Historical references to London's sounds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: 15th century

Sound category: Economic > Transport for hire

Title of work: Knight's London, Vol. I

Type of publication: History and gazetteer

Author: Charles Knight

Year of publication: 1841

Page/volume number: Chapter 1

Songs and cries of Thames watermen

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."

Period referred to: End of 17th century

Sound category: Economic > Transport for hire

Title of work: The London Spy

Type of publication: Journal/Social investigation

Author: Ned Ward

Year of publication: 1698-1700

Page/volume number: Chapter III

Ned Ward claims to have misheard the cries of watermen

[ . . .] we turn'd towards Billingsgate, where a parcel of fellows came running upon us in a great fury, crying out as I thought, 'Scholars, Scholars, will you have any whores?' [. . .] Notwithstanding I told 'em we wanted no whores, nor would we have any, yet they would scarce be satisfied. My friend laugh'd heartily at my innocent mistake and undeceiv'd my ignorance, telling me they were watermen who distinguish'd themselves by the titles of Oars and Scullers, which made me blush at my error, like a bashful lady that had drop't her garter.