Historical references to London's sounds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: 1742

Sound category: Authority > Prison regimes

Title of work: Letter to Sir Horace Mann

Type of publication: Private correspondence

Author: Horace Walpole

Year of publication: July 1742

Page/volume number: n/a

Women scream for help after being imprisoned by drunken constables

There has lately been the most shocking scene of murder imaginable; a parcel of drunken constables took it into their heads to put the laws in execution against disorderly persons, and so took up every woman they met, till they had collected five or six-and-twenty, all of whom they thrust into St. Martin's round-house, where they kept them all night, with doors and windows closed. The poor creatures, who could not stir or breathe, screamed as long as they had any breath left, begging at least for water: one poor wretch said she was worth eighteen-pence, and would gladly give it for a draught of water, but in vain! So well did they keep them there, that in the morning four were found stifled to death, two died soon after, and a dozen more are in a shocking way. In short, it is horrid to think what the poor creatures suffered: several of them were beggars, who, from having no lodging, were necessarily found in the street, and others honest labouring women. One of the dead was a poor washerwoman, big with child, who was returning home late from washing. One of the constables is taken, and others absconded; but I question if any of them will suffer death, though the greatest criminals in this town are the officers of justice; there is no tyranny they do not exercise, no villainy of which they do not partake.

Period referred to: 1820s

Sound category: Authority > Prison regimes

Title of work: Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth

Type of publication: Diary/Private correspondence

Author: Maria Edgeworth

Year of publication: 1822

Page/volume number: Not known

Elizabeth Fry at Newgate women’s prison

Enter Mrs. Fry in a drab-coloured silk cloak, and plain borderless Quaker cap; a most benevolent countenance [. . .] The prisoners came in, and in an orderly manner ranged themselves on the benches.

[. . .]

She opened the Bible, and read in the most sweetly solemn, sedate voice I ever heard, slowly and distinctly, without anything in the manner that could distract attention from the matter. Sometimes she paused to explain, which she did with great judgement, addressing the convicts, 'we have felt; we are convinced'. [. . .]

Mrs. Fry often says an extempore prayer; but this day she was quite silent while she covered her face with her hands for some minutes: the women were perfectly silent with their eyes fixed upon her, and when she said, 'you may go', they went away slowly.