River of Wells


River of Wells
   This is the name adopted by Stow as the translation of the" rivulum foncium " of the charter of William I. to St. Martin's le Grand.
   The words of the charter are as follows: "Totam terram et moram extra posterulam quae dicitur Cripelesgate, ex utraque parte posterulae, viz.: ab aquilonari cornu muri civitatis, sicut rivulus fontium ibi prope fluentium, ipsam a muro discriminat usque in "aquam currentem quae ingreditur civitatem."
   Stow identifies this River of Wells, as he calls it, with the Fleet, but the " rivulus fontium ibi prope fluentium," which separates the moor from the wall can hardly be the brook now called the Fleet, which has a course due north and south, half a mile west of the" cornu muri."
   It was probably a stream connected with the celebrated wells Clerkenwell, Skinners' Well, Fagswell, Goswell, enumerated by Stow, which stream might have taken its rise in Highbury, and flowing down through Moorfields towards the City wall may have thence turned in an easterly direction to join the Walbrook in its descent to the Thames.
   It may well have been identical with the "water" mentioned in an Inquisition of 3 Ed. I. as "coming down from Smethefield del Barbican in the ward of Cripplegate towards the Moor, over which an arch has been erected at the White Cross occasioning a stoppage of the water on account of its narrowness."
   The portion of the moor given to the church of St. Martin le Grand by William I. would seem to be that portion lying adjacent to Cripplegate and extending from the north corner of the City wall by St. Giles' Church to the Walbrook, viz. Finsbury Fields and the neighbourhood.
   Documents contained in the Lansdowne MS. 170, p.62, emphasize the contiguity of the property to Cripplesgate and make it unlikely that it lay much further west than the north corner of the wall above mentioned.
   It seems almost impossible that the " Rivulus fontium " could be so far west as the Fleet.
   The name "River of Wells" does not occur in early records, and is only Stow's translation of the Latin as stated above, and adopted by later writers in deference to him. Thus in 1652 the Common Ditch or sewer, described as "Fleet Ditch," and the River Wells, also "Tremel-brook," was to be cleansed and encroachments removed (Sewers, Bt. Museum, 669, f. 16/88).
   The name is also used by Bagford in a letter to T. Hearne in Leland's Collectanea, I. lxiv.

A Dictionary of London. . 1918.

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