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the present day, the water is carried about the streets by men employed for the purpose; and a recent attempt to remedy this evil by the establishment of a Water Company has not been successful. Paris is therefore two centuries behind us in this respect. Various have been the methods of furnishing London with water at different periods. The foreign merchants who traded to London not having the privilege of landing their goods, were obliged to sell them on board the ships, until the year 1236, when they purchased the privilege of housing their woad, by paying annually to the city the sum of fifty marks, and giving one hundred pounds towards the bringing of water from Tyburn to the city, which was soon after put in execution by bringing water from six fountains or wells in that neighbourhood, in a leaden pipe of six inches bore to the city.
In 1438, Sir William Eastfield, Knight of the Bath, and mayor of the city, brought water from Tyburn and Highbury Barn to London, and caused conduits to be erected in Fleet-street, Aldermanbury, and at Cripplegate; and in 1535, the common council of the city granted two-fifteenths, for defraying the expense of bringing water from Hackney to Aldgate, where a convenient conduit was erected for it on the south side of the street just without the gate, which proved very useful to the inhabitants in the eastern parts of the city. It was still found that there was not a sufficient quantity of water to supply the common demands of the city, and therefore an application was made to Parliament to empower the mayor and corporation to bring it from Hampstead-Heath, St. Mary-le-bone, Hackney, and Muswell-Hill, upon their indemnifying the owners of lands where they should be obliged to dig or build; this privilege was granted in the thirty-fifth of Henry VIII.
In 1546, two-fifteenths were granted by the commoncouncil, for bringing water from Hoxton fields, and for erecting a conduit in Lothbury. These conduits were now become pretty general in different parts of the city, which were supplied from others at a distance: the
most famous of these was Lamb's Conduit, which is thus noticed by Stowe:
"There lyeth a streete from Newgate west to the end of Turnagaine Lane, and winding north to Oldbourne Conduit. This conduit by Oldbourne Cross was first builded 1498. Thomasin, widow to John Percival, mayor, gave to the second making thereof 20 markes; Richard Shore, ten pounds; Thomas Kneesworth and others, did also give towards it. But of late a new conduit was there builded in place of the old; namely in the yeare 1577,by William Lambe, sometime a gentleman of the chapel to King Henry the Eighth, and afterwards a citizen and clothworker of London; the water thereof he caused to be conveyed in lead from divers springs to one head, and from thence to the said conduit, and waste of one cocke at Oldbourne Bridge, more than two thousand yards in length."
And speaking of Mr. William Lambe, who died in 1577, he says,
"Neere unto Holborne he founded a faire conduit and a standard with a cocke at Holborne Bridge, to convey thence the waste. These were begun the six-and-twentieth day of March, 1577, and the water carried along in pipes of lead more than two thousand yards, all at his own costs and charges, amounting to the sum of fifteene hundred pounds, and the worke fully finished the foure-and-twentieth of August in the same yeere."
And to ascertain more precisely the situation of this edifice, he further says, that from
"The west side of the conduit is the highway, there called Snor (now Snow) Hill, stretching out by Oldbourne Bridge, over the water to Turnmill Brook*, and so up to Oldbourne Hill."
The conduit at Holborn Bridge is believed to have been destroyed in the fire of London, which is known to have extended as far as Cow Lane; if so, it must have been rebuilt, for it is noticed by Hatton as being in existence in his day: "Lamb's Conduit," says he, "at the north end of Red Lion Street, near the fields, affords plenty of water clear as crystal, which is chiefly used for drinking. It belongs to St. Sepulchre's parish, the fountain head being under a stone marked
The Fleet River was formerly called the Wells, and afterwards Turnmill Brook, on account of the many mills erected on it.
S.S. P. in the vacant ground, a little southward of Ormond-street, where the water comes in a drain to this conduit, and it runs thence in lead pipes to the conduit on Snow Hill, which has the figure of a Lamb upon it, denoting that its water comes from Lamb's Conduit *."
In 1582, one Peter Maurice, a German engineer, proposed to the court of Lord Mayor and Aldermen the erecting a machine in the river Thames for raising water, for the more effectual supply of the city; which being approved of, he erected the same in the river, near London Bridge. This curious machine, which raised water to such a height as to supply the uppermost rooms of the loftiest buildings, was the first of the kind ever seen in England; and one not being sufficient, others were added.
