London in the Beginning
According to which reference book you consult, the name "London" either derives from the Roman name for London – which was “Londinium” – or has much earlier Celtic origins also involving the name London, i.e. “The place of Londinos – the fierce one”. The Celts settled in the Thames valley in scattered communities at least 300 years before the Roman landings in England in 55BC. Several artefacts belonging to the Celtic period have been found in the London area, most notably a beautiful shield, which was found in the River Thames near Battersea Bridge. It dates from about 200 BC and is now in the British Museum. However, the small settlement at London did not develop into a major centre of population under the Celts (unlike the city of Camulodunum, which lies 60 miles to the north-east of London and is known to us nowadays as Colchester), and it was not until the Romans arrived in force in 43 AD that the settlement of “Londinium” began to take shape.
The Romans, never ones to do things by halves, sailed up the River Thames to the point where they could most easily ford the Thames. Here they established a port, and constructed a wooden bridge across the Thames near to the location of today’s London Bridge. This became the focal point and hub of their road system, which fanned out across the south east of England. The Thames provided a relatively deep anchorage for the Romans’ fleet, and during the next century the Romans built roads and forts in the area, and trade flourished.
Roman London – “Londinium”
Map showing Roman London - reproduced with acknowledgements to Victius Maximum and www.romans-in-britain.org.uk by whose kind permission it is reproduced here
All this was brought to an abrupt halt in AD 61, when Queen Boudicca of the Iceni Tribe in East Anglia rebelled against the Romans and led her forces down to Londinium, where they massacred the inhabitants and burned the new settlement to the ground. This was in retribution for the terrible deeds which the Romans had inflicted on her people: according to contemporary accounts the Romans had seized all the Iceni territories, crops and animals, flogged Boudicca herself and raped both her daughters, so her actions against her aggressors can be seen in context, and defended to an extent.
Boadicea's statue on the Embankment - photo by SW
It was more than a century later in AD 200 that the Romans again re-established their settlement at Londinium. They proceeded to re-build the city around the hill known as “Corn Hill”, which was the highest point north of their new bridge. Aware of the burning and pillaging of the earlier settlement, the Romans were careful to build a high defensive wall nearly 3 metres thick and over 6 metres high around their new city. Into this wall they built towers, gates and barbicans. Quite large sections of this Roman wall survive today – most notably, the well-preserved section by Tower Hill station, opposite the Tower of London.
Section of Roman Wall at Tower Hill - photo courtesy J Briggs
Into the wall the Romans built gates – “Aldgate”, “Ludgate”, “Newgate”, and “Bishopsgate” are all names which remind us of their Roman origins, as does “London Wall”, which follows part of the course of the original Roman wall.
Over the next 150 years Londinium developed into a centre for trade and business, and also the administrative centre for the Roman-occupied areas in the rest of England. The new city included buildings like a basilica, an ampitheatre, temples to gods such as Mithas (a Persian deity), a forum and the Governor’s Palace. The remains of the great ampitheatre have been discovered in front of the present day Guildhall, and are marked by an oval of granite set into the paving stones. Parts of the Roman ampitheatre were excavated during the construction of the Guildhall Art Gallery and are carefully preserved for visitors to see today.
The Guildhall which is built on the site of the Roman Basilica and Ampitheatre.
Site of the Roman Ampitheatre in front of Guildhall - the marble oval indicates
the position of the outer ring of the Ampitheatre.
However, by AD 400 the Roman Empire was attacked by the barbarians across Europe and was in decline. Groups of Saxon invaders from across the Channel marched up the Thames valley. The last of the Roman troops were withdrawn in AD 410. With them went their servants, wives, families and possessions, and Londinium became a sparsely populated ghost town. The Romans kept written records, but the Saxon invaders apparently knew little about writing, and there is hardly any firm evidence about who occupied Londinium between AD 410 and AD 604. The period is part of what we now know as the” Dark Ages”. England (or at least the southern part of it) was ruled by a number of Saxon kings in charge of their own little bit of territory, with no overall ruler established over the whole of the country.
