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.
The watermen of London, like every other class of people, were once musical; and their "oars kept time" to many a harmony, which, if not so poetical as the song of the gondoliers, was full of the heart of merry England. The old city chronicler, Fabyan, tells us that John Norman, Mayor of London (he held this dignity in 1454), was "the first of all mayors who brake that ancient and old-continued custom of riding to Westminster upon the morrow of Simon and Jude's day." John Norman "was rowed thither by water, for which the watermen made of him a roundel, or song, to his great praise, the which began,
'Row the boat, Norman, row to thy leman.' "
The watermen's ancient chorus, as we collect from old ballads, was
"Heave and how, rumbelow;"
and their burden was still the same in the time of Henry VIII., not forgetting, "Row the boat, Norman."