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The Aldgate Pump

Restoration of The Aldgate Pump

The Aldgate Pump is a landmark monument in the City of London, at the junction of Aldgate High Street (which forms the main east-west route into the City), Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall Street; it marks the point from which mileages east of London are calculated. The Aldgate Pump pre-dates most of the drinking fountains and cattle troughs found around London. A well at Aldgate was mentioned in the early 13th century, and there was a pump on this spot from the late 16th century. The earliest illustration of the Aldgate pump dates from 1798, and shows it as an ashlar obelisk on a plinth, with elaborate iron lamp brackets on each face and a larger lantern on the top. A long thin handle on the side pumps water. In 1871, the pump was altered to its present form. Vermiculated stone bands were added and a wolf’s head spout with a push button. The pump has a gruesome past that gained it the nickname 'Pump of Death' after it caused a cholera outbreak in 1876. It was discovered that the pump's water supply contained sediment including calcium that was leached from human bones in nearby cemeteries. The water supply was immediately replaced and the pump continued to be a beloved monument of the East - even lending it's name to rhyming slang! The monument has been listed since 1950—the only listed stone pump in the City of London.

Prior to the restoration funded and carried out by HOLT, the pump’s rusticated bands were worn and part of its stone pediment was broken. The lantern that had topped the pump before the mid-20th century also remained missing. Over the last decades there had been several poor-quality cement restorations. HOLT’s restoration aimed to correct these along with general wear by removing the pump’s old cement mortar, inserting matching stone indents, repointing cracks and de-rusting its iron work. It installed a new handmade lantern, built to the original design, and lit with a new electricity supply, to crown the Aldgate Pump and restore its original appearance. An interpretation panel was added to make publicly accessible the medieval origins of the Aldgate Pump and the grisly history of Victorian water contamination that it participated in.

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