Historical references to London's sounds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
 Pub life, music and song   1 3     1 5 3
 City-wide celebrations     3 2   3 3  
 Toasts, dinners and feasts     2 1       1
 Theatre and cinema audiences     2 1 1 1    
 Music and song in theatres     2 2   2    
 Public music and song outdoors     3   1 4    
 Education: Oratory and debate   1            
 Gambling and fairs     1 1 1 2 1  
 Sporting events   1 1 1 1      
 Families at leisure             1  
 Dancing             1  
 Local celebrations           1   1

Period referred to: 1550s

Sound category: Social > Citywide celebrations

Title of work: The Diary of Henry Machyn

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Henry Machyn

Year of publication: 1552

Page/volume number: January-June 1552

The Lord of Misrule appears as London celebrates Twelfth Night

The iiij day of Januarii was mad a grett skaffold [in Ch]epe hard by the crosse, agaynst the kynges lord of myss[rule] cumyng from Grenwyche; and landyd at Towre warff, [and with] hym yonge knyghts and gentyllmen a gret nombur on [horseb] ake sum in gownes and cotes and chynes [1] abowt ther nekes, every man havyng a balderyke of yelow and grene abowt ther nekes, and on the Towre hyll ther they [went in] order, furst a standard of yelow and grene sylke with Sant Gorge, and then gonnes and skuybes [2] and trompets and bagespypes, and drousselars and flutes, and then a gret compeny all in yelow and gren, and docturs declaryng my lord grett, and then the mores danse dansyng with a tabret, and afor xx of ys consell on horsbake in gownes of chanabulle lynyd with blue taffata and capes of the sam, lyke sage (men); then cam my lord with a gowne of gold furyd with fur of the goodlyest collers [3] as ever youe saw, and then ys . . . and after cam alff a hundred in red and wyht, tallmen [of] the gard, with hods of the sam coler, and cam in to the cete; and after cam a carte, the whyche cared the pelere, the a . ., [the] jubett, [4] the stokes, and at the crose in Chepe a gret brod s[kaffold] for to go up; then cam up the trumpeter, the harold, [and the] doctur of the law, and ther was a proclamasyon mad of my lord('s) progeny, [5] and of ys gret howshold that he [kept,] and of ys dyngnyte; and there was a hoghed of wyne [at] the skaffold, and ther my lord dranke, and ys consell, and [had] the hed smyttyn owt that every body mytht drynke, and [money?] cast abowt them, and after my lord('s) grase rod unto my lord mer [6] and alle ys men to dener, for ther was dener as youe have sene [7]; and after he toke his hers [8], and rod to my lord Tresorer at Frer Austens, and so to Bysshopgate, and so to Towre warff, and toke barge to Grenwyche.

1 chains. 2 squibs. 3 colours. 4 gibbet. 5 genealogy. 6 mayor. 7 i.e. as great a dinner. 8 horse.

Period referred to: 1620s

Sound category: Social > City-wide celebrations

Title of work: Prince Charles his Welcome from Spaine

Type of publication: Pamphlet

Author: John Taylor

Year of publication: 1623

Page/volume number: n/a

London celebrations as Prince Charles Stuart returns from Spain

[A day spent] in mirth, triumphs and thanksgiving, wherein the people of all degrees, from the highest to the lowest, both rich and poor, in London, Westminster, and the suburbs, to their powers expressed their loves. [The air] was filled with the shouts and acclamations of people, with the rejoicing noises of instruments, ordnance, muskets, bells, drums, and trumpets . . . The day was commanded to be kept a holiday, so that no shops were opened, no manner of work was done from morning to night, but carrying and recarrying of wood to make bonfires, ringing, filling, and emptying of pots, that all seemed as if the world was newly preserved from some second flood.

[As quoted in David Cressey's Bonfires & Bells, 1989.]

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Social > City-wide celebrations

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1660

Page/volume number: February 1660

General George Monck’s troops enter London

And indeed I saw many people give the soldiers drink and money, and all along in the streets cried, "God bless them!" and extraordinary good words. [. . .] In Cheapside there was a great many bonfires, and Bow bells and all the bells in all the churches as we went home were a-ringing. Hence we went homewards, it being about ten o'clock. But the common joy that was every where to be seen! [. . .] The butchers at the May Pole in the Strand rang a peal with their knives when they were going to sacrifice their rump.