Part VI. {page 77}

VI. Account of the Old Bridge at Stratford-le-Bow in Essex, in a Letter from ALFRED BURGES, Esq. addressed to Sir HENRY ELLIS, K.H., F.R.S., Secretary.

Read 12th and 19th May, 1836.

23, Great George Street,
7th May, 1836.


I HAVE the honour to send you an account and some drawings of the celebrated Old Bridge at Stratford-le-Bow, and I hope you will consider them of sufficient interest to be submitted to the Society of Antiquaries.
Since the paper was written, the greater part of the bridge has been taken down to give place to another of granite, of one arch, which is now in progress of erection under the direction of Mr. Walker and myself as engineers; and, should any further information respecting the Old Bridge be obtained during the progress of the work, I shall have great pleasure in transmitting it to you.
I have honour to be,
Your most obedient servant,

To Sir Henry Ellis, K.H.
F.R.S. Sec.

BOW BRIDGE, the subject of this inquiry, has been long celebrated as one of the most ancient, if indeed not the oldest, stone bridge in England. It is situated in the immediate neighbourhood of London, crossing the river Lea on the high road to Essex, at a distance not exceeding three miles from the centre of the metropolis.
It was erected in the early part of the eleventh century, under the auspices of the pious Matilda, Queen-consort to King Henry the First, to form a more direct and safe communication between the metropolis and the county of Essex than the then existing passage across the river by the dangerous ferry at the Old Ford.
At the period of its erection, the Bridge was no doubt a structure of the plainest description of building and, like many such erections of former ages more to be admired for massive solidity, than for any architectural beauty of construction; but it is nevertheless interesting to the antiquary, as possessing the character of building that marked the first attempts of bridge-building in this country - such as large piers formed for the support of small and low-arched openings, and high battlements for the protection of a roadway of the narrowest possible dimensions.
Before commencing the history of the Bridge, it may not be considered altogether uninteresting to notice the line of communication anterior to its erection.
Most historians assign the first Roman colony founded in Britain to the county of Essex, and it is as universally allowed, that several stations and towns were early established in different parts of it; and consequently, at this early period, attention must have been directed to the formation of proper roads between them.
Without attempting a description of the roads made by the Romans in Essex, it will be sufficient for the present purpose to notice that which formed the direct communication with London.
It was the opinion of Dr. Stukeley, who wrote very largely upon the Roman remains in this country, that the Watling-street of the Romans from Chester to Dover, was crossed at Tyburn by another road from Chicester to Dunwich in Suffolk; this last road passing along Old-street, north of the city, continued forward to Colchester, &c. and is considered by that antiquary to be the high Essex road of the present day.
The same author also informs us, that "when the Romans enlarged the city, and enclosed it by a new wall, they also made a branch to proceed from St. Giles's, which is now called Holborn, built a gate at Newgate, and continued the road to Cheapside."
This last line of communication was continued east of the city; and Maitland, in his History of London, describes it to be the "Roman vicinal way through Aldgate by Bethnall Green to the trajectus or ferry at Old Ford," where it no doubt joined the Via Iceniana described by Dr. Stukeley.
From this it will appear that the great Roman road into Essex crossed the river Lea by means of a ferry at Old Ford, in which direction it continued for many centuries after the Romans left this island, or, in fact, until the erection of a bridge at Bow.
This road is noticed so early as the seventh century, when the body of St. Erkenwald was stopped at Ilford and Stratford by the flood, as it was being conveyed from the abbey of Barking, where he died, for interment in London; but upon this occasion the chronicles record the intervention of a miracle, by which a safe and easy passage was procured for the corpse of the holy man and its attendants.
