Historical references to London's sounds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
 Hue-and-cry     1 4 2      
 Laws, curfews and control of crowds   2 1 2        
 Sentries and nightwatchmen   1 2       1  
 Public executions     2 2 1      
 Courts of law       2        
 Prison regimes       1 1      
 Other legal proceedings           1    
 Sounds of crime     1          

Period referred to: 1680s

Sound category: Authority > Sentries and nightwatchmen

Title of work: A Copy of Verses presented by Isaac Ragg, Bellman, to his Masters and Mistresses of Holbourn Division, in the parish of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields.

Type of publication: Printed broadside

Author: Isaac Ragg

Year of publication: 1683-84

Page/volume number: N/A

Printed bellman’s verse, as sung or spoken to householders

Time, Master, calls your bellman to his task,
To see your doors and windows are all fast,
And that no villany or foul crime be done
To you or yours in absence of the sun.
If any base lurker I do meet,
In private alley or in open street,
You shall have warning by my timely call,
And so God bless you and give rest to all.

[A bellman's verse was typically sung or spoken by the bellman or nightwatchman in his ward, perhaps at Christmas, in the hope of receiving tips from householders. Some verses were printed as broadsides. The expression 'Bellman's verse' became synonymous with doggerel.]

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Authority and public order > Sentries and nightwatchmen

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1660

Page/volume number: January 1660

‘I staid up till the bell-man came by with his bell just under my window ‘

I staid up till the bell-man came by with his bell just under my window as I was writing of this very line, and cried, "Past one of the clock, and a cold, frosty, windy morning."