The Cornhill Water Pump, London EC3

Seen here between Victorian postbox in foreground, and Royal Exchange Buildings in background. (London Walking Tours): “The pump is adorned with the marks of four fire offices or insurance companies – the Sun (seen on near face, above), Phoenix, London and Royal Exchange – a sort of 18th century “sponsored by” device no doubt intended to ensure that the local citizens saw each name prominently displayed whenever they came to draw water from the pump.”


“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.

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…”

*( “Taramasalata is a creamy mixture made of fish roe (tarama), olive oil, lemon juice, onion and bread. The Greeks call it a salad (salata), but we refer to it as a dip. The colour is striking, which varies from light beige to bright pink and depends, among other things, on the type of fish roe used.”

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