Category Archives: Water

Great Conduit

Laid in 1245 this supplied water from springs near Tyburn to the west of the City (where Marble Arch now stands)

The main consumers were brewers, fishmongers and chefs but some private houses also purchased a supply. Households could fill up a bucket for free.

In 1270 when Edward 1 brought his wife, Eleanor of Castille, to London for the first time the Conduit ran, not with water, but wine for all to drink (red and white, reportedly).

The conduit was almost 3 miles long. It comprised pipes which were ten to twenty feet in length. These were made from tree trunks hollowed out with a 6” auger and then shaped at the end to dovetail into each other.

The conduit was lost to the Great Fire of 1666.

Aldgate Pump

There was a well recorded here in 1200s and the first record of a pump appears to be in 1574.

The wolf’s head on the east side of the pump is reputed to mark the last place a wolf was seen in the City.

The water came from a stream which reputedly flowed from Hampstead north-west of the City but this is not possible as the Walbrook River, which flows from Shoreditch to the north-east, is in the way!

It was reported as being “bright, sparkling, cool and of an agreeable taste” but in the 1870s was contaminated by graveyard water and several hundred people died from drinking it. A local vicar had the water analysed and the pump was closed in 1875.

The pump was moved in 1876 because of a road widening exercise and was finally connected to the mains. A regular patron was the Whittard Tea Company who filled their kettles there. It remained in use until the 1920s.