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Botolph’s Wharf

St. Botolph’s Wharf was located on the north bank of the River Thames in Billingsgate Ward, directly east of London Bridge.1 On the Agas map, the label Buttolphe W. runs north to south amid the waves of the river. According to Stow, the wharf was first known as St. Botolph’s Gate and was sometime giuen, or confirmed by William Conqueror, to the Monkes of Westminster in 1067 (Stow 1:42-43, 1:206-207).
Botolph’s Wharf’s origins as a wharf may be traced as far back as the twelfth century, when a tongue of land was extended into the river (LAARC Site Record BIG82). The first London Bridge, completed by the Romans, likely extended between Botolph’s Wharf on the north of the Thames and Bridge House near St. Olave’s Church on the south (Loftie 86). This location at the head of the only bridge over the Thames would have made Botolph’s Wharf a critical location of commerce and travel in medieval London. By early modern times, the original Roman bridge had been replaced by one completed in 1207 that was located further to the west, but Botolph’s Wharf was still an integral part of the city (Loftie 86). The wharf was one of the official legal quays of the Port of London, so named by an Act of Parliament in 1559, and its location in Billingsgate, a bustling center of commerce, secured its position as a hub of trade. In his 1657 account of London’s important sites, James Howell described Billingsgate as a large Water-gate, Port, or Harbor for Ships and Boats, commonly arriving there with Fiſh, both freſh and ſalt, Shell-fiſhes, Salt, Oranges, Onions, and other Fruits and Roots, Wheat, Rie, and Grain of divers ſorts, for ſervice of the City, and the parts of this Realm adjoining (Howell sig. M3r).
Botolph’s Wharf was named after Botolph, the seventh-century abbot of Iken, Suffolk, who was renowned for his learning and virtue. One of the four London churches named after this Anglo-Saxon monk, St. Botolph, Billingsgate, was located on Botolph Lane near Botolph’s Wharf. It cannot be said for certain which site was first given the name of the saint, the church or the wharf, but it is logical to assume that the place of worship would have first been named after the religious figure and later spread its influence to the surrounding area (Harben). Though the wharf was for a time in the hands of the monks of Westminster, ownership had passed back to the City of London by the late sixteenth-century. From 1577 to 1622, the City leased Botolph’s Wharf to the Muscovy Company, an English trading group that specialized in trade with Russia. A condition of the lease was that no foreigners or strangers were to live on the wharf.2 In 1622, the lease was transferred to Thomas Soane, a grocer, and in 1652 a new lease for sixty-one years was acquired by Soane’s widow Elizabeth (Schofield and Pearce 285). The wharf continued to be a center of commerce and trade long after the Great Fire of 1666.
The frequency of trade and the abundance of goods at Botolph’s Wharf made it, like most London wharves, susceptible to theft. One notable example occurred in 1724, when a man named Robert Hambleton was accused of stealing a barrel of raisins weighing 107 pounds. When Hambleton was caught carrying the cumbersome prize, he pleaded drunkenness, claiming he accidentally kicked the barrel in his intoxicated stupor and simply picked it up to get it out of the way. Unsurprisingly, the jury found him guilty of grand larceny (Old Bailey Online, 1724-02). Later, in 1743, one James Musket was caught stealing from the wharf eighteen pounds of sugar, all of which he attempted to smuggle away in his Apron, and in the Inside of his Cloaths, in his Bosom, besides what he had got in his Apron and Handkerchief (Old Bailey Online, 1743-04).
Samuel Pepys briefly mentions Botolph’s Wharf in his diary entry for September 2nd, 1666, the first day of the Great Fire of London. Pepys notes that [g]ood hopes there was of [the fire] stopping at the Three Cranes above, and at Bottolph’s Wharf below bridge, if care be used (Pepys 1666-09-02). Botolph’s Wharf appears to have survived the Great Fire as it is listed on Vertue’s 1723 reconstruction of post-fire London (Vertue); however, like many early modern wharves, Botolph’s Wharf does not exist in contemporary London.


  1. On the Agas Map, the polygon for Botolph’s Wharf is just outside and to the west of Billingsgate Ward, placing it in Bridge Within Ward. However, all evidence suggests that Botolph’s Wharf was in Billingsgate Ward. MoEML is aware that the ward boundaries are incorrect for a number of wards. We are working on redrawing the boundaries. (JT)
  2. For more information about early modern attitudes towards strangers, see London Aliens. (JT)


Cite this page

MLA citation

Ivie, Jordan. Botolph’s Wharf. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Web. 01 March, 2018. <>.

Chicago citation

Ivie, Jordan. Botolph’s Wharf. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed March 01, 2018.

APA citation

Ivie, J. 2018. Botolph’s Wharf. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London. Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
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PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
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A1 Ivie, Jordan
A6 Jenstad, Janelle
T1 Botolph’s Wharf
T2 The Map of Early Modern London
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RD 2018/03/01
PP Victoria
PB University of Victoria
LA English
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TEI citation

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