE ALL OTHERS, HOW LONDON- BRIDGE WAS BUILT TO FACILITATE THEIR UNION.THE readiness expressed by the Princess, in her answer to the city address, to comply with the request of the corporation, was soon rumoured abroad, and many illustrious suitors made proposals of marriage; but none were encouraged, except TOOLY, the hereditary prince of Southwark, an ancient maritime state, on the south side of the Thames, which had already shewn much jealousy at the rising commerce and prosperity of the new city, and with which an alliance was the more desirable, as the Londoners were not yet in a condition to dispute with that people the sovereignty of the river.When all the preliminaries for the marriage were settled, as the union of the two people was the main object of the match, it was thought that the event could not be more appropriately celebrated than by the Formation of some public work, that should remain as a monument of the same to posterity. After many consultations held on the subject, it was at last determined that the best and most useful work to which the abilities and resources of the two states could be applied, was the construction of a bridge that should unite the new city with the territories of Southwark.This important measure being resolved on, Gog and Magog were instructed to have the same executed with all speed, that the bridge might be ready to be opened for the marriage procession.It was not then customary to have public works executed by contract; and Gog and Magog, having no view to personal emolument, they proceeded with this undertaking in the most economical manner. A survey was taken of the standing timber on the domains of the deceased giant; and the largest and best trees, for such an erection, were found on the ground now well known by the name of Woodstreet. Gog, gave directions to have them cut down; while Magog, attended by several respectable citizens, was making provision for having them disposed in their proper places in the river by means of pile-drivers.One great difficulty, however, remained to be conquered, namely, the impediments which presented themselves to the removal of such heavy and unwieldy masses of timber. The sagacity of Gog, who was ever fruitful in expedients, supplied the remedy. He ordered the trunks of the trees to be rolled to the side of a small stream, which, in after ages, was known by the name of Walbrook; but which, since the great fire in 1666, has flowed in a subterranean channel; and, although it passes in the immediate neighbourhood of the Mansion-house, is but little known to the public. Here, having dammed up the waters in their descent below Lawrence Pountney-hill, he launched the timber and so floated it down till it arrived at a fall of the current, where it was stopped by the broken nature of the channel. And having, by an ingenious contrivance, afterwards contrived to move it to the river on rollers, the place acquired the name of Budge Row, from the timber being moved or budged at that place; every body being aware, that to budge, and to move, are words of equal import in the genuine language of this, enlightened and highly civilized nation.The timber for the bridge being thus conveyed to the Thames, Magog, with his party, placed it in its proper station : so that, in a wonderful short time, the first London-bridge was constructed. Several centuries after, when it stood in need of repair, this original structure was removed, and the present stone fabric, substituted in its place; but some remains of the ancient edifice may still be seen at low water.As soon as the bridge was finished, a day was fixed for the opening of it; and his serene highness, Prince Tooly, was conducted, with a goodly train of gentlemen, knights, and other persons of rank and quality, across the same, from his hereditary residence in Southwark to the mansion of Londona, where the marriage was celebrated with all the magnificence and splendour befitting the dignity of her high station, and her own renowned achievements.