Bread Street ran north-south from the Standard in Cheapside to Knightrider Street, crossing Watling Street. It lay wholly in the ward of Bread Street, to which it gave its name.
Stow tells us that Bread Street was
so called of bread in old time there sold: for it appeareth by recordes, that in the yeare 1302 [. . .] the Bakers of London were bounden to sell no bread in their shops or houses, but in the market(1:344). By the late sixteenth century, Bread Street had become a residential quarter for wealthy citizens (Kingsford 2:338). Stow notes that Bread Street
is now wholy inhabited by rich Marchants, and diuers faire Innes bee there, for good receipt of Carriers, and other trauellers to the city(1:346). One of these citizens, in the process of enlarging his house, was responsible for an inadvertent archeological discovery in 1595. Quoting a friend’s note almost verbatim (Kingsford 351), Stow tells us that
at Breadstreet corner the north East end, 1595. of Thomas Tomlinson [a skinner (Kingsford 351)] causing in the high street of Cheape a Vaulte to be digged, and made, there was found at fifteene foote deepe, a fayre pauement like vnto that aboue ground, and at the further end of the chanell, was founde a tree sawed in fiue steppes, which was to steppeouer some brooke running out of the west towards Walbrooke, and vpon the edge of the saide Brooke, as it seemeth, there were found lying along the bodies of two great trees, the endes whereof were then sawed off, and firme timber as at the first when they fell, parte of the sayde trees remayne yet in the ground vndigged. It was all forced ground, vntill they went past the trees afore sayde, which was about seuenteene foote deepe, or better, thus much hath the grounde of this Cittie in that place beene raysed from the mayne.
It seems likely that Tomlinson’s workmen had dug down to the level of the Roman pavement. They may even have uncovered the remains of trees covered by mud in some kind of cataclysm from a much earlier period. No doubt part of Stow’s interest in this discovery derived from the parallels between literal excavation and his own historiographical method: his walk along the horizontal axis of London’s streets is punctuated by periodic forays down the vertical axis of the past.
Bread Street survives in modern London, between Queen Victoria Street and Cheapside, crossing Cannon and Watling.
See also: Chalfant 47.
- Chalfant, Fran C. Ben Jonson’s London: A Jacobean Placename Dictionary. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1978.
- Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge, ed. A Survey of London by John Stow. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. A searchable transcription of this text is available at BHO.
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. [Also available as a reprint from Elibron Classics (2001). Articles written before 2011 cite from the print edition by volume and page number.]
Last modification: 2016-05-27 14:37:29 -0700 (Fri, 27 May 2016) (tlandels)