In AD 596 Pope Gregory sent a monk called Augustine from Rome to convert the people living in the country now known as England (“Angles Land” – from the tribe known as Angles living in Kent) to Christianity. Augustine succeeded in converting King Ethelbert, the Saxon King of Kent to Christianity, and missionaries were sent to Londonium in AD604. King Sebert of the East Saxons (now Essex) was the first to become a Christian, and he founded a wooden church dedicated to St Paul within the old city walls on the top of Ludgate Hill, the second highest point within the Roman walls.
Now known as “London”, the city continued to expand. As it grew in importance it attracted the attention of some unwelcome visitors - the Vikings from Denmark, who attacked the city in AD 841 and again in AD 851, burning and looting as they went. Once again the city was left in ruins, and it was not until the time of another Saxon king, Alfred the Great (who was the King of Wessex – the West Saxons – and whose capital city was Winchester), that the city was re-established, with the construction of new wharves at Billingsgate and Queenhithe, and repairs made to the Roman roads. Alfred let the revolt against the marauding Vikings and drove them out of Southern England in AD 886.
After this point London never looked back. It very quickly grew and prospered into a well-organised town, with 20 “wards” or districts, each with its own aldermen, and churches, parishes and markets. The word “ceap” is Anglo-Saxon for market and we are reminded of this when we see such street names in London as “Cheapside” and “Eastcheap”. However, in this period of history a city or country was only strong while it had a firm ruler and armies in place, and the Saxon hold on the rule of law was badly weakened after the death of King Alfred.
By AD 1016 London became the object of attacks by the Danes once more, and to avoid more harassment the Londoners agreed to accept a Danish King, Cnut (Canute) as their ruler. It was during his reign that London replaced Winchester as capital city of the kingdom. King Canute died in AD 1040, and was succeeded by King Edward the Confessor, a devout Christian, who founded an Abbey and palace at Westminster (the “Minster (or abbey church) in the west”) 3 kms. to the west of the City.
London and the Normans
When Edward the Confessor died in AD 1065, he left a huge gap in the natural succession. His cousin Duke William of Normandy in Northern France claimed that King Edward had “promised” the kingdom to him. The English were alarmed at the thought of a Norman monarch and offered the throne to Edward the Confessor’s brother in law, King Harold, who was a Saxon. The famous Battle of Hastings followed in October 1066 – just about the only date in history that most British people can remember, and William and his hated Norman followers killed Harold and conquered the country. They subjugated the locals with a savage iron will, imposing taxes and the feudal system on the people. William the Conqueror marched on the City of London, and the City aldermen knew that they had no option but to offer him the throne. He was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day in AD 1066.
Westminster Abbey west front - photo by SW
Although he was ruthless in dominating the Saxon peasants, King William was shrewd enough to realise that he needed to win over the prosperous City traders and merchants by negotiation rather than by force. He met with the aldermen and burgesses and granted them a Charter that acknowledged their independence and certain rights, in return for the payment of heavy taxes. A copy of this Charter is still kept in the Guildhall Library. King William was wise enough to recognize that laws on paper alone might not be enough to enforce his will, so he begun the building of the Tower of London at the eastern end of the Roman city wall where it joined with the Thames. What we now know as “The White Tower” dominated the skyline of London in the 11th Century and left no-one in doubt as to who was in change: it ws packed with heavily armed soldiers ready to do King William’s bidding at short notice. William also ordered the construction of Baynard’s Castle by the Thames at Blackfriars – the western end of the city wall.
The White Tower built in Norman times
After nearly 100 years of rule under Norman kings, King Henry Plantagenet became king in AD 1154 and his sons and descendents would rule over London for the next 250 years. He and his successors were always in need of money to finance their many wars and rebuilding projects, and kept in league with the City merchants, so that they would continue to lend them money. King Richard I needed money to spend on the Crusades, so he was persuaded to recognise the City of London as a self-governing body with its own elected Mayor, drawn from the City merchants. The Mayor and the Corporation of London were among the lords who managed to coerce King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, which granted and guaranteed many privileges of the City.