As this event occurred about the year 685 (nearly 300 years after the Romans left Britain), it goes far to prove that the approaches to London from the county of Essex, continued for many centuries along the ancient roads formed by these conquerors, viz. by crossing the river Lea at Old Ford, where one branched to the south-west through Bethnall Green to Aldgate, as described by Maitland, and the other continued in a straight direction across Cambridge Heath to Old-street, according to Dr. Stukeley's statement, until the early part of the eleventh century, when a bridge was built over the river Lea at Bow, a short distance to the south of the ferry. The direction of the road was then turned, with a considerable curve, to the southward; the deviation commencing, no doubt, where the road now makes an angle between the fourth and fifth mile stone, or where the low marsh land meets the high ground, and continuing across the bridge until it joined the ancient road to Cheapside at Aldgate, in the line of the present principal approach to the city from the county of Essex.
Morant, in his History of Essex, has particularly noticed these roads, as also the circumstance which led to the erection of the bridge, in the following passage:
"The ancient road from this county to London was by Old Ford, that is, through the ford there without a bridge; but, that passage being difficult and dangerous, and many persons losing their lives, or being thoroughly wetted, which happened to be the case of Maud, Queen-consort of King Henry I. she turned the road from Old Ford to the place where it now is, between Stratford-Bow, and West Ham, and caused also the bridges and causeway to be built and made at her own charge."
Stow has also recorded this event in his Annals; his account is in substance nearly the same as that already given, but being rather more in detail, it is here transcribed in the language of the curious old antiquary's work (edit. 1631, page 135).
After recording the death of Queen Matilda, he goes on to state that "Matilda when she saw the way to bee dangerous to them yt travailed by the Old foord over the river of Lue (for she herselfe had beene well washed in the water) caused two stone bridges to be builded in a place one mile distant from the Old foord, of the which, one was situated over Lue at the head of the towne of Stratford, now called Bow, a rare peice of worke, for before the time the like had never beene seene in England. The other over the little brooke comonly called Chanelsebridge. Shee made the King's high-way of gravel between the two bridges. Moreover, shee gave manors and a mil comonly called Wigon mil to the Abbesse of Barking, for the repairing of the bridges and highway. But afterwards Gilbert de Mountfichet builded the abbey of Stratford in the Marshes, the abbot whereof, by giving a piece of money, purchased to himselfe the manors and mil aforesaid, and covenanted to repair the bridges arid way, till at length hee laid the charge upon one Godfrey Prat, allowing him certaine loaves of bread daily, that he should repaire the bridges and way. Who being helpen by the ayde of travailers, did not only performe the charge, but also was a gainer to himselfe, which thing the abbot perceiving, he with-holdeth from him part of the bread promised. Whereupon Godfrey demanded a toll of the wayfaring men, and to them that denied he stopped the way, till at length, wearied with toyle hee neglecteth his charge, whereof came the decay and mine of the stone bridge and way."
This is nearly the whole that Stow has given us as connected with tile Bridge, although some slight notice is taken of it when he speaks of the office of Bridge Master to the city of London. Stratford bridge, he observes, "being the first builded with arches of stone, was therefore called Stratford le Bow."
But in the account of this bridge as given by Mr. Lysons, we find reference made to an inquisition taken on oath before Robert de Retford and Henry Springurnall, the King's justices in 1303 (31 Edw. I.), of which a more particular account will be given.
In this inquisition the early history of the bridge is set forth nearly as already stated, but with the following interesting additions, which form a continuation of the narrative from the period to which it is brought down by Stow in his Annals. By this document it appears that "Hugh Pratt," who, by the bye, Stow has named Godfrey Pratt, "living near the road and bridges, in the reign of King John, did of his own authority, begging the aid of passengers, keep them in repair. After his death, his son William did the same for some time, and afterwards, through the interest of Robert Passelew, the King's justice, obtained a toll," (which, according to the note attached to Morant's account of the bridge, was, for every cart carrying corn, wood, coal, &c. one penny, of one carrying tasel two pence, and of one carrying a dead Jew eight pence), "which enabled him to make an iron railing upon a certain bridge called Lock bridge, from which circumstance he changed his name from Pratt to Bridgewryght, and then were the bridges repaired, till Philip Burnet and the Abbot of Waltham, being hindered from passing that way with their waggons in the late reign, broke down the railing, whereby the said William being no longer able to repair it, left the bridge in ruins, in which state it remained till Queen Eleanor of her bounty ordered it to be repaired, committing the charge of it to William de Capella, keeper of her chapel. After which, one William de Charlton, yet living, repaired all the bridges with the effects of Bartholomew de Castello deceased."
