Historical references to London's sounds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: 1950s

Sound category: Economic > Beggars, hustlers and scavengers

Title of work: The Lonely Londoners

Type of publication: Novel

Author: Sam Selvon

Year of publication: 1956

Page/volume number: pp61-62, Penguin Modern Classics edition

A Caribbean writer describes elderly Londoners singing for money in the streets

The old fellars do that too, and sometimes they walk up a street in a plush area with their cap in their hand, and sing in a high falsetto, looking up at the high windows, where the high and mighty living, and now and then a window would open and somebody would throw down threepence or a tanner, and the old fellar have to watch it good else it roll in the road and get lost. Up in that fully furnished flat where the window open (rent bout ten or fifteen guineas, Lord) it must be have some woman that sleep late after a night at the Savoy or Dorchester, and she was laying under the warm quilt on the Simmons mattress, and she hear the test singing. No song or rhythm, just a sort of musical noise so nobody could say that he begging.

[. . .]

Or else, the old fellars go by the people that queueing up for the cinema. Not so much by the one and sixes and two and nines, but by the three and twos and four shillings. And some of them old fellars so brazen that though it against the law to beg they passing the old cap around, and if they see a policeman they begin to sing or play a old mouthorgan.