Magna Carta Memorial at Runnymede - Photo courtesy National Trust and reproduced with their permission
Old London Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral were rebuilt in stone during the next 100 years and the city flourished. It gained valuable fishing rights in the River Thames. The merchants of London grew rich on the wine trade, and furs and woollen cloth, and they and the barons of Runnymede built themselves great houses on the banks of the Thames along “the Strand” – the road between the City of London and Westminster, where the King and his courtiers still remained in his Palace of Westminster by the Thames.
By 1295 a Parliament (a place where people met to talk - from the French word “parler” - about governing the kingdom) met in Westminster Hall. Its main function was to raise taxes, on City merchants and Jewish moneylenders. The Jews had been expelled by King Edward I in 1215. (They had been allowed to practice “ursury” (to lend money for interest) which Christians were not allowed to do at the time.) Without them the King needed another source of raising revenue and in order to raise the necessary revenues the King invited Italian bankers from Lombardy Italy to settle in the City – they built houses in what is today known as Lombard Street and began a banking and finance industry which still operates today. The merchants of the City grouped themselves into trade and craft guilds, the City Livery Companies, in order to protect their interests. The wharves near the Thames became crowded with imports of spices, precious metals, furs, cloth and silks, and Port dues and taxes were paid to Customs officials appointed by the Crown. One Customs official was the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, whose “day job” was collecting taxes on shipments of wine through the Vintner’s Company. He wrote the first great work of English literature “The Canterbury Tales” in his spare time, while living in the City near Queenhithe.
During the Mediaeval period the City of London’s great markets were established: Billingsgate fish market in the east near the Tower of London, Smithfield meat market near the northern wall of the City and chickens and other poultry at Leadenhall market near London Bridge. The street markets in Cheapside and Eastcheap held tons of produce, and the present-day names of the City streets bear witness to their former activites: you can find Bread Street and Milk Street near to the Guildhall. Although the population of London grew to about 50,000 in 1340 demographic changes were about to occur. In 1348 the terrible disease of the Black Death or Bubonic Plague reached London. It was spread by infected fleas borne on the backs of rats and more than a third of the population died. This caused grave labour shortages, and the peasants who were made to work for their Lords under the feudal system finally held a revolt in 1381. Parliament had that year imposed a “Poll Tax” on everyone left in the Kingdom in order to raise money. The poll tax took no account of anyone’s ability to pay and the peasants had enough – it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The Peasants’ Revolt was eventually crushed with the usual heavy-handed violence.
London and the Tudors and Stuarts
London grew yet again under the reigns of the Tudor Kings and Queens from 1485 to 1615. Great voyages of discovery around the world were made by English sailors, such as Francis Drake. New trade routes to the continent of Africa and the Far East were established, and trade with these countries enabled London to become one of Europe’s largest and most prosperous cities. After a period of instability during what is known as “The Wars of the Roses”, when many claimants to the throne were busily engaged in killing each other off, the Tudor kings established an era of peace and prosperity, and the period became one in which building, art and literature flourished. Henry VII established a merchant navy and built the glorious Chapel at Westminster Abbey, and his grand-daughter Elizabeth I created the Royal Exchange – Britain’s first trading centre. The merchants funded expeditions themselves, and founded joint stock companies, such as the Levant (Middle East) Company and the Russia Company.
The Golden Hinde - in dry dock near to Southwark Cathedral - photo courtesy S Worsfold
Trade grew, and so did the population of London – over 200,000 people lived in and around the City walls by AD 1600. They enjoyed life and all its many pleasures – this was the time when William Shakespeare and his friends were writing and producing plays for the delight of the people of the City. The Corporation of the City of London thought that the theatres, like the Globe and the Rose, were dens of iniquity, little better than brothel houses, and in 1575 they banned theatres for live performances within the City walls. The theatres promptly opened on the south side of the Thames in the district called Bankside, and next to the brothel houses, the bear baiting pits and taverns. The citizens of London took water taxis to cross the Thames to enjoy an evening’s entertainment.
