London Bridge and the Becket chapel

Remains of the Chapel of St Thomas.
Origin/Date: London || 1833

In the medieval period London Bridge was the only road crossing of the Thames for many miles, and part of one of the most important trading routes in England.

In the 1130s the old wooden bridge burned down in a fire which may have started in a property belonging to Thomas Becket’s father. It would be necessary, but very expensive, to replace it in stone.

Following Becket’s murder, the priest of the church where he had been baptised raised funds for a chapel dedicated to him which would be built as part of a new stone bridge. Becket was so popular among Londoners, and the trade route such an important part of the city, that London Bridge and the large central chapel were completed by around 1210.

The lands and revenues of the bridge, which paid for its maintenance, were administered by the Bridge Trust who originally operated from the chapel of Thomas Becket and until 1542 had an image of Becket on their seal. The chapel was an important start and end point on the pilgrimage route to Canterbury, and held relics for pilgrims to venerate.

A large statue of Becket outside the chapel marked the entrance to the City and was a symbol of his protection (see City patron). Until the 18th century ‘Old London Bridge’ was the only bridge over the Thames in London, and was not replaced until 1831. - a full illustrated history


In England since the twelfth century, a chapel has meant either a part of a church containing an altar and used for worship, or a free-standing building used in a similar way. It can also mean a place of worship in a private house. The term comes from the ‘capella’ or cloak of St Martin, a major relic in France, the name of which was first applied to the building where the cloak was kept and eventually to other religious buildings.


Someone who journeys to holy places (such as biblical sites or shrines of the saints) to seek God's help, to give thanks, or as an act of penance.


Remains of a saint or articles which have been in contact with a saint and in which some of the saint's power is believed to reside. 


Wax discs attached to official documents to prove they are authentic.

Devotion - Venerate

1. A deep attachment or commitment to a cause or person. 2. A religious observance or act of worship, especially a form of prayer or worship for special use.

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.