Historical references to London's sounds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
 Beggars, hustlers and scavengers   1 1 1   2 3 1
 Street entertainers             2  
 Costermongers and street traders   1   2 1 5 2  
 Transport for hire   1 1          
 Quack doctors       1        
 Recruitment of workers     1     1    
 Work songs and music             1  
 Workplace cries and audible signals       1 1 2 3  
 Shops and shop staff         1   3  

Period referred to: 1930s

Sound category: Economic > Work songs and music

Title of work: A Clergyman's Daughter

Type of publication: Novel

Author: George Orwell

Year of publication: 1935

Page/volume number: Chapter 2

Orwell describes hop-picking songs in Kent

When the sun was shining everybody sang as they worked; the plantations rang with singing. For some reason all the songs were sad that autumn – songs about rejected love and fidelity unrewarded, like gutter versions of Carmen and Manon Lescaut. There was:

THERE they GO – IN their joy
'APPY girl – LUCKY boy
But 'ere am I-I-I-I
Broken 'A-A-Arted!

And there was:

But I'm dan-cing with tears in my eyes
'Cos the girl in my arms isn't you-o-ou!


The bells are ringing for Sally
But no-o-ot for Sally and me!

The little gypsy girl used to sing over and over again:

We're so misable, all so misable,
Down on Misable Farm!

And though everyone told her that the name of it was Misery Farm, she persisted in calling it Misable Farm. The old costerwoman and her granddaughter Rose had a hop-picking song which went:

'Our lousy 'ops!
Our lousy 'ops!
When the measurer 'e comes round,
Pick 'em up, pick 'em up off the ground!
When 'e comes to measure,
'E never knows where to stop;
Ay, ay, get in the bin
And take the bloody lot!'

'There they go in their joy', and 'The bells are ringing for Sally', were the especial favourites. The pickers never grew tired of singing them; they must have sung both of them several hundred times over before the season came to an end. As much a part of the atmosphere of the hopfields as the bitter scent and the blowsy sunlight were the tunes of those two songs, ringing through the leafy lanes of the bines.