Ever Noticed The Ancient Pump On Cornhill?

By M@ Last edited 48 months ago
Ever Noticed The Ancient Pump On Cornhill?

There aren't many bits of medieval London left in the Square Mile. One survivor of sorts can be found on Cornhill, beside the Royal Exchange.

Here, a seven-foot water pump towers over passers-by. Despite its height, the taramosalata paint job renders the pump all but invisible against the neighbouring Portland stone, and few stop to inspect the relic.

The pump has a curious history. It covers a well that went missing for centuries, as this news article from 1799 explains:

"By the sinking of the pavement nearly opposite the front gate of the Royal Exchange a very large deep well of great antiquity has been discovered. The water is of excellent quality, and the ward of Cornhill propose erecting a pump near the spot... What is remarkable, the top of the well was not secured by either arch or brickwork, but only covered with planks." - Gentleman's Magazine, 16 March 1799.

Look, there's a keyhole. Wonder who has the key, and what's inside.

The well is thought to date from 1282, when a house of correction was built on the site. According to historian John Stow, that building was demolished in 1380, meaning that the well had lain hidden for more than 400 years.

The commemorative pump was erected on 9 April 1799, and looks in surprisingly good repair (though it won't pump water). We're particularly fond of the spikes on top of the water funnel. They prevent the pink pipe from featuring in crude 'look at my massive penis' Instagram shots.

Last Updated 12 January 2018