Not all the citizens of London under the Tudors and Stuarts liked life under these kings and queens. The laws of England were heavily weighted against Catholics, and they were persecuted for their beliefs. Some of them bonded together in the Gunpowder Plot, by which they sought to kill King James I and all his lords at the opening session of Parliament in Westminster in 1605. Robert Catesby, Guy Fawkes and the rest of the plotters who placed barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament were discovered, and put to death. Later, in 1649, another dissident, Oliver Cromwell succeeded in arresting King Charles I and forcing him to be tried for treason, after which he was beheaded outside Whitehall Palace.
The Banqueting Hall Whitehall Palace
Oliver Cromwell and his Puritans ruled London with an iron fist and closed all the theatres and any places of amusement and fun. This was resented by the citizens of London, and they greeted the restoration of the next Stuart King, Charles II, with great rejoicing in 1660.
In 1665 another tragedy hit London. Another outbreak of bubonic plague (the same plague as the one which had caused the Black Death) devastated London’s population and over 100,000 people died. Then - just as Londoners were breathing sighs of relief - they had to face yet another tragedy. On 2 September 1666 an oven in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane in the City was not put out properly, and the heat from the over caused the shop to burst into a blazing fire, which then raged across London for 3 days. It burned everything in its path and over four-fifths of the city’s buildings, including 87 churches, 44 livery company halls and 13,000 houses. The Great Fire had two main consequences. Many of the City merchants decided at this point to leave their destroyed homes within the City walls and to move to new houses and manors further away in the West End of London. More importantly an architect called Sir Christopher Wren was called upon to design and rebuild many of the churches which had been destroyed, and to design the new St. Paul’s Cathedral. This magnificent building rose “like a phoenix from the ashes” high above the streets of London, with its amazing Dome and golden orb and cross, and has become an iconic symbol of London all over the world.
Also at this time the merchants of the City used to meet in the many coffee-houses that sprang up in the streets of the City (such as the Jamaica Coffee House) to exchange news about ships and cargoes, and to venture capital against future cargoes. Edward Lloyd started to publish the lists of ships due into the port of London, and these lists circualted around the coffee houses. In this setting the great insurance institution of Lloyds of London was born, and London became the centre of finance for Europe. King William III founded the Bank of England in 1694 to finance his wars against France.
The Bank of England Photo by SW
St Pauls Catherdral
The Bank of England was backed by the state and became an institution that London merchants had long been seeking.
By 1700 London was the largest city in Europe with over 600,000 inhabitants. About this time London became the home for protestant refugees from France – the Huguenots – who settled in the Spitalfields area of the city, after the Edict of Nantes in 1688, and carried on their crafts of silk weaving and manufacture of luxury goods such as watches and clocks and silverware. This started a continuous history of settlement in London by foreign workers, which led to the expansion of the city in areas to the east and south, like Whitechapel and Bermondsey. At the same time the better-off merchants (who made up the middle classes) and the very wealthy (the landed gentry, lords and ladies) began to move to more salubrious areas of London to the north and west of the Thames, to escape the smells, dirt, disease and crime of life in the inner city areas. This demographic distribution of population and social divisions continued in the same trend right up until the late 20th century.
During the next hundred years London grew with rapid speed. As the population grew new houses had to be built for them, and whole areas of Lndon were designed with terraces of houses around squares in such areas as Bloomsbury, Mayfair and north of Oxford Street. Noble lords such as the Duke of Bedford - who owned vast areas of land between present day New Oxford Street and Kings Cross - set architects to design rows and rows of "Georgian" houses, which were intended for rent. The Duke retained the freehold of the land and thus the income form the lease holders. Squares were named after the noble families who owned the land: Russell Square and Tavistock Square are both named after the family names of the Dukes of Bedford.
Another development was the building of more bridges across the Thames, which made areas of South London more easliy accessible for workers housed there. The first of these was Westminster Bridge, built in 1750.
