Historical references to London's sounds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
 Coronations 1 1 3   1   1  
 Ritual openings of public events     1   1      
 Victory parades and celebrations   1            
 Regular rituals of court and state     1 1   1    

Period referred to: 924

Sound category: Ceremonial > Coronations

Title of work: Gesta Regum Anglorum

Type of publication: Chronicle

Author: William of Malmesbury

Year of publication: 1125

Page/volume number: Athelstan

William of Malmesbury describes Athelstan’s coronation

The people light the festive fires,
And show by turns their kind desires.
Their deeds their loyalty declare,
Though hopes and fears their bosoms share.
With festive treat the court abounds;
Foams the brisk wine, the hall resounds:
The pages run, the servants haste.
And food and verse regale the taste.
The minstrels sing, the guests commend,
Whilst all in praise to Christ contend.
The king with pleasure all things sees.
And all his kind attentions please.

Period referred to: Mid-16th century

Sound category: Ceremonial > Coronations

Title of work: A London Chronicle

Type of publication: Chronicle/diary

Author: John Stow

Year of publication: 1553

Page/volume number: A London Chronicle: Mary

Celebrations at the coronation of Queen Mary in 1553

Neuerthelesse, thankes be to God, the Wednysday, beynge ye of Jully, at v. of ye clocke in ye afternone ye hole body of ye counsel, wh. were lefte behynd in ye Tower, assembled at Baynardes castell, & ther communed wt ye erle of Penbroke, & ymedyatly came into Chepesyde wt ye kynge of heraudes, wher they proclaymed ye vertuous lady Mary, doughter of quene Kateryn, quene of England, ffraunce &c., in earth ye supreme heade: ye Joye wherof wonderfull, for some caste money abrod, & some made bonfyars thorowe ye whole cyte: ye prayses were geuen to God in ye churches wt te deum & orgaynes, belles ryngynge & euery wher ye tables spredd in ye stretes, meate & drynke plentye, wyne geuen ffrely of many men, and a greate peale of ordynaunce was shote of at ye Tower.

Period referred to: Early 1900s

Sound category: Ceremonial > Coronations

Title of work: The People of the Abyss

Type of publication: Social investigation

Author: Jack London

Year of publication: 1903

Page/volume number: Chapter 12

The coronation of Edward VII described by Jack London

But hark! There is cheering down Whitehall; the crowd sways, the double walls of soldiers come to attention, and into view swing the King’s watermen, in fantastic mediaeval garbs of red, for all the world like the van of a circus parade. [. . .] And now the Horse Guards, a glimpse of beautiful cream ponies, and a golden panoply, a hurricane of cheers, the crashing of bands—“The King! the King! God save the King!” Everybody has gone mad. The contagion is sweeping me off my feet—I, too, want to shout, “The King! God save the King!” Ragged men about me, tears in their eyes, are tossing up their hats and crying ecstatically, “Bless ’em! Bless ’em! Bless ’em!” See, there he is, in that wondrous golden coach, the great crown flashing on his head, the woman in white beside him likewise crowned.

[. . .]

Princes and princelings, dukes, duchesses, and all manner of coroneted folk of the royal train are flashing past; more warriors, and lackeys, and conquered peoples, and the pagent is over. I drift with the crowd out of the square into a tangle of narrow streets, where the public-houses are a-roar with drunkenness, men, women, and children mixed together in colossal debauch. And on every side is rising the favourite song of the Coronation:-

“Oh! on Coronation Day, on Coronation Day,
We’ll have a spree, a jubilee, and shout, Hip, hip, hooray,
For we’ll all be marry, drinking whisky, wine, and sherry,
We’ll all be merry on Coronation Day.”

The rain is pouring down. Up the street come troops of the auxiliaries, black Africans and yellow Asiatics, beturbaned and befezed, and coolies swinging along with machine guns and mountain batteries on their heads, and the bare feet of all, in quick rhythm, going slish, slish, slish through the pavement mud. The public-houses empty by magic, and the swarthy allegiants are cheered by their British brothers, who return at once to the carouse.

