From this anonymous text, “Originally Published Early 1900s”:
An object of interest which once occupied a prominent position in the centre of Fleet Street was THE CONDUIT, near Shoe Lane. This conduit not only supplied water to this end of the thoroughfare, but formed a feature in most of those pageants which, from mediaeval times to the days of the Stuarts, were such picturesque additions to London’s gaiety. When Anne Bullen went from the Tower to be crowned at Westminster, the Conduit poured forth wine instead of water, and was decorated and surmounted with angels ; when Philip of Spain came to England to wed Queen Mary, a pageant took place at the Conduit ; while it was pressed into a like service when Elizabeth passed through Fleet Street on her accession in 1558.
The Conduit is frequently mentioned, in contemporary records, not only in such august connections, but also as a landmark, and as a spot where civic proclamations were ordered to be exhibited. It appears to have begun to be re-edified by Sir William Eastfield, Lord Mayor, in 1439, and finished, as the result of certain directions left by Sir William to his executors, in 1471 ; but it dated from a much earlier period, as, in 1388, the residents in Fleet Street were empowered by the civic authorities to erect a penthouse as a protection over the pipes of the Conduit, then described as being ” opposite to the house and tavern of John Walworth, vintner,” in order to obviate the damage caused by the overflowing of the Conduit, ” which,” we are told, ” frequently, through the breaking of the pipes thereof, rotted and damaged their houses and cellars, and the party walls thereof, as also their goods and wares, by the overflow there from.”
Stow describes the Conduit as consisting of a stone tower, decorated with images of St. Christopher on the top, and angels round about, lower down, with sweet-sounding bells, which bells, by an engine placed in the tower, every hour ” with hammers chymned such an hymne as was appointed.”
In 1478, the inhabitants of Fleet Street obtained a licence to make at their own expense two cisterns, one of which was to be erected at this conduit or ` Standard,’ as it was termed, and the other at Fleet Bridge. And a record, dated the same year, tells us how ” a wex chandler in Flete Street, had bi crafte perced a pipe of the condit withynne the grounde and so conveied the water into his selar ; wherefore he was judged to ride through the citee with a condit uppon his hedde.” The man’s name, it appears, was Campion, and the ” condit on his hedde ” was a small model of the building. In 1582, the Conduit was again rebuilt, and a larger cistern placed by it ; but Sir Hugh Middleton’s great New River scheme, inaugurated in 1618, obviated the further necessity of the Conduit,, which was probably taken down about this period or soon after.
In the Plan of London issued by Ryther of Amsterdam in 1604, we get an excellent view of the Conduit, which was a building of considerable size and importance.
This map can be seen in detail on the British Library’s site.