Historical references to London's sounds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: 1766–67

Sound category: Social > City-wide celebrations

Title of work: A Tour to London

Type of publication: Travelogue

Author: Pierre Jean Grossley

Year of publication: 1766–67

Page/volume number: 183–4

Butchers’ boys mark the Duke of Cumberland’s birthday

Setting aside a few exceptions [. . .] melancholy prevails in London in every family, in circles, in assemblies, at public and private entertainments, so that the English nation, which sees verified in itself the populum late regem of Virgil, offers to the eyes of strangers only populum late tristem. The merry meetings even of the lower sort of people are dashed with this gloom. On the 26th of April the butchers' boys celebrated the anniversary of the Duke of Cumberland's birthday. Being about fifty in number, they, in uniforms, that is to say, in caps and white aprons, paraded the streets of London by break of day, having each a great marrow-bone in his hand, with which they beat time upon a large cleaver: this produced a sort of music as sharp as dissonant. The air of those who played in this manner, being as savage as their music, made them appear like a company of hangmen marching in ceremony to some great execution.

[NOTE: Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland, was given the nickname of 'Butcher' by his English Tory opponents for his suppression of the Jacobite rising at Culloden in 1746. A letter from Horace Walpole, dated August 1746, relates how a City aldermen proposed that the Duke be given the freedom of the Butchers' Company.]

Period referred to: 1704

Sound category: Social > Citywide celebrations

Title of work: The Observator

Type of publication: Newspaper

Author: Unnamed journalist

Year of publication: 1704

Page/volume number: 23 August 1704, page 2

A Jacobite is imagined dying from the sound of victory bell-ringing

The poor Fellows get to the Coffee-House, and there they Rattle, Chatter, and Grin against the Government. But if the Bells begin to Ring for a Victory, they run away like so many Dogs at the Sound of a Whip and Bell.

One High Flying, Tory-rory, Jacobite Monster, the Evening when the Honest People rejoyc'd for the great Victory obtain'd by the Duke of Marlborough, went home to keep Company with his Dear Spouse, which being something extraordinary, she ask'd him the Reason thereof. But, alas! the poor Mortal was Speechless, he walk'd about the Room, like the Apparition of Judge Jeffries, and Sobbing and Sighing, made a noise like that of the famous Groaning-Board, but at the repeated Solicitations of his Wife, he open'd his mouth, and said, That all the People in London were Mad, stark Mad as any March-Hares: His Wife ask'd him the Cause of their Madness, he had no further Utterance, but ascending into his Chamber, Groaning, and Wringing his Hands, he threw himself on the Bed, and wrapp'd his Head in the Blankets, to keep the Noise of the Bells out of his Ears. I am afraid the poor Fellow is Dead of the Ding-Dongs.

Obs. 'Tis not one Half-penny matter; if he be unwilling to hear the Jubilee sounds of Bells and Great Guns, he had best run his Head into the Earth; for I hope to have occasion of such Rejoycings before Quarter-Day.

[The victory referred to was likely that of the Battle of Blenheim, fought on 13 August 1704 in Bavaria.]