Historical references to London's sounds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.

11th to
16th to
18th Early
 General sounds of street and town   1 9 2 3 20 13 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: 1874

Sound category: Ambient > Plague, war and disaster

Title of work: Morning Post

Type of publication: Newspaper

Author: Unnamed journalist

Year of publication: 3 October 1874

Page/volume number: 5

A gunpowder barge explodes on the canal near Regent’s Park

Yesterday morning, shortly before five o'clock, the inhabitants of the whole northern districts of London were startled by a terrific noise which resembled a tremendous clap of thunder. An earthquake could scarcely have created more alarm than did this horrible sound among those who were nearest the spot where it arose, for it shook the houses from their very foundations, blew in the windows, demolished the plaster ceilings, and scattered furniture right and left. Except in the locality the cause of the shock was unknown for several hours, but there it soon transpired that it was the result of an explosion of gunpowder on board one of five barges which were being towed by a steam tug on the canal close to North-gate, Regent's-park. It appears that one of these, named the Tilbury, was laden with blasting powder for quarries at the North, and on reaching the bridge, the powder, from some cause yet unknown, suddenly blew up with fearful effect, killing the three men, and, it is supposed, also a boy, who were on board, entirely destroying the bridge, and playing great havoc with the adjoining houses. The noise of the explosion was terrific, and it was distinctly heard for a radius of many miles.

Period referred to: 1856

Sound category: Ambient > Plague, war and disaster

Title of work: The Daily Telegraph

Type of publication: Newspaper

Author: The Daily Telegraph

Year of publication: 1856

Page/volume number: October 20

Disaster at the Surrey Music Hall in Kennington in 1856

The attention of the immense audience was attracted by a slight tingling sound, resembling that of a bell, and almost simultaneously cries arose in different parts of the building. "The place is falling!"

The audience rose en masse, as if electrified, and, apparently with one mind, made a rush towards the various places of exit, causing the most fearful confusion and uproar, every person endeavouring to save their own lives at the risk of sacrificing those of their fellow creatures.