Tag: London

Memory of Old, Rural London

In the Middle Ages cities were as rural as the country is now. Children still sing the nursery rime:

Upon Paul’s steeple stands a tree
As full of apples as may be,
The little boys of London town
They run with sticks to knock them down.
And then they run from hedge to hedge
Until they come to London Bridge.

Paul’s steeple is gone, and I do not know at what date the hedges disappeared between St. Paul’s and London Bridge. It is many centuries since the little boys of London town could enjoy such pleasures as this rime suggests, but until not so very long ago the bulk of the population lived in the country. The towns were not very vast; it was easy to get out of them and by no means uncommon to find gardens attached to many houses in them.

Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

Over London by rail: 1872, Dore

gustave-dore-victorian-london-12

Over London by rail. Engraving. View of the London slums by Gustave Dore from ‘Londre a Pilgrimage’, first published in 1872. This illustration is a bird’s eye view of the slums of London, it shows the poor and overcrowed conditions in which the poor lived in Victorian times, where “There is a desperate, ferocious levity in the air… they (the poor) are the workless of a work-a day London – born in idleness to die in the workhouse, or upon bare boards.”

Museum of London