The Great Conduit in Westcheap
- At the eastern end of Cheapside in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch, opposite the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acons, or Mercers' Chapel.Shown on Leake's map 1666.Earliest mention: Stow says it was begun to be made in 1285 (S. 17, 267, 511) ; but in the Chron. of London (1189-1485) under the date 12 Ed. I. is the entry, that "in this yere the grete conduyt in Chepe was newe begonne to maken," whilst in a deed of 1268 in the cartulary of the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon preserved amongst the archives of the Mercers' Company, the hospital is described as near the conduit (Mercer's Co. p. 250).In the Cal. Charter Rolls, II. 38. under date 1261, some houses are described as in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch in Westchepe opposite the conduit.Pink, in his History of Clerkenwell (p. 441), says that nine conduits were erected in 1238 to supply the City with water, and that the conduit in Cheapside, which had been 50 years in building, was completed in 1285.This would seem to be a possible explanation, for the grant of the fountain head in Tyburn for the supply of water was made in 1237 (Cal. L. Bk. A. p. 14) and the erection of the conduit commenced in 1245 (Ann. Lond. 44). It is reasonable to suppose that the conduits which were to receive and preserve the water for the use of the citizens would be erected as soon as possible after 1237. The supply seems to have been brought from Tybum by way of Constitution Hill, the Mews at Charing Cross, through the Strand and Fleet Street to Cheapside (Riley's Mem. 503-4).Certain citizens were elected from time to time to see to the repair and upkeep of the conduits (Lib. Albus, I. 581-2, 685, 693, 700, 730), and bequests were made sometimes by citizens in their wills for the purpose (Ct. Hust. W. II. 201, 218.)In 2 Rich. II. (1378) the conduit in Chepe was repaired and the water carried up to the crossways on the top of Cornhill (Cal. L. Bk. II. p. 108).Brewers, cooks and fishmongers were specially assessed to contribute to these repairs on account of the amount of water they used for the purposes of their trades (Riley's Mem. p. 107), and in 1337 orders were made to restrain the waste of water of the conduit (ib. 200), while in 1345 it was further represented that the conduit being built for the use of rich and middling persons in the midst of the City, the water was not to be wasted by the brewers (ib. 225).The conduit was rebuilt by Thos. Ilam about 1480 (Grafton II. 70).Removed after the Great Fire and not rebuilt (Strype, ed. 1720, I. iii. 49), as being in the middle of the street it interfered with the traffic.The conduits seem to have been well and strongly built of stone, castellated and ornamented, so that they were notable objects in the City, and on occasions of importance and rejoicing they were often gaily decorated and were made to run with wine instead of water, as in 1273-4 (Fr. Ch. p. 13), 1312 (Riley's Mem. pp. 106-7).
A Dictionary of London. Henry A Harben. 1918.
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