SHARE THIS PAGE

Historical references to London's sounds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.

 SUB-CATEGORY 1st to
10th
11th to
15th
16th to
17th
18th Early
19th
Late
19th
Early
20th
Late
20th
 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: 1890s

Sound category: Social > Theatre and cinema audiences

Title of work: The Era

Type of publication: Newspaper

Author: E.T., Oakley Square

Year of publication: 23 July 1892

Page/volume number: Page 13

A disgruntled audience in a late Victorian London theatre

And so the show proceeded towards the end of the act. But it did not proceed now in a way to please our audience. They had become critical, not to say bad-tempered, and suddenly the playful players were startled and pulled up sharp by the sound of a prolonged "Hiss-s-s" from the front! There was no doubt about it. We were simply astounded but had to believe our own ears, and soon we heard that horrible sound again, followed by jeering remarks in one or two unpleasant voices. [. . .] When the act-drop had fallen the entire audience hissed us with determination and with vigour, and you never saw such a downcast, shame-faced company of actors as ours when we thoroughly understood what had occurred. The people had paid their money, and, as we elected to play to them, they had a right to their money's worth.

Period referred to: 1763

Sound category: Social > Theatre and cinema audiences

Title of work: In London and Moscow: The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

Type of publication: Autiogiography

Author: Giacomo Casanova

Year of publication: 1763

Page/volume number: Chapter VII

An 18th-century audience humiliates the actor David Garrick

After a long discussion on politics, national manners, literature, in which subjects Martinelli shone, we went to Drury Lane Theatre, where I had a specimen of the rough insular manners. By some accident or other the company could not give the piece that had been announced, and the audience were in a tumult. Garrick, the celebrated actor who was buried twenty years later in Westminster Abbey, came forward and tried in vain to restore order. He was obliged to retire behind the curtain. Then the king, the queen, and all the fashionables left the theatre, and in less than an hour the theatre was gutted, till nothing but the bare walls were left.

After this destruction, which went on without any authority interposing, the mad populace rushed to the taverns to consume gin and beer. In a fortnight the theatre was refitted and the piece announced again, and when Garrick appeared before the curtain to implore the indulgence of the house, a voice from the pit shouted, "On your knees." A thousand voices took up the cry "On your knees," and the English Roscius was obliged to kneel down and beg forgiveness. Then came a thunder of applause, and everything was over. Such are the English, and above all, the Londoners. They hoot the king and the royal family when they appear in public, and the consequence is, that they are never seen, save on great occasions, when order is kept by hundreds of constables.

Period referred to: 1840s

Sound category: Social > Theatre and cinema audiences

Title of work: London Labour and the London Poor

Type of publication: Social investigation

Author: Henry Mayhew

Year of publication: 1851

Page/volume number: Volume 1, Chapter 1

Youngsters gather at a Victorian ‘penny gaff’ theatre

The visitors, with a few exceptions, were all boys and girls, whose ages seemed to vary from eight to twenty years. Some of the girls – though their figures showed them to be mere children – were dressed in showy cotton-velvet polkas, and wore dowdy feathers in their crushed bonnets.They stood laughing and joking with the lads, in an unconcerned, impudent manner, that was almost appalling. Some of them, when tired of waiting, chose their partners, and commenced dancing grotesquely, to the admiration of the lookers-on, who expressed their approbation in obscene terms, that, far from disgusting the poor little women, were received as compliments, and acknowledged with smiles and coarse repartees. The boys clustered together, smoking their pipes, and laughing at each other's anecdotes, or else jingling halfpence in time with the tune, while they whistled an accompaniment to it.

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Social > Theatre and cinema audiences

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1663

Page/volume number: 1 June 1663

Crowd noises at a fencing match

[. . .] we walked away to White Hall and there took coach, and I with Sir J. Minnes to the Strand May-pole; and there 'light out of his coach, and walked to the New Theatre, which, since the King's players are gone to the Royal one, is this day begun to be employed by the fencers to play prizes at. [ . . .] But a woful rude rabble there was, and such noises, made my head ake all this evening.

Period referred to: 1660s

Sound category: Social > Theatre and cinema audiences

Title of work: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Type of publication: Diary

Author: Samuel Pepys

Year of publication: 1661

Page/volume number: July 1661

‘The Eunuch, who was so much out that he was hissed off the stage’

To-day was acted the second part of "The Siege of Rhodes." [. . .] The King being come, the scene opened; which indeed is very fine and magnificent, and well acted, all but the Eunuch, who was so much out that he was hissed off the stage.