In 1594, a large horse engine of four pumps was erected at Broken Wharf, in Thames-street, by Bevis Bulmar, for the convenience of the inhabitants in the western parts; but it' was afterwards laid aside, on account of the expense of working it.
Before a method was found of conveying water by wooden pipes into the streets of London, and from thence by pipes of lead into the several houses, the inhabitants had no other means of supply than by fetching it from the conduits, or paying men who made it their business to bring it from thence. One of these persons we find characterised by the name of Cob, a water-bearer in Ben Jonson's comedy of "Every Man in his Humour:" the vessels they brought it in were called tankards, and held about three gallons; they were hooped round like a pail, and in figure were a frustum of a cone; they had a small iron handle at the upper end, like that of an alehouse pot, and being fitted with a cork bung or stopple, were easily portable on the shoulders of a man. One of these vessels is still used in the representation of the above comedy. As the last instance in remembrance of their actual use, the
* Hatton's New View of London, p. 789.
following may be relied on :-About the year 1730, Mr. James Colebrooke (from whom the present baronet is descended), a very wealthy man and a banker, had a shop nearly adjoining to the Antwerp tavern, behind the Royal Exchange. Opposite thereto, and against the wall of the church of St. Bennet Fink, was a spring of water with a pump, from which a porter, employed to open, and also to water and sweep the shop, every morning duly at eight o'clock, fetched water in such a tankard as is above described. There were also women whose employment it was to carry water from the conduit in pails, a more commodious vessel for a woman's use than a tankard: this may be inferred from Lamb's gift, before mentioned, to poor women, of 120 pails to carry water.
It is painful to reflect that the individual who first stepped forward to render so essential a service to the metropolis as a cheap and abundant supply of water should have been ruined in the enterprise; yet such was the case with Sir Hugh Middleton, who, in projecting and finishing the New River, reaped no other reward than an impoverished fortune and an empty title.
During the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I. acts of Parliament had been obtained for the better supplying of the metropolis with water: but the enterprise seemed too great for any individual, or even for the city collectively, to venture upon, until Mr. Hugh Middleton, a native of Denbigh, and goldsmith of London, offered to begin the work. The court of Common Council accepted his offer; and having vested him with ample powers, this gentleman, with a spirit equal to the importance of the undertaking, at his own risk and charge began the work. He had not proceeded far when innumerable and unforeseen difficulties presented themselves. The art of civil engineering was then little understood in this country, and he experienced many obstructions from the occupiers and proprietors of the lands, through which he was under the necessity of conducting this stream."
The distance of the springs of Amwell and Chadwell,
whence the water was to be brought, is twenty miles from London; but it was found necessary, in order to avoid the eminences and valleys in the way, to make it run a course of more than thirty-eight miles. "The depth of the trench," says Stowe, "in some places, descended full thirty feet, if not more; whereas, in other places, it required as sprightfull arte againe to mount it over a valley, in a trough betweene a couple of hills, and the trough all the while borne up by woodden arches, some of them fixed in the ground very deepe, and rising in height above twenty-three foot."
The industrious projector soon found himself so harassed and impeded by interested persons in Middlesex and in Hertfordshire, that he was obliged to solicit a prolongation of the time, to accomplish his undertaking. This the city granted, but they refused to interest themselves in this great and useful work, although Mr. Middleton was quite impoverished by it. He then applied, with more success, to the king himself, who, upon a moiety of the concern being made over to him, agreed to pay half the expense of the work already incurred, as well as of the future. It now went on without interruption, and was finished according to Mr. Middleton's original agreement with the city; when, on the 29th of September, 1613, the water was let into the basin, now called the New River Head, which was prepared for its reception.
By an exact admeasurement of the course of the New River, taken in 1723, it appeared to be nearly thirtynine miles in length; it has between two and three hundred bridges over it, and upwards of forty sluices in its course; and in divers parts, both over and under the same, considerable currents of land waters, as well as a great number of brooks and rivulets, have their passage.
This great undertaking cost half a million of money, and was the ruin of its first projector, some of whose descendants have received a paltry annuity of 201. from the city, that was so much benefited by the work by which they were rendered destitute.