Historical references to London's sounds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: 1710

Sound category: Social > Sporting events

Title of work: Curious Travels in Belgium, Holland and England

Type of publication: Travel diary

Author: Z. C. von Uffenbach

Year of publication: 1753

Page/volume number: 88-91

A swordfight in Clerkenwell

In the afternoon we drove to the Bear Gardens at Hockley in the Hole to watch the fights at take place there, a truly English amusement. First a properly printed challenge was carried round and dealt out. Not only were all the conditions of the fight there set forth, but also the weapons to be used. The combatants were an Englishman and a Moor.

[. . .]

First they bowed in every direction, and then showed their swords all round. There were very broad and long and uncommonly sharp. Each of the combatants has his second by him with a large stick in his hand; they were not there to parry blows, but only to see that there was fair play on all sides. They began the fight with broadswords. The Moor got the first wound, above the breast, which bled not a little. Then the onlookers began to cheer and call for Wood; they threw down vast quantities of shillings and crowns, which were picked up by his second.

[. . .]

Then there arose a prodigious cheering, and one could hear nothing but shouts of Wood! Wood! while yet more money was thrown down to him. An Englishman sitting behind us, who had probably drunk a considerable amount, was making a vast uproar and throwing down whole handfuls of shillings. His wife, who was sitting with him, was also rather vociferous; she assured us herself that two years ago she had fought another female in this place without stays and in nothing but a shift.

[. . .]

The most diverting thing of all was that, when the fighters had got down, so many little boys climbed up on to the platform that it would scarce hold them, and called out asking the spectators for money to scramble for.

Period referred to: 1562

Sound category: Social > Sporting events

Title of work: A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster

Type of publication: City guide/history

Author: John Strype

Year of publication: 1720

Page/volume number: Book 1, Chapter 5

An Elizabethan fox hunt ends near the City walls

These Conduits used to be in former times visited: And particularly, on the 18th of Sept. 1562. the Lord Maior [Harper] Aldermen, and many Worshipful Persons; and divers of the Masters and Wardens of the Twelve Companies, rid to the Conduit Heads for to see them after the old Custom: And afore Dinner they hunted the Hare, and killed her, and thence to Dinner at the Head of the Conduit. There was a good Number, entertained with good Cheer by the Chamberlain. And after Dinner they went to hunting the Fox. There was a great Cry for a Mile; and at length the Hounds killed him at the End of S. Giles's. Great Hallowing at his Death, and blowing of Hornes: And thence the Lord Maior, with all his Company, rode through London to his Place in Lumbard-street.

Period referred to: Early 1400s

Sound category: Social > Sporting events

Title of work: The Tournament of Tottenham

Type of publication: Humorous poem

Author: Unknown

Year of publication: 1400-40

Page/volume number: n/a

The Tournament of Tottenham

When thay had ther vowes made, furth gan they hye,
With flayles and hornes and trumpes mad of tre.
Ther were all the bachelerys of that contré;
Thay were dyght in aray as tham selfe wold be.
Thayr baners were ful bryght,
Of an old raton fell;
The cheverone of a plow-mell
And tho schadow of a bell,
Poudred with mone-lyght.

[. . .]

Ther was clynkyng of cart-sadellys and clattiryng of connes;
Of fele frekis in tho feld brokyn were ther fannes.
Of sum were the hedys brokyn, of sum tho brayn panes,
And yll ware they be-seyn or thay went thens
With swyppyng of swepyllys.
The boyes were so wery for-fught
That thay myght not fyght mare oloft,
But creped then abaut in the croft,
As they were croked crepyls.

Period referred to: Early 19th century

Sound category: Social > Sporting events

Title of work: Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain during the Years 1810 and 1811 by a French Traveller

Type of publication: Travel diary

Author: Louis Simond

Year of publication: 1817

Page/volume number: 12 July 1810

A boat race near London Bridge

Below London Bridge [. . .] we soon found ourselves in a crowd of boats, very gaily attired, full of rowers, and in great activity. It was a rowing match, – they appeared ready to start, and we took our station among the spectators. A shot fired was the signal [. . .] In a few minutes there was a great cry of Foul! foul! answered equally loud with Fair! fair! The friends on both sides interfered and stopped the boats. What it was exactly we could not make out, some nice point no doubt, as there was much vehement argumentation on both sides; but, apparently, without abuse or quarrelling, things were adjusted and the race resumed. [. . .] Returning, they sooned passed us again, on the other side, followed by a fleet of boats, and were out of sight in a few minutes, down the river: – a band of music playing all the while.