The most ancient, and undoubtedly the most authentic account of the foundation of the bridges and causeway at Stratford, are to be found among the records preserved in the Chapter House at Westminster.
The records referred to give the detailed proceedings in the Court of King's Bench, in the sixth and eighth years of King Edward II., wherein the Abbot of Stratford, the Master of London Bridge, and the Master of St. Thomas of Acre, are charged with the repairs of the bridges and causeway at Stratford, as holding certain mills and other property, originally given by Queen Matilda to the Abbess of Barking, for their support and maintenance.
In these documents we follow the parties step by step to the final settlement of the question, which was at last arranged by an agreement entered into between the Abbess of Barking and the Abbot of West Ham, the latter undertaking to repair the bridges for ever after, upon receiving a sum of money from the Abbess. The agreement here referred to will be found in the Appendix.
The pleadings of the 6th and 8th of Edward II. refer to former inquisition taken in the 37th and 46th years of the reign of Henry III., and the 3rd year of the reign of Edward I. The following extracts particularly refer to the early history of the bridge.
"And from what is in the tenour of a certain inquisition in Chancery, concerning the bridge of Stratford, taken in the 37th year of the reign of King Henry, son of King John, grandfather of the present King (Edward II.) lent here before the King under his Seal of Chancery, it is found that the aforesaid lady, Matilda the Queen, assigned for the support of the aforesaid bridge of Stratford, a certain meadow, which the then Abbat of Stratford held, and that the said Abbat ought to repair the bridge, and always had taking by his bridge-master of certain customs for carts, and other things passing that bridge, and collected alms which the said bridge-master of the said Abbat received for the reparation of that bridge, as in the said inquisition more fully is contained," &c.
And in the 32d year of the reign of King Edward I., an inquisition was made before Roger le Brabazon and Stephen de Gravesende, by twelve jurors of the county of Essex, and twelve jurors of the county of Middlesex, who say upon their oath,
"That the passage over the water of the Luye at Stratford atte Bowe, anciently used to be in a certain place which is called the Old Forde, which is distant from the place where the bridges and causeway now are nearly one mile, at which passage many persons passing over it at divers times were drowned, and in great danger, and when after so much danger came to the knowledge of Lady Matilda, Queen of England, consort of Lord King Henry the First, she thereupon being moved with pity, sent for inquiry to be made where the bridges and causeway better and more advantageously might be made for the utility and easement of the county and those passing, and which being done, the same Queen caused to be built two bridges of stone, (to wit) one bridge over the water of Luye, at the end of the town of Stratford atte Bowe, and the other over another channel of the same waters towards Essex, which is called Channelse bridge, and also one causeway to be made between the same bridges, so that persons passing by well and securely might pass. And because the same Queen willed that the bridges and causeway aforesaid, so of her free alms made, from thenceforth for ever should be supported and repaired, she purchased certain lands, rents, meadows, and one water mill, which is called Wiggen Mill, and appointed and ordained the same for the support and repair of the bridge and causeway aforesaid. And because she hoped that the support and repair of the same would be done better and more securely, by religious persona, if they were charged so to do, than by secular persons, least it should by chance happen that secular persons, they or their heirs, by lapse of time might fail; nor was there any religious house nearer to the bridges and causeway aforesaid, than the Abbey of Berking, because the Abbey of Stratford was not then founded, she gave the aforesaid lands, rents meadows, and mill, with the appurtenances, to a certain person, then the Abbess, and her house of Berking, so that they and their successors, &c., should repair and sustain the said bridges and causeway as often as it should be necessary, for ever. And they say, that afterwards a certain Gilbert de Mountfichet founded the Abbey of Stratford, after the