Westminster Bridge - photo courtesy SW
Because of increased traffic. all of it horsebourne, the old gates in the City wall were demolished, as were the houses on old London Bridge, and large sections of the old city wall itself. This was also a period of lawlessness and violence. To deal with the increase in crime a primitive form of street lighting was introduced in some areas, and a very early version of a Police Force - called the Bow Street Runners - came into being in 1750. The developed into the Metropolitan Police Force in 1829 - the oldest Police Force in the World. Many people lived in terrible conditions of squalor and poverty in London, in the slum areas around Holborn , St. Gliles and Fleet Strreet, to name but a few of the areas. Life was cheap and so was gin: it was popularly said that you could get drunk for one penny and dead drunk for twopence". Gin became known as "Mother's Ruin", because so many families were destroyed by members trying to escape from the horrors of their daily life through drinking . Not all things in London during this period were bad! - some of the most famous hospitals in the World like the Westminster, the London, Middlesex and Guy's Hospitals were built during this period and they developed into the great teaching hospitals that we know in our day.
The Georgian period was one when music and architecture flourished as never before in London. George Frederick Handel moved to a house in Mayfair and composed some of his most famous works, like The Messiah and the Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks for the King (George II). In 1755 Dr. Samuel Johnson completed the very first Dictionary of the English Language while living in a house just off Fleet Street. Famous painters like Thomas Gainsborough and John Constanble moved to London, and there produced some of their finest works of art. The Prince of Wales, George III's son, who was effectively running the country during his father's long illness, commissioned architects such as John Nash, John Soane and Robert Smirke to produce some of London's most elegant streets, squares and terraces and crescents like those surrounding Regent's Park, Regent Street and Carlton House Terrace. People continued to move to London to seek their forturne. Country people lost their own land because the the effects of the Ennlosures Act and they faced starvation, so they moved to London to seek any sort of work. By 1800 London's population had grown to 1 million people.
Queen Victoria was 18 years old when she became queen in 1837. She reigned for 63 years and during this time London became the centre of the largest and richest empire the World had ever known. Over one quarter of the world was coloured “pink” on the maps of the world indicating that the British ruled it, with consequences both good and bad for the indigenous people involved.
London continued to grow: new roads and railways were constructed stretching out from the centre to all the major cities in Britain. New docks were built in the East End. An underground railway was constructed in 1863 from Farringdon Street to Paddington – the first such railway in the world. It was such a success that other underground railways were opened shortly afterwards. One of them, now the District Line, was constructed under the Embankment along the north bank of the Thames – this also incorporated the great sewers by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who designed and supervised the construction of 2000 miles of sewage tunnels and pumping stations to cope with the ever increasing amounts of sewage produced by all the millions of people who now wanted to live in London.
Crossness Pumping Station - part of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's grand designs for a cleaner London.
Many of the great iconic buildings of London were built at this time, like the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, The Royal Albert Hall and Tower Bridge to name but a few.
The expansion of London was further helped by the introduction of an electric railway deep underground in tunnels – the “Tube”, which opened in 1890, and was a huge success.
Victoria Tower - Houses of Parliament - photo by S Worsfold
By the end of the Victorian era in 1901 London’s population had risen to 6 and a half million people. Those people rich enough to afford it continued to move out of the central area of the city into leafy suburbs, while poor people remained in the inner-city slums. It was not until the end of the First World War that this became any different, and the quality of life for London’s poorer citizens improved.
London got its first ever directly elected government with the creation of the London County Council in 1889 and this body attempted to address some of the dire social problems of slum housing and overcrowding after 1900. The first motor-buses were on the streets of London by 1904, followed by motor cars – which swiftly replaced the horse drawn cabs, coaches and carts. By 1911 the use of buses drawn by horses had stopped altogether.
In 1909 the first American-style department store was opened in Oxford Street by an entrepreneur called Gordon Selfridge: another famous store in Knightsbridge called Harrods opened soon afterwards, followed by Liberty’s in Regent Street. Posh hotels like the Ritz opened, to cope with rich visitors to London. London also experienced a flood of new theatres and music halls, designed to cash in on the need to entertain those of London’s population who had made some money and wanted to enjoy spending it.
