Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The London Bridge Improvement Act of 1756: A Study of Early Modern Urban Finance and Administration

By Mark Latham


In 1756 the Corporation of London began the removal of the houses that had lined the passage over London Bridge since the twelfth century, houses which had turned the Bridge into a ‘living’ structure and ensured its status as one of London’s great medieval icons. The ‘death’ of the inhabited London Bridge, a key element in the construction of the Capital’s medieval identity, was a highly symbolic moment in the progressive demise of the pre modern metropolis more generally.\ud The aim of this thesis is to elucidate the factors that led to the London Bridge Improvement Act of 1756, the parliamentary legislation obtained by the Corporation to facilitate the removal of the houses. Previous analyses of the Act have placed it within the narrative of the ‘spirit of improvement’. Yet the role of urban governance and finance in the process of improvement has received virtually no detailed analysis.\ud This despite the fact that the historiography of Improvement Acts suggests that the structural characteristics of early modern urban administration, and in particular urban finance, were crucially important factors in terms of the motivation for, and execution of, improvement schemes.\ud This thesis provides a greater understanding of the way in which the Corporation of London managed the Bridge and financed its upkeep. It does so in order to demonstrate how aspects of urban governance - the transition from aldermanic oligarchy to a commoner democracy, the bureaucratic structure for financial management, and the financial necessities of governance - played a crucial role in the advent of the London Bridge Improvement Act. To achieve this, the thesis utilises the records associated with the London Bridge House Estates, the most extant and complete financial and administrative series within the Corporation’s archives. It undertakes for the first time a schematic collection and detailed analysis of financial data, property records and administrative accounts relating to an urban governmental body in the early modern period.\ud In pursuing this argument, and engaging in such an analysis, this research suggests that we should look beyond simply social and cultural factors, and in particular pay closer attention to the often mundane concerns that decisively influenced decision making within urban organisations, when seeking to explain the process of early modern urban development more generally

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. 92 The handwritten and printed copies of this estimate are contained in:
  2. (1994). A city full of people (London,
  3. A critical review of the publick buildings of London (London,
  4. (1984). A dynamic society: social relations in Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1660-1760’,
  5. (1985). A fractured society: The politics of London in the first age of party,
  6. A short historical account of London-Bridge; with a proposition for a new stone-bridge at
  7. (1964). A study of some London estates in the eighteenth century’ (unpublished London University Ph.D. thesis,
  8. A survey of the cities of London and
  9. (1996). Accidentally killed by a cart: workplace, hazard, and risk in late seventeenth century London’,
  10. Account of monies received by the chamberlain to improve, widen and enlarge passage over and through London Bridge,
  11. Accounts of craft passing through London Bridge, showing their number, owner and place of abode, tonnage and sums due,
  12. Accounts of receipts and payments under
  13. Aerial view of London Bridge, the River Thames and surrounding area in 1616 from the southbank, Reprinted 1830 (Guildhall Library City of London).
  14. (1981). Aldermen and big bourgeoisie of London reconsidered’,
  15. An Abstract of Bridge House leases granted before and since March 1707, 1707. (This document has been incorrectly catalogued, correct reference is: CLRO,
  16. Books of receipts signed by the collector for quitrents due to the Bridge House,
  17. Bridge House cash books,
  18. (1992). Bridges and economic development, 1300-1800’,
  19. (1998). Building the Georgian town (New Haven,
  20. (1984). Chamber accounts of the sixteenth-century (London,
  21. (1827). Chronicles of old London Bridge, by an antiquary
  22. (2003). Circulation and disorder: London streets and Hackney coaches c.1640 - c.1740'
  23. (2003). Circulation and disorder: London streets and Hackney coaches c.1640 -c.1740’,
  24. (2007). Cities divided: politics and religion in English provincial towns,
  25. (2008). Cities in modernity: representations and productions of metropolitan space,
  26. City corruption and mal-administration display’d; occasion’d by the ill management of the publick money in general (London,
  27. CLA/007/AD/01/007, Information of Thomas Veasey, labourer, as to abuses at the Bridge House,
  28. CLA/007/FN/10/009-010, Accounts of money received from sale and alienation of Bridge House places 1705-1710,
  29. CLA/022/01/01/004, Account of monies received by the chamberlain to improve, widen and enlarge passage over and through London Bridge,
  30. CLA/022/01/01/005, Accounts of receipts and payments under
  31. (1750). CLRO, CLA/022/01/01/003, An account of the houses without the gate on London Bridge,