foundation of which a certain Abbat of that house obtained these tenements and the site of the Mills from a certain Abbess and Convent of Berking, because that they were near his Abbey of Stratford, and were lying and situated much to the advantage and easement of her house by doing, (to wit) that she and her successors, &c. the repairs and support of the bridges and causeway aforesaid, would do for the same Abbess and her successors, and her house of Berking, &c., and rendering to the same house besides four marks of silver yearly. And they say that the same Abbat for some time after repaired and supported the aforesaid bridges and causeway, by reason of the tenements and site of the mill foresaid, and afterwards appointed a certain Godfrey Pratt, to repair and support the same in his name, and in the name of his house, and for this purpose delivered to him his horses and carts; and he built him a certain house upon that causeway, and a certain allowance was made to him from the Abbey of Stratford every day, taking the same by his deed, which same Godfrey did those repairs for a long time also, with the assistance for this purpose from certain persons there passing, although not oftentimes requested, who bestowed their alms and care for his assistance, so that in the same manner many goods he might have acquired, which when the same Abbat perceived, he said to the said Godfrey that he was able to do the repairs, &c., and support the same from such, his purchase being sufficient, without the gifts or any other aid for this purpose, to be taken or had for the Abbat aforesaid, and this bounty aforesaid he totally withdrew from him. Nevertheless the same Godfrey afterwards caused to be collected passage from many persons passing there, and put staples and bars upon the bridge, &c., and refused to permit carts or horsemen to pass until they had paid passage, unless they were nobility, whom through fear he permitted quietly to pass."
The remainder of these curious and interesting documents refer to the law proceedings occasioned by the refusal of the Abbot of Stratford to repair this great work of the pious Queen.
After many years spent in litigation, he at last acknowledged his liability; for in Easter Term, 9th Edward II., the Abbot of Stratford appeared in Court, and acknowledged his signature to the agreement with the Abbess of Barking before mentioned, wherein he undertook to keep in repair the two bridges and causeway at Stratford for ever after.
From this period to the dissolution of the monastery in the year 1539 (30 Henry VIII.) we do not find any attempt was made to throw off the responsibility; the bridges were no doubt during that period properly taken care of, and for some time after they fell into the hands of the Crown required but little repair, as we do not hear of any complaint being made till the year 1643, when they were again dilapidated.
In the course of this period, viz. from the dissolution to the year 1643, the lands and site of the monastery had been granted to Sir Peter Mewtis, who at the time was Ambassador from Henry to the Court of France, and from him they fell into the possession of various parties, who were at this time indicted for not keeping the bridges and causeway in repair. The question was tried in the King's Bench. when the defence set up by the defendants was, that the Abbot's lands had been discharged from the obligation by reason of their transition into and union with the Crown at the dissolution, but the Court found a verdict for the King.
The question was again agitated in the year 1663; but was not carried into court, the parties being informed that they could make no defence, as appears by a document in possession of the Abbey land-owners, of which the following is an extract: "So the counsel told us that they could not give us any other counsel than to tell us we should be overthrown in all our defences and suits, and be at last compelled to repair after we had spent all our money and time and travel: and if the repairs were not performed, then great fines could be levied upon those who were indicted now in the Crown office this Easter Term, 15 Charles II."
Although so many attempts had been made to throw off this burden with the like unsuccessful result, we again find the question agitated by the land owners in the year 1690, when it was again decided in favour of the Crown, the court being of opinion that all the lands of the Abbot were liable.
From that period to the present day the land-owners, profiting by the experience of the past, and not forgetting the wholesome advice of the honest lawyers of 1663, have contented themselves to abide by the exertions of their predecessors, and continued the charge of the bridge and causeway at Stratford for the free and uninterrupted use of the public as was originally intended by the royal founder.

