In the 16th
century London's water supply was the tidal Thames,
a few small polluted streams, and shallow wells.
In 1580 a Dutch
engineer Peter Morrys (or Morrice) proposed to the
Lord Mayor and Aldermen his scheme for raising
Thames water, by a machine of his own invention,
high enough to supply the upper parts of the City,
and throw a jet of water over the steeple of St
Magnus Church. In 1582 the City granted him a lease
of 500 years at 10/- yearly to pump water from the
Thames into the city by means of water wheels placed
in the first arch of old London Bridge and driven by
the tide. They supplied Thames water as far as
Gracechurch Street. Two years later, the City
granted him another arch on the same terms. He
received large grants from the City to help him
complete his system of hydraulic mechanisms. The
lease from the City was extended as time went on to
five arches and supplied the City for 240 years and
the Borough (south of the river) for 50.
London had a
fresh water supply by
1613, the New
It was a water-course constructed by Sir Hugh
Myddleton that was 38 miles long and brought fresh
water from Hertford
to 17th century London.
The bridge works
continued in the Morrys family till 1701, when they
were sold for £36,000 to Richard Soames, and a
company was formed to develop the undertaking.
The waterworks was
eventually demolished in 1822, being taken over by
the New River Company, to allow the construction of
the New London Bridge.
More information about
the pumps at London Bridge appears in R.R.
Angerstein's Illustrated Travel Diary 1753-1755.
You could almost call
this the diary of a Swedish industrial spy, for he
travelled around England from Landís End to
Newcastle recording all the industrial processes he
came across and making sketches of them as well.
They were translated by Torsen Berg and completed
after his death by his son Peter and were recently
published by the Science Museum.
There are descriptions
of flour mills, drying kilns, wind and water mills,
water wheels, and Tyne valley windmills, together
with sketches. The subjects are as diverse as blast
furnaces, hop growing, coal mines, cucumber picking,
forges, salt and coal mines, with 460 items
This is his
description of the water-pumping works in London: