Historical references to London's sounds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: Mid-13th century

Sound category: Ambient > Sounds of crowds

Title of work: Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London

Type of publication: Administrative record

Author: Unknown

Year of publication: 1257

Page/volume number: n/a

A crowd cries out in agreement at the Guildhall in 1257

Afterwards, on the Vigil of the Purification, the Mayor and a countless multitude meeting in the Guildhall, Michael Tovy and Adam de Basing were sent thither by his lordship the King, to say that the King was willing to preserve all their franchises unimpaired; but that, for the benefit of the City, he was wishful that inquisition should be made, and that too upon oath, by what persons his commons had been so aggrieved in reference to tallages and other instances of transgression; as also, that no one should be punished unless he had offended, and that too, without detriment to the community. In the same words John Maunsel and the others, sent by the King, made affirmation; and so, by reason of such words and pleasant promises, the populace gave assent, crying aloud, 'Ya, ya,' to taking the oath, in disparagement of their own franchises; which in fact these same most wretched creatures had not been the persons to secure.

[The footnote in H.T. Riley's 1863 volume Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London states that 'Ya, ya' is an early form of 'Yea, yea'.]

Period referred to: Mid 19th century

Sound category: Ambient > Sounds of crowds

Title of work: Private correspondence

Type of publication: Private correspondence

Author: Charlotte Bronte

Year of publication: 1851

Page/volume number: 7 June 1851

Charlotte Bronte at the Great Exhibition of 1851

The multitude filling the great aisles seemed ruled and subdued by some invisible influence. Amongst the thirty thousand souls that peopled it the day I was there not one loud noise was to be heard, not one irregular movement was seen; the living tide rolls on quietly, with a deep hum like the sea heard from a distance.