The great Essex road connecting the metropolis with some of the most influential towns and sea-ports of the eastern district of the kingdom, and also passing to a considerable extent through a rich agricultural country, must rank among the important land communications of England.
That a wide and properly constructed road should be considered of the first importance to the public is not surprising, and with a view to make this road as perfect as any of its kind, many great improvements have been made from time to time at a large expense, some are at present in progress, and others under consideration; but the most important, and that to which attention has been most and longest directed, is the entrance into Essex, across the bridges of Queen Matilda, which are now found to be much too narrow for so great a thoroughfare, and to occasion considerable inconvenience and sometimes danger in passing them.

Map of Stratford Langthorne Abbey

In the course of the endeavours of the trustees to accomplish this improvement (which had occupied several years), many difficulties presented themselves, and properly to arrange the different interests concerned was a work of much solicitude and care; but fortunately, these difficulties were at length overcome, and an Act was obtained during the last session of Parliament, empowering the trustees to rebuild Bow Bridge, and improve the others, and the public will soon be able to congratulate themselves on having a new Bow Bridge, with a road-way of as ample dimensions as Waterloo or Westminster Bridge, and that without any fear of toll being exacted from a would-be Abbot of Westham, or anyone else.

Of the antiquity of Bow Bridge there can be little doubt, as we have proved from the best authorities that it was erected by order of Matilda, Queen of Henry the First, which must have been between the years 1100, when she became Queen, and 1118, the year of her death.
If any portion of the present structure can be identified as part of the original edifice, it may be considered, if not the oldest bridge extant, as at all events possessing an age which few other bridges in the kingdom can so satisfactorily trace, the long period of upwards of seven hundred years, and it must consequently be considered as a highly interesting work of antiquity.
In the construction of this Bridge, we find all that characterises the very early specimens of bridge architecture; the small openings for the water, and wide piers with large angular projections, not only to divide and throw off the force of the current, but for foot passengers to retire into to avoid the danger from carriages and horsemen when passing along the narrow roadway.
That the Bridge was originally built of stone can need no further confirmation; but the number of arches it originally consisted of is a question we have now no means of ascertaining, though, in all probability, it never had fewer openings than it has had in our day. Lysons indeed states it be a bridge of one arch, but he does not give his authority; neither have I met with any other writer who has favoured that opinion, or advanced one argument to lead to such a conclusion. That it had at any time more than the present number of arches is uncertain, unless it were furnished with small openings or archways at each end under the causeway for the passage of the land floods; but if there were such, they could not in fairness be considered as forming any part of the bridge. Of such arches, however, I have not been able to discover the slightest remains, either from the excavations made purposely to determine that point, or from any examinations of the bridge itself.
That the present pointed arches formed no part of the original construction of the bridge must be evident, as no other but a circular arch would have been used at that time; the pointed form of arch not having been introduced into the buildings of this country till many years after. The original arches therefore appear to have been removed, and may probably have given place to several forms of construction, each partaking of the fashion prevalent at the time of their erection.
It may also be observed that the form of the present arches is of that particular description which was last of all introduced into our architecture, and is commonly known as the Tudor Arch, from being found in most of the buildings erected in the reigns of the two last Henrys, or about the latter end of the 15th century; and it may therefore fairly be stated, that the present arches cannot be older than the date assigned for the introduction of that species of arch, to which they are similar, but have in all probability been erected since that time, as is clearly the case with regard to the arch of the centre opening of the bridge.

Before closing this account of the Bridge, we are led to inquire into the origin of its name, and the circumstances which gave rise to its being called the Bow, or Bow-bridge, Most writers ascribe the derivation to the resemblance of the arch to the form of a bow, thence called de Arcubus, or the Bows. The description given by Stow, in his Annals, goes to state "the bridge was arched like a bowe, a rare piece of worke, for before that the like had never been seen all England;" and Grose observes, it might derive its appellation from the word beau, or handsome, an epithet very likely to be given to it in those days.
The adjoining village of Stratford, on the London side of the Bridge, appears to have received the addition of the word atte Boghe, or atte Bowe, to its name, in consequence of the erection of this Bridge, and to distinguish it from a place of the same name on the opposite side of the river; it is now known by the name of Stratford-le-Bow, and is celebrated by Chaucer in his description of Dame Eglentine, the Prioress, as follows:
"Frenche she spake full fayre and fetisy,
after the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,
for Frenche of Paris was to her unknow,"
The drawing accompanying this paper (Plate XI.) shows a geometrical elevation, plan, and section of the Bridge, drawn from actual admeasurements. The elevation of the south face is shown in preference to the north, in consequence of the masonry being rather in a better state of preservation.
In the year 1741 the Bridge was widened on both sides; by which the greater part of the original face, above the level of the pointed arches is obscured; but that of the eastern arch being less so than either of the other two, enables its original form to be shown in the drawing with a portion of its abutment and adjoining pier.
The plan shows the size and shape of the piers, the original width of the Bridge before the alteration and additions made to it in 1741, and also the width of the carriage way between the parapets at the present time.