  32. CLRO, COL/CA/01/01 fol.86/186., Repertories of the Court of Aldermen, 1680, for explanation of this gratuity.
  33. COL/CA/01/01, fol.156/452, fol.146/352, fol.154/408, fol.158/505-6., Repertories of the Court of Aldermen,
  34. Committee CLRO, COL/CC/CLC/11 fol.011, Extracts from journals, regarding: powers of City Lands Committee,
  35. (2007). Corrupt and corporate bodies: attitudes to corruption in eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century towns’,
  36. (1991). Corruption: ethics and power in Florence,
  37. (2004). Designs on the City: John Gwynn’s plans for Georgian London’,
  38. (1999). Destruction and reconstruction of towns,
  39. (2004). Down and out in eighteenth-century London
  40. (2000). Early modern urban landscapes, 1540-1800’,
  41. (1959). Economic fluctuations in England,
  42. (1998). English counties and public building:
  43. (2000). English land tax, pp.6-7; Spence, C., London in the 1690s: a social atlas (London,
  44. (1963). English landed society in the eighteenth century (London,
  45. (1908). English local government: statutory authorities for special purposes (London,
  46. (1908). English local government: the manor and the borough (London,
  47. (1991). English society in the eighteenth century (London,
  48. (1976). English towns in transition; 1500-1700
  49. Estate Management CLRO, CLA/007/EM/03 fols.151–155, Letters of attorney to the mayor and commonalty,
  50. (2004). Estates and income, 1540-1714’,
  51. (2004). Estates and income, 1714-2004’,
  52. Estates CLRO, CLA/007/FN/02/021–044, Bridge Master’s annual accounts and rentals,
  53. Estimate of the expense of repairing the houses on London Bridge with the names of the tenants,
  54. (1978). Finance and the unreformed borough: A critical appraisal of corporate finance, 1660-1835, with special reference to the boroughs of Nottingham, York and Boston' (unpublished University of Hull Ph.D.
  55. (2000). Finances and government of Canterbury 1700-1850’, Archaeologia Cantiana,
  56. fol.0002, Plan and elevation of ten new houses on London Bridge,
  57. fol.0003, Plan and elevation of temporary wooden bridge,
  58. fol.001, London Bridge Improvement Committee minute papers,
  59. fol.04, Plan of Mr Brown’s houses on north west part of London Bridge,
  60. fol.05, Names, duties and emoluments of several Bridge House officers,
  61. fol.29C, Plan of Mr Kamp’s houses on north west part of London Bridge,
  62. fol.P.D.10.203, Order of Bridge House Lands Committee for the better regulating the passage over London Bridge,1753.
  63. fol.P.D.151.3, Volume entitled ‘Statutes: London Bridge 1694-1901’ and marked ‘Town Clerk’s Office,
  64. (1980). From office-holding to civil service: the genesis of modern bureaucracy’,
  65. (1999). From reformation to improvement: public welfare in early modern
  66. (2001). Gendered spaces: patterns of mobility and perceptions of London's geography, 1660-1750’,
  67. Geometrical rules made easy for the use of mechanicks concern’d in buildings (London,
  68. (1970). Georgian London (repr.
  69. Gephyralogia: an historical account of bridges, antient and modern (London,
  70. Granary Books CLRO, CLA/007/FN/08/002-004, 3 volumes., Accounts of the Bridge House warehouses and granaries let and standing empty,
  71. (2001). Growth, modernisation and control: the transformation of London’s landscape: 1500-1760’, in
  72. (1971). Hanoverian London:
  73. (1942). Historical notes on the office of Bridge Master and the duties of the same (London,
  74. History of Tower Bridge, and of other bridges over the Thames built by the Corporation of London (London,
  75. (1972). Hull in the eighteenth century: a study in economic and social history
  76. Improvement Committee CLRO,
  77. (1982). In defiance of oligarchy
  78. Individual Officers CLRO, COL/OF/02 fol.008, Extracts from reports in relation to the office of ClerkComptroller of the Bridge House,
  79. (2006). Introduction: an atlas of the urban icons project’,
  80. (1990). land and lineage: the big bourgeoisie of Hanoverian London’,
  81. (2006). law and power in medieval England: 700-1400
  82. (1958). Local government in St Marylebone,
  83. (2003). Local identities and a national parliament: 1688-1835’,
  84. (1961). London and the outbreak of the puritan revolution: City government and national politics,
  85. (2005). London and the restoration,
  86. (1766). London and Westminster improved
  87. (1960). London bankers in wartime 1739-84’,
  88. (1999). London Bridge and its symbolic identity in the Regency metropolis: the dialectic of civic and national pride’,
  89. (1999). London Bridge and its symbolic identity in the Regency metropolis: the dialectic of civic and national pride’, Art History,
  90. (2002). London Bridge and the archaeology of a nursery rhyme', London Archaeologist,
  91. (2000). London Bridge and the identity of the medieval city’, Transactions of the London and Middlesex archaeological society,
  92. (1995). London Bridge: selected accounts and rentals, 1381-1538, London Record Society,
  93. (2001). London Bridge:2000 years of a river crossing, Museum of London archaeology service monograph 8
  94. (1992). London crime and the making of the ‘Bloody Code’ 1689-1718’,
  95. (2000). London in the 1690s: a social atlas (London,
  96. (1977). London in the age of reform (Oxford,
  97. (2004). London in the later middle ages: government and people,
  98. (1951). London life in the eighteenth century (repr.
