Leadenhall Street, London

The Aldgate Pump is a Grade II listed structure situated at the junction of Leadenhall Street and Fenchurch Street in the City of London. In the reign of King John in the early 1200s, the location was mentioned as a well. On Braun and Hogenburg’s map (1574), a structure can be seen in this location, described as ‘St Michael’s Well’ in a later map (1633).
Served by one of London’s many underground streams, the water from the pump had been described as “bright, sparkling, and cool, and of an agreeable taste”. However, the pump is perhaps most famous for the Aldgate Pump Epidemic of 1860. Initially, people complained about the water’s foul taste. Following an investigation, it was discovered that the water that fed the fountain came from Hampstead in NW London and, during its journey to the pump, had passed through a number of the new graveyards that had emerged in this period of rapid growth in London. This had the effect of taking with it the bacteria, germs and calcium from the decaying bodies. Several hundred people died as a result of drinking the polluted water.
This structure dates from 1876 when the pump was moved to facilitate road widening. There is a metal head of a wolf on the pump’s spout – supposedly to represent the last wolf shot in the City of London.
Image: Photographer unknown (1900s)
The pump can no longer be used to draw water, but a drainage grating is still in place. To the right of both photographs is the Church of St Katharine Cree – built between 1626 and 1630. The Tudor tower of the preceding structure was retained. There were places of worship on this site before but this rebuilt church was consecrated in January 1631. The church was not damaged during the Great Fire (1666) and only slightly damaged during the Blitz in World War 2.
The church was extensively restored in 1962 and remains the only surviving Jacobean church in London.
Image: © Steven Miell (TimeViews) (2021)
A merged version of the two photographs. Use the slider in the centre.