The Ritz Hotel - main entrance
The Great War, which started in 1914, changed the way of life for most Londoners. The young men were called up to go and fight the enemy. The older men – and many young women – were drafted into munitions factories and other war work. Ladies who had never had to work to earn their own money before now found themselves in jobs such as office typists and secretaries, and some became conductresses on the “omnibuses” and trams. Often they were doing the sort of work the men would have done before the War. Aspirations for most female Londoners were changed forever. London suffered in the War, but not to the same extent as it did during the Second World War. Parts of London were bombed by “zeppelin” dirigibles. These were giant balloon-like craft which were powered, and from which bombs could be dropped on civilians. About 60 Londoners were killed during these zeppelin raids.
London Between the Wars
At the end of this war King George V and Queen Mary came to the throne, and well-off Londoners developed a “live for today” lifestyle during the nineteen twenties, as if to compensate for the terrors, tragedies and horror of the Great War. However, the great mass of Londoners was caught up in unemployment and the effects of a post war slump. The new London County Council started a programme of re-housing slum houses in the centre of London and vast new social housing estates were built on the (then) outskirts of London in places like Becontree. The LCC also built new hospitals, constructed parks and open spaces, and new schools and libraries. They began to have a huge impact on the lives of ordinary Londoners.
In May 1926 the General Strike erupted in London, and so many workers “downed tools” that London virtually ground to a halt. The Government called in the Army to try and keep the buses and underground running and to maintain a semblance of order. Needless to say, this was seen as a heavy-handed tactic by the majority of Londoners, and it succeeded in producing a “them and us” class division and the resulting unrest labour in London and the rest of Britain for the rest of the twentieth century.
On the brighter side, this period saw the establishment in 1922 of the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) and the first TV programmes, from Alexandra Park in North London in 1936. Improved transport links with the north west of London and with the suburbs around the southern edge of the city resulted in a huge boom in the building of houses for purchase from Croydon in the south to Barnet in the north. Londoners wanted to live in these mock-tudor “semis”, with their front and back gardens. By 1939 the population of London had reached 8.7 million.
London in the Second World War
The Second World War started in September 1939 and was to result in such devastation and loss of life of ordinary civilians in London as had never been experienced before. The Nazi bombers struck at London non-stop every night from 7 September 1940 to May 1941. The blitzkrieg (or “Blitz”) meant that night after night Londoners had to seek shelter from the bombs that rained down relentlessly. In all 32,000 Londoners were killed and over 50,000 were seriously injured. Over half a million Londoners lost their homes – including my own parents, whose house was bombed in 1941. Despite all this Londoners continued to get to work, to keep going, to not “give in”, to show defiance at all costs. Up to a third of the East End of London and most of the area immediately around St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Barbican area was devastated by the bombs.
During this terrible time Londoners remained by and large as cheerful and upbeat as possible and stuck notices on their bombed shops and other premises saying things such as “Business as Usual”.
The King and Queen Elizabeth after Buckingham Palace had been bombed.
The King – George VI, and his Queen Elizabeth did their bit to show their support by not leaving London, and by touring the bombed areas and meeting the people who had suffered. When - later on - Buckingham Palace received a hit from a German bomber the Queen said immediately: “I’m glad we’ve been bombed – now I can look the East End directly in the face.” She was encouraged to go to a safer place for the rest of the War. She simply said – “My children cannot leave without me. I will not leave the King. And the King will NEVER leave!” It was the sort of direct encouragement that Londoners needed to give them the confidence that if they held out they would win in the end.
Londoners also had the immense example of Winston Churchill, whose stirring speeches roused ordinary Londoners to new height of bravery and stoicism. Londoners still had to face the terror of the V1 weapons, known colloquially as “doodlebugs”, and the V2 rockets – the German revenge weapons These were dropped unmercifully over the City and the East End between May 1944 and March 1945. Again there were hundreds of casualties, and thousands of Londoners were made homeless. The war finally ended on 6 May 1945 and hundreds of thousands of people came to the centre of London around Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar square and – above all else – to the front of Buckingham Palace, to celebrate victory.