Plate XI. Bow Bridge. Plan and Elevation of the South Side.Plate XI. Bow Bridge.

The piers for the support of the arches occupy a very large proportion of the water-way of the river, and, like many other ancient structures of this description, are placed at an angle with the stream, causing interruption alike to the navigation and to the passage of the flood-waters.
The width of the Bridge was originally only thirteen feet six inches between the parapets, but in the year 1741 it was increased to twenty-one feet.
A few years previous to the bridge being widened, an accommodation had been made for foot-passengers, by projecting a wooden platform five feet wide over the piers on the north side; this has lately been rebuilt, at the expense of the two counties, after having been the subject of litigation for two or three years.
Very little attention appears to have been paid to uniformity in building this bridge, as scarcely any two corresponding points in the structure agree. We find the springing courses upon different levels, and also the elevation of the arches above the surface of the water, besides which the two piers are unlike both in width and length.
The side arches claim particular notice, from having a centre rib of considerable strength projecting below the line of the arch: a form of construction frequently to be met with in old buildings of this kind.
The centre arch, which is without any rib, has evidently been rebuilt upon the remains of a former one, probably to meet the demands of an improved navigation, it being in its present state much better adapted for the passage of vessels than if formed after the model of the side ones, as it no doubt was before being altered, for the springing stones still remain.
The present irregular appearance of the stone-work of the piers and arches, can only be ascribed to the numerous alterations and repairs made to the bridge at various times during the long period of its erection; but, if any part of the original structure remains, it can only be looked for within the casing of the piers, which evidently has been added to as the stones became decayed or broken away. The external face of the piers thus presents a strange mixture of almost all styles of work, with as many different kinds of materials.
At this distant period it is difficult to determine with any degree of certainty the description of stone used in the original construction of the Bridge. As in many other ancient buildings erected in this part of the country, Caen stone appears to have been used for arching, some of which still remains, while Kentish rag and Purbeck stone were employed in the inferior parts of the work. The present face of the piers consists of Portland and Kentish stone, laid in courses of various shapes and dimensions.
Bow Bridge, unlike many of the old English bridges, has no starlings or projections beyond the line of masonry of the piers, which may be accounted for by the shallowness of the river at the spot; at low water during the summer months, the difficulty of constructing the foundations could not have been great, as they are laid upon a stratum of gravel 3 to 4 feet below the present bed of the river.
The filling-in of the arches between the face-courses and the centre rib is little better than rubble masonry, the stones of which are both rough and irregular in size, the joints wide, and in several places tiles are employed to wedge the whole together.
The masonry of the centre arch is of a different character to that already described; the outside face-courses are also in two thicknesses, composed of Kentish rag stone, with a few of Caen stone, which no doubt had been saved from a former arch, while the filling-in between is entirely built of Kentish stone in regular courses very neatly put together, and, as already stated, without any rib or other projection.
The external face of the bridge above the arches, is formed of common rubble masonry, and the interior part over the piers and arches, no doubt filled up nearly to the level of the roadway with chalk or stone built in mortar, the plan generally adopted by the ancient builders in works of this description.
The masonry of the additional arching, &c. made to the Bridge in 1741, consists principally of Purbeck and Portland stone, built in regular courses in a firm and substantial manner.



