|The Aldgate Pump has a long history, possibly going back to the
16th Century, when a pump is said to have been erected on the site of the old
Aldgate Well. A stone pump was installed in the late 18th Century and modified
in about 1870-71, when it was also moved slightly from its original position.
It's a Grade II listed building.
A picture exists of it in use in 1880 complete with a large gas lamp on top, and with a stone spout, quite different from the brass dog's head spout that's there now. This was certainly in place by 1912, as there's a postcard in existence which shows this feature, together with the caption "Over 400 years old and is still in daily use, and in hot weather a continuous stream of lads may be seen slaking their thirst".
As with many pumps in London, it has its own horror story, and it seems that several hundred people died in the Aldgate Pump Epidemic, as a result of drinking polluted water. All this had totally changed by 1920, when it is recorded that Whittard's, the tea merchants, used to "get the kettles filled at the Aldgate pump so that only the purest water was used for tea tasting".
It was still in use in 1927, as can be seen in this photo. At some stage after this it must have been connected to the water mains, as today there's a brass button to operate a stopcock, although the old pump handle was retained. Of course nothing works now and the stone is very weathered towards the base of the pump.
But it's more than a pump - it's a venerable London landmark. Mileages were measured from the pump, and the road to Southend - the A13 - starts from here.
Even more significant is the fact that the pump marks the official point at which the East End of London starts. It was variously said that "East of Aldgate Pump people cared for nothing but drink, vice and crime", and that "the area East of Aldgate Pump was a breeding ground for young boxers". Charles Dickens wrote in "The Uncommercial Traveller" in 1861: "My day's no-business beckoning me to the East-end of London, I had turned my face to that point of the Metropolitan compass on leaving Covent Garden ... and had got past Aldgate Pump ".
A composer of the Music Hall days, Edgar Bateman, was given the nickname "The Shakespeare of Aldgate Pump" and, talking of Music Hall, a performer named Arthur Lloyd used to sing a song entitled "Aldgate Pump" - take a look at http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Songs3/AldgatePump.htm
There was the saying "A draught on Aldgate Pump" - which meant a worthless cheque that couldn't be cashed. (Draught = a money order or a sup of liquor - geddit?).
And finally, I've read that "Aldgate Pump" is Cockney rhyming slang for being annoyed - i.e., to get the hump.
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