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Historical references to London's sounds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.

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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: 1930s

Sound category: Ambient > River traffic and sounds

Title of work: The Water Gypsies

Type of publication: Novel

Author: A. P. Herbert

Year of publication: 1930

Page/volume number: Chapter XI

Sounds of life along the Grand Union Canal in Ealing

Their motion was as gentle as the coming of sleep; their blunt, round prows did not divide the water, but caress it; there was no sound but the ripple along the shore and the slow clip-clop of Beauty's feet, and these said 'Peace', and brought peace to Jane's soul. [. . .]

Two boats meet at a lock, and while they are waiting there are a few bold, laughing moments between the son of one and the daughter of another. Sometimes beside the lock an old inn hides among the trees, and there will be boats tied up for the night. The men stable their horses and go into the public bar for old and mild and a noisy game of dominoes; the mothers go too, or stay in the boat with their babies; all night they sleep under the lock, where there is always the music of water, whether it be a murmurous trickle or the swollen roar of a full 'pound' cascading over the gates. And at five o'clock they rise up and travel on through many locks to sleep again to the music of a lock.

Period referred to: 1930s

Sound category: Ambient > River traffic and sounds

Title of work: The Water Gypsies

Type of publication: Novel

Author: A. P. Herbert

Year of publication: 1930

Page/volume number: Chapter XI

Barges loading and unloading at Brentford in the 1930s

At Brentford, opposite Kew Gardens, where they left the tideway and entered the canal, they passed into another world, people by another race. The narrow opening stretch between the river and the principal lock at Brentford High Street was crowded with barges lying on both sides under the warehouses, loading, unloading, or waiting for freight. The air was full of shouts and sacks of flour and the rattle of cranes, and the ribald cries of the warehousemen. The barge-folk gave them a queer greeting. Every one seemed to know the Greens; the men threw them a friendly word and the women as a rule said a soft 'Good morning' or nodded gravely without speaking.

Period referred to: 1920s

Sound category: Ambient > River traffic

Title of work: The Water Gipsies

Type of publication: Novel

Author: A. P. Herbert

Year of publication: 1930

Page/volume number: Chapter 1

Thames tugs at Hammersmith in A. P. Herbert’s The Water Gipsies

The tide was rising again, and one of the first tugs came through Hammersmith Bridge [. . .] A man called a greeting from the tug to a watchman at the boat-houses [. . .] The tug went lazily past them, with a lazy chunk-chunk of the engine and a lazy swish at the bows, till at last the green narrowed too and was gone.

[. . .]

The mud, the reeds, had disappeared, and the water was lapping against the wall. There were two green eyes passing now, and all down the river the tugs were hooting to warn the wharves at which they were to call. The busy hour of the river was beginning.