Historical references to London's sounds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: 1716

Sound category: Authority > Public executions

Title of work: Diary of Dudley Ryder

Type of publication: Private diary

Author: Dudley Ryder

Year of publication: 1716

Page/volume number: 24 February 1716

The execution of the Jacobite James Radclyffe, Earl of Derwentwater

Lord Derwentwater was executed first. After he was brought upon the stage and was saluted by several officers and others that were there, he prayed and spoke to them and told them, as I am informed, that since he was to die he was sorry he pleaded guilty, for he was an innocent man, for he knew no king but King James III. He was a papist and therefore had no priest along with him. He seemed to behave himself very well and made his exit decently enough, though with but a melancholy and pious aspect. The executioner struck off his head at one blow and then held it in his hand and showed it to the people and said, 'Here is the head of the traitor. God bless King George!' His head and body were wrapped in a black cloth and put into the coach in which he came and carried back to the Tower. There was no disturbance made at all, while the mob were as quiet as lambs, nor did there seem to be any face of sorrow among the multitude.

Period referred to: Mid 18th century

Sound category: Authority > Public executions

Title of work: Familiar Letters on Important Occasions

Type of publication: Letter

Author: Samuel Richardson

Year of publication: c. 1745

Page/volume number: Not known

Samuel Richardson describes a hanging at Tyburn

The exhortation spoken by the bell-man [accompanying the condemned men], from the wall at St Sepulchre's churchyard, is well intended; but the noise of the officers, and the mob, was so great, and the silly curiosity of people climbing into the cart to take leave of the criminals, made such a confused noise, that I could not heard the words of the exhortation when spoken; tho' they are as follows:

All good people pray heartily to God for these poor sinners, who now are going to their deaths; for whom this great bell doth toll. You that are condemned to die, repent with lamentable tears. Ask mercy of the Lord for the salvation of your own souls, thro' the merits, death, and passion, of Jesus Christ, who now sits at the right-hand of God, to make intercession for as many of you as penitently return unto him. Lord have mercy upon you! Christ have mercy upon you! – which last words the bell-man repeats three times.

[. . .]

At the place of execution, the scene grew still more shocking; and the clergyman who attended was more the subject of ridicule, than of their serious attention. The psalm was sung amidst the curses and quarrelling of hundreds of the most abandoned and profligate of mankind [. . .]