Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Eighteenth Century London" by Nichola Johnson

Title: Eighteenth Century London

Author: Nichola Johnson

Credits: London: Museum of London, 1991

Media: Book

House Notes:

Until the 18th century, streets had no method to naming. This is when the naming of streets and the numbering of houses came into being. Sewage systems in London became what is now the norm because of an Act of Parliament. [1]

The 18th century found people of all incomes purchasing more. [2] The population of London rose to 87,000 in the middle of the century, and then declined as the populace moved to the suburbs. The City of Westminster and the Court of St. James were newly developed areas that became fashionable. Those that remained in London were more than likely from other areas of the country, about two thirds had not been born in the city. [3]

While immigrants, in London, from other countries were considered undesirable, Blacks from Africa were considered less threatening than other peoples. One reason was that the “demand for black servants as accessories to fashionable living” was insurmountable.[4] Less desirables, such as Irish and French Huguenots made their living in the silk industry where they accepted lower pay. In fact, in the 1720’s “this whole kingdom, as well as the people as the land… are employed to furnish something…to support the City of London with provisions.”[5]

18th century London had its own type of fast food vendors. Herrings came from Yarmouth, and the cheapest, fastest food was the oysters that came from Essex. London had cows within the city to supply fresh milk, but it was usually skimmed, watered down, and dirty by the time that it got to the customer. However, in the wealthier part of town, milk venders literally brought the cow down to the house and milked it there to deliver the best milk and cream to the crème-de-la-crème.[6]

Everyone knows that chocolate was incredibly fashionable during the 18th century, but what I didn’t know was that households in the 1730’s could consume more than 1,000 lbs of it per year! [7]

London was in perpetual motion by tearing down and rebuilding. “in the space of seven years, eleven thousand new houses have been built in one quarter of Westminster, exclusive of what is daily added to other parts of this unwieldy metropolis…. If this infatuation continues for half a century, I suppose the whole county of Middlesex will be covered with brick.”[8] “Some squares had a particular social identity. Hanover Square, developed on the accession of the Elector of Hanover as George I in 1714, was occupied by the Whig aristocracy and by military officers. Cavendish Square, developed between 1717 and 1728, was home to Tory politicians, whilst Bedford Square (1775-80) was close to the Inns of Court and provided convenient housing for lawyers.”[9] There were some very fashionable areas that were constructed after current trends, and even shells of houses that were built under speculative ventures to sell to customers that would custom design their inside.[10] Yellow stone became fashionable in London due to the Palladian craze. These were made of London clay mixed with chalk, with other trends of York, Portland and Purbeck stone. Wood would be transported in from the colonies and Scandinavia. Terracotta became fashionable because it could be cast into a “wide range of ornamental and sculptural forms.”[11]

Until the middle part of the century, poor and rich alike lived together within the same areas of town. Segregation of the social classes began to trend as the bourgeois and wealthy moved to the suburbs.[12] In 1761 the Westminster Paving Acts changed the paving and lighting of the street lamps responsibility. Until then, it was the responsibility of the homeowner to pave the street and light the lamps, which is why the streets were uneven and mostly unkempt.[13] Water was brought into London homes by lead pipes into the kitchens or cellars “three times a week for the trifling expense of three shillings per quarter.” So much water was lost during transit, that it was estimated to be about a full third the amount.[14]

Some of England’s greatest country houses were built on speculation and investment.  New professions emerged in banking, insurance and stock dealership. Coffee houses were usually the location of transactions, and many men became very wealthy from these new forms of employment. That was, at least until the bursting of the “South Sea Bubble.” This was very similar to the “Housing Market Bubble” of today.[15]

Manufactures within London’s city limits included clocks and watches, porcelain and silk manufacturers. These were world famous and were shipped to Turkey, China and the colonies.[16]



Coade Stone: A specific type of terracotta created by George and Eleanor Coade who kept their composition a closely guarded secret that became fashionable in the late 1760’s.

Skittles/ Skittle Alley: A lawn game very similar to bowling, can also be a type of pub game. For rules see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skittles_(sport).

To purchase this book, kindly click here Eighteenth Century London by Nichola Johnson.

[1] 4.
[2] 6.
[3] 8.
[4] 9.
[5] 10.
[6] 11.
[7] 12.
[8] 16.
[9] 17.
[10] Ibid.
[11] 18
[12] 19.
[13] 20.
[14] 20-21.
[15] 34-35.
[16] 36.

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