So before I start my inane ramblings again, I just want to point out that as I write this on a PC, the images may be more impressive and easier to access if viewed on a bigger screen than the one that fits in your pocket…..just a suggestion…..though I’m happy if anyone bothers to read this on any device!
Ok, so let’s move on to Tudor London and beyond. Above is an incredible map of London at around the midpoint of the 16th century, shortly after the death of Henry the Eighth. As we can see, the original Roman city (modern day Square Mile) is heavily built up and inhabited, while the rest of the city is growing rapidly outside the ancient walls. Even though the area is still predominantly rural, buildings have spread along the Thames through the area known as the Strand, and this has physically joined London to Westminster. South of the river, the Southwark area is also expanding at the opposite end of the fabled London Bridge. Most disconcertingly, the city seems to be inhabited by a super race of really tall people.
The above image shows the original London Bridge looking north towards the city from Southwark. This amazing structure was the first permanent stone bridge in London and stood astride the Thames for over six centuries from 1176 until 1832. It was the sole bridge spanning the river until 1750, when another one was built at Westminster. As can be seen above, Old London Bridge was filled from end to end with shops and houses, with a gate at the Southwark side (complete with heads on spikes) controlling access to the city.
By 1661, London has swallowed up some more of the surrounding countryside, filling in a lot of the landscape between the city and Westminster along the river, as can be seen above. The modern West End has also become a lot more developed, and the green fields of the previous century have mostly been built over, though there is still only one thoroughfare crossing the Thames. East London and the area north of the old city walls is still relatively rural, and the city rulers have still not felt the need to lay out specific green areas and parks. With the countryside quickly disappearing forever however, that would soon change.
By the time that second bridge was built in the middle of the 18th century, London was spreading out at a prodigious rate. As can be seen in the map below, the city has expanded well beyond the original bounds of the Square Mile to the north, south, east and particularly the west. Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’ Park have been laid out, Oxford Street and Fleet Street have been developed, and the London Docks are in operation just east of the Tower. Areas such as Islington, Hackney and Chelsea are still peaceful country retreats just outside the growing metropolis.
By the beginning of the 19th century therefore, London was well on the way to becoming the biggest city in the world, as well as the largest port, the capital of an empire, and a major centre of trade and finance. In the final gripping installment of the history of London, I’ll examine the Victorian city and bring the story up to the present day. Firstly however, let’s have another then and now blog post, examining famous London locations at different times in history, just as we did with New York. See you soon!