The Great Conduit

In the 1240s the citizens of London constructed a city-wide underground fresh water system from Tyburn to Cheapside, which ended at a building where the water could be collected outside the Hospital of St Thomas of Acre. The siting, at the east end of the street outside the house where Thomas Becket was born, was more symbolic than practical, as Becket was associated with healing holy water.

It was an important site of civic ceremonial, and at times including when King Edward I entered the City after his coronation, and when King Henry V returned to London after the Battle of Agincourt, the Conduit was made to run with red wine instead of water. This may also have been symbolic of Thomas Becket’s miraculous blood.

The conduit ceased to be used after the Great Fire of 1666, and a plaque on the road at Cheapside marks where it stood.

The Great Conduit in Cheapside (centre).
Copperplate Map of London, detail
Origin/Date: London || 1553
Blue commemorative plaque for the Great Conduit in Cheapside.


King Henry V

(1386-1422) King of England from 1413, and renowned as a military commander after his successes in battle against the French armies.


The ceremony of crowning a new king or queen

Battle of Agincourt

A battle between England and France in 1415, part of the Hundred Years’ War, at which the English under King Henry V won a famous victory.

Thomas Becket

 English Archbishop (Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162) and martyr, famously murdered by knights at Canterbury Cathedral after a dispute with Henry II. Miracles were soon recorded at his tomb. Canonised in 1173, his shrine became one of the most popular pilgrimage centres in Christendom. Patron saint of London with St Paul.

Great Fire

Common name for the devastating fire which burned down much of central London in 1666.

King Edward I

(1239-1307) King of England from 1272, who had great devotion to St Thomas Becket, going on pilgrimage to Canterbury on many occasions and donating many golden and jewelled objects to the shrine.