Historical references to London's sounds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
 Demonstrations     2 1 1   1  
 Elections and election campaigns     1          
 Meetings and indoor gatherings       1   2    
 Public political oratory   2       1 1  
 Strikes and trade union activities     1       1  
 Political, sectarian and ethnic conflict   1   1     1  

Period referred to: 1819

Sound category: Political > Demonstrations

Title of work: The Statesman

Type of publication: Newspaper

Author: Unknown

Year of publication: 1819

Page/volume number: 14 September 1819

The radical speaker Henry Hunt returns to London from prison

From the Angel up to Highgate Hill, each side of the road, as well as the centre of the road, was so completely thronged as to render a passage extremely difficult. The windows and balconies of the houses were filled with respectable females. From Highgate the crowds came pouring down; the dust thickened; shouts and acclamations rent the air; laurels were seen in every hat; the windows presented a display of beauty scarcely ever before paralleled. Triumph looked in every face. Military phrases were used in tones of sneering and contempt, and wherever the slightest disposition appeared to disorder, a general cry of 'Order!' was thundered out, until it passed through the crowd, and peace and quietness succeeded, as if the creation of some talismanic influence.

About four, Mr Hunt reached the Angel Inn, and the coup d'oeil which presented itself at the confluence of the Pentonville, Islington and City roads completely sets description at defiance. The heat and the dust, and the almost overwhelming pressure of the increasing multitude did not seem to have the least effect on those who were assembled to witness a sight at once so novel and so imposing. Amidst this assembly there was certainly much poverty, much of borrowed finery, but still much more of apparent affluence and unsubduable spirit of freedom.

In going along Sun Street etc. the band played 'The Exile of Erin' and 'Erin go Bragh' in which they were cordially joined by the immense crowd, while from many windows red flags were held out by the most respectable females. The procession then went along Bishopsgate Street, and on arriving at the Mansion House, the crowd gave three groans of the loudest nature we ever witnessed.

Period referred to: 1715

Sound category: Political > Demonstrations

Title of work: Diary of Dudley Ryder

Type of publication: Private diary

Author: Dudley Ryder

Year of publication: 1715

Page/volume number: 20 October 1715

A loyalist procession against the Jacobite rebellion of 1715

Went to brother's at 4. There were several ladies to see the procession of figures of the Pope, the Devil and the Pretender which were expected to be burnt. There was a great mob about the streets and much holloing for King George. It pleased exceedingly well. The streets rang with huzzas for the King, but I could not but feel a great displeasure when I heard once a hiss mixed with the shoutings. The society of young men at the Roebuck had prepared the effigies of the Pope, Devil and Pretender and some others to be carried in procession, but the Tories had spread about a malicious report that they intended to burn the Queen. It was therefore thought advisable not to prosecute that design, but they made a vast large bonfire over against Bow Church and burnt some images there with a prodigious crowd of people that were continually crying 'God bless King George' and drank his and all the royal family's health. The streets were very well illuminated.

Period referred to: 1930s

Sound category: Political > Rallies and demonstrations

Title of work: The Water Gypsies

Type of publication: Novel

Author: A. P. Herbert

Year of publication: 1930

Page/volume number: Chapter X

A. P. Herbert’s satirical description of a Hyde Park political rally

The entertainment which Ernest had in store for her the following afternoon turned out to be a Monster Demonstration and Mass Rally in Hyde Park in support of the 'Hands Off Croatia' Movement. [. . .]

So Jane found herself marching along the Victoria Embankment in column of fours. Ernest was on one side of her, and on the other an envenomed old lady with wrinkled face, who as she marched muttered maledictions on the Conservative Government. Not far in front of them was a banner, and not far behind them was a brass band. [. . .]

Comrade Watkins was a small, dark, chubby man with burning eyes and a high voice. He had the practised orator's trick of breaking up his opening sentences into small sections, with great pauses between them, which made the audience feel that the section next to come would be of profound significance. This trick he had learned from the Earl of Derby at a meeting of the Liverpool Conservative Women's Association many years before, when Comrade Watkins was a stage-hand. He began:

'As you 'ave 'eard –
I 'ave enjoyed –
The 'ospitality –
Of 'Is Majesty's Government. (Great laughter.)
I 'arbour no ill-will –
Against 'Is Majesty's Government –
They did me proud – (Laughter.)
They 'ave my gratitude – (Laughter.)
They 'ave my prayers – (Great laughter.)
For what are my sufferin's, comrades – ? [. . .]

Comrade Watkins had now warmed his audience, he had stamped his personality upon their tender minds, and he gathered speed.

'Comrades,' he said, 'I am not going to come any 'umbug over you, I am not going to use the language of chicanery and hyperbowl at this great meeting this afternoon, but I say without fear of contradiction that the behaviour of the Government in the West 'Am controversy 'as been a scandal and a dudgeon to the public life of the country.'

Here he stopped suddenly and looked about, as if expecting support, and many of the loyal comrades again made encouraging sounds; but Jane began to weary of Comrade Watkins.

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Political > Demonstrations

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1666

Page/volume number: 10 July 1666

Women demonstrate for money and assistance outside Pepys’s office

At noon home to dinner and then to the office; the yarde being very full of women (I believe above three hundred) coming to get money for their husbands and friends that are prisoners in Holland; and they lay clamouring and swearing and cursing us, that my wife and I were afeard to send a venison-pasty that we have for supper to-night to the cook's to be baked, for fear of their offering violence to it: but it went, and no hurt done. Then I took an opportunity, when they were all gone into the foreyarde, and slipt into the office and there busy all the afternoon, but by and by the women got into the garden, and come all to my closett window, and there tormented me, and I confess their cries were so sad for money, and laying down the condition of their families and their husbands, and what they have done and suffered for the King, and how ill they are used by us, and how well the Dutch are used here by the allowance of their masters, and what their husbands are offered to serve the Dutch abroad, that I do most heartily pity them, and was ready to cry to hear them, but cannot helpe them. However, when the rest were gone, I did call one to me that I heard complaine only and pity her husband and did give her some money, and she blessed me and went away.

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Political > Demonstrations

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1660

Page/volume number: February 1660

‘Bawling and calling in the street for a free Parliament and money’

After I had received the money we went to the Bridge Tavern and drank a quart of wine and so back by water, landing Mr. Calthrop's man at the Temple and we went homewards, but over against Somerset House, hearing the noise of guns, we landed and found the Strand full of soldiers. So I took my money and went to Mrs. Johnson, my Lord's sempstress, and giving her my money to lay up, Doling and I went up stairs to a window, and looked out and see the foot face the horse and beat them back, and stood bawling and calling in the street for a free Parliament and money. By and by a drum was heard to beat a march coming towards them, and they got all ready again and faced them, and they proved to be of the same mind with them; and so they made a great deal of joy to see one another.