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It is possible that there was a London Bridge in Roman times, and there certainly was one, built of wood, before the Conquest. The modern structure was finished in 1831, and this replaced the old bridge, which was built between 1176 and 1209, about 200 feet east of the present one. 26 It consisted of twenty arches, a drawbridge for large vessels, and a chapel and crypt in the centre, dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury. It was afterwards covered with houses and shops on both sides, like street. The last of these buildings was removed in 1757.
The following letter was written by King John t the citizens of London during the construction of the bridge, and shows that the erection and maintenance of this important means of communication was a matter for royal and national, as well as local, consideration.
John, by the Grace of God, King of England, etc.
To his faithful and beloved the Mayor and Citizens of London, greeting.
Considering how the Lord in a short time has wrought, in regard to the Bridges of Xainctes and Rochelle, by the great care and pains of our faithful, learned and worthy clerk Isenbert, Master of the Schools of Xainctes: We therefore, by the advice of our Reverend Father in Christ, Humbert, Archbishop of Canterbuy, and that of others, have desired, directed and enjoined him to use his best endeavour in building your bridge, for your benefit, and that of the public: For we trust in the pass the same, will, through his industry, and the Divine blessing, soon be finished: Wherefore, without prejudice to our right, or that of the City of London, We will and grant, that the rents and profits of the several houses that the said Master of the Schools shall cause to be erected upon the bridge aforesaid, be for ever appropriated to repair, maintain and uphold the same.
And seeing that the necessary work of the said bridge cannot be accomplished without your aid, and that of others; We charge and exhort you kindly to receive and honour the above-named Isenbert, and those employed by him, who will perform everything to your advantage and credit, according to his 27 directions, you affording him your joint advice and assistance in the premises. For whatever good office or honour you shall do to him, you ought to esteem the same as done to us. Btu should any injury be offered to the said Isenbert, or the persons employed by him (which we do not believe there will), see that the same be redressed, as soon as it comes to your knowledge.
Witness myself at Molinel, the eighteenth day of April (1202.)