  99. (2000). London the biography (London,
  100. (1978). London transformed: images of the city in the eighteenth century (London,
  101. (1998). London: a social history (London,
  102. (1975). London: the art of Georgian building
  103. (2001). Managing the metropolis: London’s social problems and their control, c.1660-1830’,
  104. (1976). Medieval French bridges: a history
  105. (1963). Medieval London: from commune to capital (London,
  106. (1987). Memorials of the book trade in medieval London: the archives of old London Bridge
  107. (1990). Minute books of the pavement commissioners for Southampton 1770-1789
  108. Miscellaneous extracts from committee minutes relative to London Bridge 1755-1803,
  109. (1911). Municipal origins
  110. (2002). Oligarchy and urban government in eighteenth-century England’,
  111. Order book, containing orders of the common council and Bridge House Committee on divers matters relating to the Bridge & Bridge property,
  112. Orders and receipts regarding: fines for Bridge House leases of houses, a wharf,
  113. Orders of the Court of Aldermen to the sheriffs of London through London Bridge (London,
  114. (2007). Pageantry on London Bridge in the early fifteenth century’,
  115. (2006). Paris, capital of modernity (London,
  116. (1987). Party in a civic context: London from the exclusion crisis to the fall of Walpole’,
  117. (2006). Persuading the citizens? Charles I and London Bridge’, Historical Research,
  118. (2001). Policing and punishment in London, 1660-1750: urban crime and the limits of terror
  119. (2000). Politics and government 1700-1840’,
  120. (1996). Politics and society in Great Yarmouth:
  121. (2000). Politics made visible: order, residence and uniformity in Cheapside, 1600-1645’,
  122. (1995). pp.83-92; Trueman, ‘Guy’s Hospital estates’,
  123. (1974). Public finance and political stability: the administration of the land tax, 1688-1720’,
  124. (1991). Public life and the propertied Englishman;1689-1789
  125. (1990). Rates of interest in eighteenth-century England’, Explorations in Economic History,
  126. (1996). Reformation of manners in early modern England’,
  127. (1992). Reforming the city: The reformation of manners campaign in London, 1690-1738’,
  128. Rent posting book,
  129. (1977). Resistance to oligarchy: the City opposition to Walpole and his successors’,
  130. (1986). Restoration Leeds and the aldermen of the corporation, 1661-1700’, Northern history, no.22
  131. (1997). Restoration London: everyday life in the 1660s (London,
  132. Scantlings to be observed in building at the south end of London Bridge,
  133. (1998). Shopping streets as social space’,
  134. (1986). Social policy and the poor in the later seventeenth century’,
  135. (1953). Some Bridge House properties’,
  136. (1958). Some late seventeenth-century schemes for the improvement of the Corporation of London’s revenues’,
  137. (1969). Southwark and the City
  138. (1998). Spaces of modernity: London’s geographies 1680-1780
  139. (1980). Speculative housing and the land market in London, 1660-1730: four case studies’, Town Planning Review,
  140. Summary accounts of the produce of the estates and application thereof,
  141. (1995). Supplying London Bridge, 1380-1540’,
  142. the Aldermen CLRO,
  143. (1900). The Aldermen of Cripplegate ward from A.D 1276 to A.D. 1900: the office of alderman, alderman’s deputy and common councilman of the City of London (London,
  144. (1999). The artist and the bridge,
  145. (2000). The birth of modern London
  146. (2004). The bridges of medieval
  147. (1995). The business community of seventeenth-century England
  148. (1995). The carpenter’s company (London,
  149. (1969). The charter controversy in the City of London, 1660-88 and its consequences
  150. (1985). The City elections act (1725) reconsidered’,
  151. (1977). The City Lands Committee, 1592-1642’, Guildhall studies in London history,
  152. (1982). The City of London and its companies
  153. (1981). The City’s west end estate’, London Journal,
  154. (1984). The civic leaders of Gloucester 1580-1800’,
  155. the Common Council CLRO, COL/CC/01/01 fols.049–060,
  156. (1970). The corporation of Leicester,
  157. (1950). The Corporation of London: Its origin, constitution powers and duties
