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Historical references to London's sounds

A database of several hundred historical descriptions and references to London's sounds. They're drawn mainly from primary sources such as autobiographies, diaries and statutes, as well as novels written around the times they depict.

 SUB-CATEGORY 1st to
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18th Early
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 General sounds of street and town   1 9 2 3 20 12 7
 Open-air markets     1   2 2    
 Road traffic         1 3    
 Communal living and confinement     1 1   2 3  
 River traffic and related sounds     5     2 3  
 Plague, war and disaster   1 6 2   2 4  
 Sound qualities of buildings     1          
 Sounds of crowds   1       1    

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Ambient > River traffic and related sounds

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1665

Page/volume number: 27 December 1665

Pepys finds ice on the Thames at Rotherhithe

[. . .] so we took boat, and it being darke and the thaw having broke the ice, but not carried it quite away, the boat did pass through so much of it all along, and that with the crackling and noise that it made me fearfull indeed.

[This occurred near Redriffe, an old name for Rotherhithe.]

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Ambient > River traffic and related sounds

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1662

Page/volume number: 4 August 1662

‘Guided by nothing but the barking of a dog’

It being very dark, and the wind rising, and our waterman unacquainted with this part of the river, so that we presently cast upon the Essex shore, but got off again, and so, as well as we could, went on, but I in such fear that I could not sleep till we came to Erith, and there it begun to be calm, and the stars to shine, and so I began to take heart again, and the rest too, and so made shift to slumber a little. Above Woolwich we lost our way, and went back to Blackwall, and up and down, being guided by nothing but the barking of a dog, which we had observed in passing by Blackwall [. . .]

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Ambient > River traffic

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1660

Page/volume number: December 1660

‘A waterman who did tell such a company of bawdy stories’

From thence to the bridge by water, it being a most pleasant moonshine night, with a waterman who did tell such a company of bawdy stories, how once he carried a lady from Putney in such a night as this, and she bade him lie down by her, which he did, and did give her content, and a great deal more roguery.

Period referred to: End of 17th century

Sound category: Ambient > River traffic and related sounds

Title of work: The London Spy

Type of publication: Journal/Social investigation

Author: Ned Ward

Year of publication: 1698-1700

Page/volume number: Chapter III

‘The frightful roaring of the bridge waterfalls’

We turn'd down to Thames Side, where the frightful roaring of the bridge waterfalls so astonish'd my eyes and terrified my ears that, like the inhabitants near the Cataract of the Nile, I could hear no voice softer than a speaking trumpet, or the audible organ of a scolding fish-woman.

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Ambient > River traffic

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1660

Page/volume number: March/April 1660

Gun practice by frigates near Tilbury

Early in the morning at making a fair new establishment of the Fleet to send to the Council. This morning, the wind came about, and we fell into the Hope, and in our passing by the Vice-Admiral, he and the rest of the frigates, with him, did give us abundance of guns and we them, so much that the report of them broke all the windows in my cabin and broke off the iron bar that was upon it to keep anybody from creeping in at the Scuttle.