Historical references to London's sounds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: 1859

Sound category: Ceremonial > Rituals of court and state

Title of work: The Daily News

Type of publication: Newspaper

Author: Unnamed journalist

Year of publication: 1859

Page/volume number: 16 July 1859, page 3

Members of Parliament complain about the newly-installed Great Bell, Big Ben

Mr. Alderman SALOMONS, as they were talking about the houses of parliament, would call attention to the dismal tones of the clock bell - (it had just been striking ten). They might think that some dismal event had just taken place. He hoped that the first commissioner of works, or Mr. [illegible], or Sir Charles Barry, or whoever it was that was responsible, would try to make some alteration in the tone of the bell. The members of that house and the people should not be condemned from hour to hour to hear that dreadful noise, a noise which they could only expect to hear when the great bell of St. Paul's was tolled on the death of a member of the royal family.

Mr. PEASE complained that the members could not hear what was said. Some of them came hundreds of miles to attend the house; they could not all sit near the officials, and it was impossible for those who could not sit near them to hear what they said. He asked if the account with Sir C. Barry was closed?

Mr. FITZROY said the account with Sir C. Barry would not be closed as long as the repairs and alterations were going on, as he received a commission on them.

Mr. Alderman SALOMONS observed that he had not had an answer with regard to the clock bell.

Mr. FITZROY said he believed the bell was constructed with the greatest possible care by a gentleman who was supposed to understand the manufacture of bells better than any man in England. The combination of the metal it was calculated was such as would produce the most harmonious sound. He was not a judge as to whether it had had that effect, but if the sound were an infliction, he was afraid they were likely to remain under it for a considerable time.

Mr. HANKEY asked who was responsible? The sound of the bell was a great annoyance.

Sir J. PAKINGTON suggested that they might come to a compromise. He should like to know if it would not be better to have the hands on all the four faces going, and that that horrible sound should cease.

Period referred to: Early 18th century

Sound category: Ceremony > Regular rituals of court and state

Title of work: The Daily Courant

Type of publication: Newspaper

Author: Not known

Year of publication: 1717

Page/volume number: 17 July 1717

George the First is conveyed along the Thames to music by Handel

On Wednesday evening at about eight the King took water at Whitehall in an open barge [. . .] and went up the river towards Chelsea. Many other barges with persons of quality attended, and so great a number of boats, that the whole river in a manner was covered.

A City Company's barge was employed for the music, wherein were fifty instruments of all sorts, who played all the way from Lambeth, while the bargers drove with the tide without rowing as a far as Chelsea, the finest symphonies, composed express for this occasion by Mr. Hendel, which His Majesty liked so well that he caused it to be played over three times in going and returning.

At eleven His Majesty went ashore at Chelsea, where a supper was prepared, and there was another very fine consort of music, which lasted till two, after which His Majesty came again into his barge and returned the same way, the music continuing to play until he landed.

Period referred to: 1590s

Sound category: Ceremony > Regular rituals of court and state

Title of work: Itinerarium Germaniae, Galliae, Angliae, Italiae, cum Indice Locorum, Rerum atque Verborum

Type of publication: Published travel account

Author: Paul Hentzner

Year of publication: 1612

Page/volume number: n/a

Queen Elizabeth at court in Greenwich

In the ante-chapel, where we were, petitions were presented to her and she received them most graciously, which occasioned the acclamation of, Long live Queen Elizabeth. She answered it with, I thank you, my good people. In the chapel was excellent music. As soon as it and the service were over, which scarce exceeded half an hour, the Queen returned, in the same state and order, and prepared to go to dinner. But while she was still at prayers, we saw her table set out with the following solemnity:

[. . .]

During the time that this guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this service, were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettle drums made the hall ring for half-an-hour together.