Period referred to: 1830s

Sound category: Ceremonial > Coronations

Title of work: Letters of Queen Victoria

Type of publication: Diary/private correspondence

Author: Queen Victoria

Year of publication: 1838

Page/volume number: 28 June 1838

Queen Victoria describes her coronation in 1838

I was awoke at four o'clock by the guns in the Park, and could not get much sleep afterwards on account of the noise of the people, bands, etc., etc.

[. . .]

I reached the Abbey amid deafening cheers at a little half past eleven; I first went into a robing-room quite close to the entrance where I found my eight train-bearers.

[. . .]

Then all followed all the various things; and (last of those things) the Crown being placed on my head [. . .] The shouts, which were very great, the drums, the trumpets, the firing of the guns, all at the same instant, rendered the spectacle most imposing.

Period referred to: 1550s

Sound category: Ceremonial > Coronations

Title of work: The Diary of Henry Machyn

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Henry Machyn

Year of publication: 1553

Page/volume number: Not known

Queen Mary takes the crown in 1553

The x day of July was reseyvyd in to the Towre with a grett compeny of lords and nobulls of . . . after the qwen, and the duches pf Suffoke her mother, bering her trayn, with mony lades, and ther was a shott of gunnes and chamburs has nott be sene oft be-tweyn iiii and v; by vi of the cloke be-gane the proclamasyon the same non qwen Jane with ii harold and a trompet blohyng, that my lade Mare was unlafully be-gotton, and so chepe to Fletstrett, proclamyng qwen Jane [. . .]

The xix day of July was qwene Mare proclamyd qwene of England, France and Yrland, and alle domynons [. . .] and thys was done at the crosse in Chepe, and from that plasse thay whent unto Powlls and ther was Te Deum Laudamus, wyth song, and the organes playhyng, and all the belles ryngyng thrugh London [. . .]

Period referred to: 1060s

Sound category: Ceremonial > Coronations

Title of work: Historia Ecclesiastica

Type of publication: Chronicle

Author: Orderic Vitalis

Year of publication: c. 1141

Page/volume number: 'The Coronation of William the Conqueror'

A bad start to William the Conqueror’s reign over the English

But at the prompting of the devil, who hates everything good, a sudden disaster and portent of future catastrophes occurred. For when Archbishop Ealdred asked the English, and Geoffrey bishop of Coutances asked the Normans, if they would accept William as their king, all of them gladly shouted out with one voice if not in one language that they would.

The armed guard outside, hearing the tumult of the joyful crowd in the church and the harsh accents of a foreign tongue, imagined that some treachery was afoot, and rashly set fire to some of the buildings. The fire spread rapidly from house to house; the crowd who had been rejoicing in the church took fright and throngs of men and women of every rank and condition rushed out of the church in frantic haste.

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Ceremony > Coronations

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1661

Page/volume number: April 1661

Pepys at the coronation of Charles II

And after all had placed themselves, there was a sermon and the service; and then in the Quire at the high altar, the King passed through all the ceremonies of the Coronacon, which to my great grief I and most in the Abbey could not see. The crown being put upon his head, a great shout begun, and he came forth to the throne, and there passed more ceremonies: as taking the oath, and having things read to him by the Bishop; and his lords (who put on their caps as soon as the King put on his crown) and bishops come, and kneeled before him. And three times the King at Arms went to the three open places on the scaffold, and proclaimed, that if any one could show any reason why Charles Stewart should not be King of England, that now he should come and speak. And a Generall Pardon also was read by the Lord Chancellor, and meddalls flung up and down by my Lord Cornwallis, of silver, but I could not come by any. But so great a noise that I could make but little of the musique; and indeed, it was lost to every body.

[. . .]

And a Herald proclaims "That if any dare deny Charles Stewart to be lawful King of England, here was a Champion that would fight with him;" and with these words, the Champion flings down his gauntlet, and all this he do three times in his going up towards the King's table.

[. . .]

I took a great deal of pleasure to go up and down, and look upon the ladies, and to hear the musique of all sorts, but above all, the 24 violins.