THE frequent notice taken of Matilda, Queen of King Henry I., in the preceding pages, demands the few particulars history records of the character of this noble and pious princess. Her original name was Editha, but was afterwards exchanged for Matilda, or Maud. She was the eldest daughter of Malcolm the Third, king of Scotland, by Margaret, sister of Edgar the Atheling, the legal heir to the English crown, and therefore, nearly related to our Anglo-Saxon King Edmond Ironside. Her three brothers were kings of Scotland in succession, viz. Edgar, Alexander the First, and David the First.
Stow says of this princess, that "shee was in her tender years brought up amongst the nuns at Winchester and Ramsey in the exercise of learning and virtue;" and Dr. Lingard, in his History of England, states that "her childhood had been entrusted to the care of her aunt, Christiana, Abbess of Wilton, who, to preserve the chastity of her niece from the brutality of the Norman soldiers, had compelled her to take the veil, and to frequent the society of nuns, for in that barbarous age there was no security for females unless they took refuge in a convent, their rank being no protection."
She was married to King Henry the First, on the 11th Nov. 1100, about three months after his accession to the throne of his brother William Rufus. She died on the 1st May, 1118, and was buried at Westminster.
Of her marriage with Henry we are informed by Mr. Sharon Turner, in his History of England, that she had worn the veil, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm, at first pronounced that she could not marry. She pleaded her cause with unanswerable reasoning. "I do not deny that I have worn the veil, for when I was a child, my friend Christiana put a black cloth on my head to preserve me from outrage, and when I used to throw it off she would torment me both with harsh blows and indecent reproaches; sighing and trembling, I have worn it in her presence, but as soon as I could withdraw from her sight, I always threw it on the ground and trampled it under my feet. When my father once saw me in it, he tore it from me in a great rage, and execrated the person who had first put it on."
Her interesting statement was not denied, and as she had never taken the oaths, she was declared at last free to marry the king.
Matilda had two children, William, who met a premature death in 1120, and Alice, who afterwards assumed the name of her mother.
Dr. Lingard states of the latter, that "for the last twelve years of her life she resided at Westminster, deprived of the society of her husband, but surrounded with the parade of royalty, and an object of veneration in the eyes of the people, by whom she was generally denominated Molde the good. The piety of her character was beyond the reach of suspicion, acts of benevolence and exercises of devotion occupied her time, and to listen to the chants of minstrels and the verses of poets formed her principal amusements; one fault she was said to have had, she was liberal beyond her means, and her officers, to supply the amount of her munificence, were occasionally compelled to oppress her vassals."
It was also stated of this princess, who was a Benedictine nun, and a votary of the first order, that she went every day in Lent to Westminster Abbey, bare-footed and bare-legged, wearing a garment of hair. She would kiss the feet of the poorest people, for which she was thus reprimanded by a courtier, as recorded in Robert of Gloucester's Chronicles.
"Madame, for Goddes love is this well idoo,
To handle sich uncline lymmes and to kisse so,
Foule wold the king thynk af that hit he wiste,
And ryght wit avyle him ere he your mouth kiste,
Sur, Sur, qd the queen, be stille, why sayste thou so,
Our Lord himselfe ensample gif so for to do."
This princess founded the priory of the Holy Trinity in Aldgate, London, and the hospital of Saint Giles-in-the-Fields, for leprous maidens, and had Barking Abbey under her governance for some time.


IT was the custom of our pious forefathers to erect religious houses upon bridges, and in some cases, as many as two have been connected with the same bridge. The chapel was generally dedicated to the saint who was supposed to have under his protection those who navigated the river over which the bridge was built.
One of the most noted of these buildings was the chapel upon Old London Bridge, which was dedicated to Saint Thomas, and was not more remarkable for its magnitude than for the beauty of its architecture. It remained for a long series of years the wonder and admiration of the time, and was at last removed to make way for the improvements in 1756.
That a chapel was attached to Bow Bridge in former ages, is more than probable, especially when we consider the period of its erection, and the circumstances which led to its foundation; indeed, without a chapel so ancient a bridge could hardly be considered complete. In support of this opinion, we find in Sir William Dugdale's well-known work upon Embanking and Draining, a chapel referred to. It is first noticed in the 33rd year of Henry Vlth's reign, when a commission was appointed to view the state and repair of the banks of the river, in these words: "betwixt Saint Katharine's chapel upon Bow Bridge, in the parish of West Hamme, unto Eest Tilbury." And again, in the first year of Edward IVth's reign, another view is ordered from the "Mill called Tempyl Mylle to the chapel of Saint Katharine upon Bow brigge, thence to Horndone, &c."
From this authority, it would appear, that Bow Bridge once possessed a chapel, and that the same was dedicated to Saint Katharine; but where it was placed, or who was its founder, we have not been fortunate enough to discover, or to form any probable conjecture.