  158. (2003). The crown, the City, and the orphans: the City of London and its finances, 1400-1700’,
  159. (1974). The decline of oligarchy in seventeenth-century Norwich’,
  160. (1981). The diary of Baron Waldstein: a traveller in Elizabethan England, edited and translated by Groos,
  161. (1998). The economy of obligations (London,
  162. (1953). The English land tax in the eighteenth century
  163. (1990). The English town (London,
  164. (1999). The English town 1680-1840
  165. (1989). The English urban renaissance
  166. (1952). The estates of the Corporation of London’,
  167. (1964). The financial crisis of the Corporation of London and the orphans act, 1694’, Guildhall miscellany,
  168. (1967). The financial revolution in
  169. The Gentleman’s Magazine (London, 1746). Anon, A new and compleat survey of London. By a citizen, and native of London,
  170. (2001). The Georgian town:
  171. (1980). The government of the City of London, 1694-1767’ (unpublished University of Oxford D.Phil. thesis,
  172. (1998). The great fire of London
  173. (1948). The growth of London,
  174. (1967). The growth of political stabilty in England:
  175. (1935). The growth of Stuart London
  176. (1887). The historical charters and constitutional documents of the City of London (London,
  177. (1991). The history of the Haberdashers’ company
  178. (1990). The idea of progress in eighteenth-century Britain (New Haven,
  179. (1982). The impact of English towns 1700-1800
  180. (1983). The invisible hand: market forces, housing and the urban form in Victorian cities’,
  181. (1983). The London journal of Alessandro Magno 1562’, London Journal,
  182. (2003). The London property market before and after the Great Fire’, London Topographical Society newsletter,
  183. (1726). The management of the estates of Guy’s Hospital,
  184. (1993). The Mansion House
  185. (1983). The Mansion House “racket”, History Today,
  186. (2004). The market and the city
  187. (1987). The mess of the middle class” revisited: the case of the “big bourgeoisie” of Augustan London’,
  188. (1979). The Middlesex and Yorkshire deeds registries and the study of building fluctuations’,
  189. (1932). The origins and history of the Bridge House Estates,
  190. (2003). The polite town: shifting possibilities of urbanness, 1660-1715’,
  191. (1991). The production of space
  192. (1974). The provincial towns of Georgian England: a study of the building process (London,
  193. (1989). The purchase and management of Guy’s hospital estates, 1726-1806’,
  194. (1992). The reactive state: English governance and society, 1689-1750’,
  195. (1951). The rebuilding of London after the great fire (London,
  196. (1983). The reconstruction of London’s prisons, 1770-1799: an aspect of the growth of Georgian London’, London Journal,
  197. (1980). The residential development of the west end of London in the seventeenth century’,
  198. (1965). The rulers of London 1660-1689
  199. (1961). The rulers of London: the composition of the courts of aldermen and common council of the City of London, 1660-89' (unpublished University of London M.A.
  200. (2004). The small house in eighteenth century London (London,
  201. (1989). The Structural transformation of the public sphere
  202. (2001). The unacknowledged republic: office holding in early modern England’,
  203. (1980). The unreformed local government system (London,
  204. (1939). The Whig supremacy,
  205. (2009). Thomson produced his Chronicles of old London Bridge, by an Antoine Grumbach in 199613) were conceived as a showpiece project designed to act as a 11 Ethington and Schwartz, ‘urban icons’,
  206. (1982). Town planning in London (London,
  207. Unpublished Manuscript sources: Corporation of London Record Office Bridge House Committee CLRO,
  208. (1990). Urban improvement and the English economy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’,
  209. (1990). Walking the city streets: the urban odyssey in eighteenth-century England’,
  210. (1982). Walpole’s City Elections Act (1725)’, English Historical Review,
  211. (1989). Whigs and cities; popular politics in the age of Walpole and Pitt

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.