Two Drawings of the Old London Bridge

Our appreciation of Old London Bridge is greatly helped and our interest sustained by the contemporary drawings and prints, especially by the two here reproduced. The first is after a drawing by John Norden, engraved in 1597, which shows the east side of the Bridge together with a stretch of the Thames in the foreground and a lot of boats, some of which have been shooting the Bridge in which act one has come to grief and, being upset, has thrown its passengers into the water. Below are inscriptions that we reproduce.

The other drawing was made about 1700 after the houses on the Bridge had been partly burned and rebuilt. It shows two views of the Bridge, from the East and from the West. Below is inscribed the author’s version of its history together with a poem and a key to the several special features. These we print on separate pages. The key at the bottom of page 396 refers to marks that may be found on the print on page 394.

To the right honorable Sr Ric. Saltonstall
Lord Mayoer of the Citti of london

Among manie famous monumentes wtin this realm none
Deserueth more to be sett before the worlds uiew by demonstration
Then this london bridge. And yet it hath not found so much
Grace amonge the more sufficient artiste. And therefore I the menest
Being therunto moued Haue under yoer garde aduentured to
Publish this rude Conterfeite thereof to the end that as by reporte
The fame of it is spred throwgh manie nations. So by this picture
It may appeare to such as haue heard of it and not reallye
Beheld it to be noe lesse prays worthy the it hath bene sayd to bee
yoer lordships.
John Norden
To the beholder

This bridge leadeth from london to Southworke
It was finished of stone by the Citizens in the time of k. John
It is in:

Length nere-800—foote
Height-60—foote
Breadth-30—foote

Ther inhabite upon this bridge aboue 100 howsholders
Wher also are all kinde of wares to be bought and sowlde
The howses are on eyther side so artificially combyned
As the bridge seemeth a contynuall strete
But men walke as under a ferme vaute or lofte

Engraving impression showing boats on the river Thames in front of the London Bridge
John Norden’s View of London Bridge from East to WEst. This Illustration Showing Old London Bridge is REduced froma Large Photoengraving published in 1919, by the London Topographical Society and Made by Emery Walker from an Impression Engraved in the Year 1597.
Image Number: 22665

An Historical Description Of The Great And Admirable Bridge In The City Of London Over The River Thames

At first there was but a Ferry kept in the place wher now the Bridge is built, at length the Ferryman & his Wife deceasing, left the said Ferry to their only Daughter a Mayden, who with other goods, left her by her Parents, together with the profits arising from the said Ferry, did build a holy House for Nuns, in place whereof ye East part of St. MARY OVERIES stands now above the Quire, where she was buried: and unto that House of Nuns, she bequeathed the oversight and benefit of the Ferry; but afterwards, that House of Nuns being converted into a House of Priests, the Priests did build a Bridge of Timber, and kept the same in good reparation, till at length, considering the great charges thereof, there was at last, by the contributions of the citizens, and others, a Bridge built of Stone. The Timber Bridge was founded about the Year 961, and with once rebuilding and repairations was maintained 215 Years before the Bridge of Stone was erected. Now about the Year 1176, ye Stone Bridge was founded by PETER of COLE-CHURCH (who as principal benefactor was buried in ye Chappel on the Bridge) near unto the place of the Timber Bridge, but somewhat more West. This work, to wit, the Arches, Chappel, and Stone-Bridge over the THAMES at London, having been 33 Years in building, was in the Year 1209 finished. A Mason being Master Workman of the Bridge, builded from the foundation the large Chappel on that Bridge upon his own charges, and dedicated it to St. THOMAS A BECKET, which Chappel was then endow’d with two Priests and four Clerks, etc. besides Chanteries : After the finishing of this Chapel, which was the first building upon ye Arches, sundry Mansion Houses in tract of time were erected. But this noble Bridge as all other things, hath suffer’d many disasters since for in the Year 1212 it suffer’d much by Fire both on ye North & South. In ye year 1282, through a great frost & deep snow, 5 Arches of London Bridge were born down & destroyed. A little after Anno 1289, ye Bridge was so decay’d for want of reparations, the people were afraid to pass thereon. In ye Year 1426 was built a Tower at ye North end of ye Drawbridge (which was then in a posture to be drawn up) in ye Majoralty of John Ramwell. In ye Year 1633, there happen’d another most rageing Fire upon ye North side of London-Bridge, which consum’d above ye 3d part of ye buildings thereof: But by ye comendable care of ye City, there are other goodly structures rais’d up in their rooms of a stronger & more stately way of Building. There is no object (after ye Church of St. Pauls) can conduce more to ye glory & Ornament of the renowned City of LONDON.

Engraving impression showing boats on the river Thames in front of the London Bridge
Two View of London Bridge About the Beginning of the 18th Century. This Illustration is Reduced from a Large Engraving Published in 1921 by the London Topographical Society and made by Emery Walker.
Image Number 22664

Of London Bridge, and the Stupendous Site, and Structure Thereof.

When NEPTUNE from his billows LONDON spyde,
Brought proudly thither by a high Spring-tyde;
As through a floating Wood He steer’d along,
And dancing Castles cluster’d in a throng;
When he beheld a mighty BRIDGE give law
Unto his surges, and their fury awe,
When such a shelf of Cataracts did roar,
As if the THAMES with NILE had chang’d her shoar
When he such massy Walls, such Towrs did eye
Such Posts, such Irons upon his back to lye,
When such vast Arches he observed, that might
Nineteen *Rialto’s make for deph and height,
When the Cerulean God these things survey’d,
He shook his Trident, and astonish’d said,
Let the whole Earth now all her Wonders Count
This Bridge of Wonders is the Paramount.

The Water mills which serve the City.
Ye Queens Arch.
the Square on London Bridge.
Nonsuch-house built without Nails or any Ironwork in the Timber.
The Draw-bridge.
The bridge-Gate, whereon are fix’d the heads of Traitors.
The House which was St. Thomas a Beckets Chappel.


* The prime Bridge of Venice.