Channelsea Bridge is one of the two bridges originally founded by Queen Matilda, as already stated: it crosses a branch of the river Lea, called Channelsea river, upon which the Abbey Mills are situated, at about half a mile below the bridge.
The site of the mills, no doubt, is the same as the water-mill given by Matilda to the Abbess of Barking for the support of the bridges, and referred to in the inquisition taken in 31 Edw. I., under the name of Wiggenmill. Channelsea Bridge consists of one pointed arch eleven feet wide, and appears to have been rebuilt about the same period as the side arches of Bow Bridge; the arch being much under the level of high water is seldom to he seen, and then only for a very short time.
The width of the roadway over the arch was increased, when Bow Bridge was widened in 1741, from fifteen feet to the present width of twenty-one feet; it has an additional accommodation for foot-passengers, by a wooden platform similar to that at Bow Bridge.


"In the presence of the most noble Lord Humphry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, and the most venerable and discreet person Lord John de Sandale, then Chancellor; and Waiter de Norwich, treasurer of England, Robert, the son of WaIter Lord of Wadeham, Baron Lord Hervie de Staunton, Baron of the Exchequer, Master John Walewayn, then escheator of the Lord the King on this side Trent, being at Westminster, and of other faithful persons of the Lord the King, an agreement was made between the aforesaid Abbess and Abbot under this form (to wit): that the aforesaid Abbot and Convent, granted for himself and his successors, and his church of Stratford, and was held and bound in spiritualities and temporalities as well to the Lord the King of England, and his heirs, as to the aforesaid Abbess, and her successors, Abbesses of Berkyng, for ever to perform the constructing, making, reparation, and support of the aforesaid bridges and causeway, and to save harmless the aforesaid Abbess and her successors, and to acquit against all persons for the reparation, construction, support, and making of the same bridges and causeys, and that the said Abbot, and his convent, and his said conventual church of Stratford, with all his goods and possessions in spiritualities and temporalities, should be subject to distress and coercion of the Lord the King, his sheriff and other officers of the King whomsoever, and of the aforesaid Abbess and her successors, and their bailiff, for perfecting and supporting all these premises whensoever it shall be necessary. So always, that the said Abbot and convent, at the peril of their own proper charges and expenses, as aforesaid, ought, and are bound to support the constructions, making repairs, and supports aforesaid, and therefore shall remain bound; and that the Abbess of Barking, for the time being, for default of the said Abbot or his successors in this behalf, shall not incur loss or injury, and will keep them indemnified not to incur the same. And for this grant and agreement, the aforesaid Abbess gave to the aforesaid Abbot two hundred pounds of silver, saving always to the same Abbess and her successors Abbesses of Berkyng, the rent service of four marks, with the appurtenents, which the aforesaid Abbot and his predecessors before have been accustomed to pay to the said Abbess and her predecessors, for the lands and tenements which the aforesaid Abbot holds of the aforesaid Abbess in both towns of Stratford.
In witness whereof, as well the common seal of the Abbess and Convent of Berkyng as the common seal of the Abbot and Convent of Stratford to these present indentures interchangeably are put. Dated at London, on Wednesday next after the feast of Saint Valentine, in the year of our Lord one thousand three hundred and fifteen, and in the ninth year of the reign of King Edward, son of King Edward. Also, the aforesaid Abbot, brother William the prior, John the procurator, Stephen the cellarer, and many others brethren of the said house of Stratford, consented for themselves and their successors, and their church of Stratford, to make and construct, repair and .support the bridges and causey aforesaid, as in the said writing more fully is contained. And that the Lord the King, and his heirs, and their officers, whomsoever they shall be, might destrain the said Abbot and his successors by all their possessions whatsoever, temporal and spiritual, wheresoever, as often as it should be necessary for supporting the said bridge and causey, &c. for ever; and that the said Abbot and Convent and their successors were bound in future to keep indemnified the said Abbess and her successors, against the said King and others whomsoever, from making, constructing, and supporting the aforesaid bridges and causey, &c."