London after World War II
After the war the most immediate effect on the people of London was a lack of decent housing. The new Labour government brought in a massive programme of changes that established the National Health Service, and nationalisation of gas, electricity, transport, rail, postal and telephone services (i.e. ownership by the State). Rationing of food, clothes and sweets continued, and life for most people was austere, with shortages felt everywhere. New housing schemes and huge re-building programmes commenced, with high-rise blocks of flats being popular with the architects and planners. Many mistakes were made at this time, and London is still suffering social problems to this day which can be said to be caused by lack of community spirit, destroyed by the impersonality of these huge tower blocks of flats and cheap housing schemes.
There were some bright spots in this period of London’s history. The Festival of Britain in 1951 saw new building projects to support art and music, and the Royal Festival Hall is a permanent reminder of the Festival.
Gradually life in London began to recover from the effects of the War. London in the Sixties became “Swinging London” with young designers leading the way with their trendy clothes, mini-skirts, and music. London became the hip capital of the world, with Carnaby Street as its centre. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones – to name just two of the new “Sounds of the Sixties” – played to record audiences, and over 500,000 people gathered in Hyde Park in 1969 to a “gig”.
London in the Present Day
Since this time London has continued to “grow” – not in the population sense, but in its cultural diversity, its ethnic diversity and its social diversity. By the year 2000 over one quarter of London’s population was born outside the British Isles. London is the financial capital of Europe, and is Europe’s richest city in terms of per capita wealth – and this is quoted from the Daily Telegraph financial pages. More than 50% percent of all Londoners are employed in the service sector, banking, insurance and financial sectors, and tourism.
London has been enriched with immigrants from all over the Commonwealth, notably from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Hong Kong, and these people have brought their unique skills and industry to wealth creation.
Mosque in Regent's Park
As happened centuries before, the immigrants have, by and large, been assimilated into London’s society with great success, and most Londoners are still tolerant and willing to get on with their neighbours as they always were.
Olympic Stadium 2012 - reproduced by permission of London Olympic Committee
It is this constantly changing scene that makes London such an exciting and vibrant city to live and work in. Nothing stays the same, constant renewal is the name of the game, with new challenges, new buildings, new creations in arts and fashions and architecture and music – all set against a more than two-thousand year history of tradition and stability, and now under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign so far has amassed 54 years.
The Gherkin - The Swiss Re Building - A splendid example of modern building styles in the City of London
It is difficult to sum up London in a single sentence. I have lived in London for most of my life, and when I first read Dr. Samuel Johnson’s description of London (he’s the guy who wrote the very first Dictionary of the English Language) I knew instantly what he was getting at. He said: “When a Man is tired of London he is tired of Life, for there is in London all that Life can afford.” That says it all for me – and for a lot of other Londoners too!
Copyright Londonsguide Ltd
London Through The Ages – Dorothy Stewart. Methuen 1946 price 15/-
Ring Out Bow Bells – Cynthia Harnett – Methuen 1960 price 21/-
Our Island History – Donald Meikie - Blackie 1950 price 15/-
Sovereigns of England – Dennis Knight – Sovereign Group – 1967
Off Beat Walks in London – John Wittich – Shire Publications – 1969 price 75p
Discovering London – Margaret Pearson – Shire Publications 1976 price 95p
London – 2000 Years of a City – Felix Barker and Peter Jackson – Cassell 1974
Saxon and Norman London – John Clarke – an HMSO Publication – 1979
The Face of Modern London – Harold Clunn – Spring Books – 1950
The Buildings of London – Niklaus Pevsner – Penguin – 1957 – price 15/-
Guide to Famous London Graves – Conrad Bailey – Harrap – 1975
Walking in London’s History – Andrew Duncan – New Holland Publications – 1989
The Tower of London 1078 to 1978 - Derek Wilson – Hamish Hamilton – 1978
London City – Louise Nicholson – Bodley Head – 1988
The Roman City of Londinium – Ralph Merrifield – Ernest Benn – 1965
London’s River – Philip Howard – Hamish Hamilton – 1975
The City and The River – Chris Ellmers – A Museum of London Publication – 1989
The London Encyclopaedia – Ben Weinreb – Papermac - 1983
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