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History of London


All these areas were inhabited by civil servants, the wealthy merchant classes and the growing educated elite like lawyers and doctors. North of the city expansion was limited to ribbon developments up the present day A1/ Aldersgate Street as far as present day Old Street and the medical college of St Bartholomew's hospital. There was also ribbon development to the north up Bishopsgate Street. Between these two ribbon developments, directly north of Moorgate, were still the green fields of the now drained swamps of Moorfields where Londoners used to skate in the winter.
To the east there was considerable ribbon development along the north bank of the Thames to service the new Docks of Wapping and Ratcliffe( see present day northern entrance of Rotherhithe Tunnel and on the river front, Ratcliffe Cross Stairs and Limehouse Basin). To the south the main developments centred round Southwark which, as in east London, housed the "working classes". The area around Lambeth Palace was still undrained marsh land.

It was in the south east of London that Henry 8th was born in the royal palace of Greenwich and he was brought up in a palace in Eltham until he was 15. Both these palaces, then surrounded by green fields can be visited today. While in this area it is worth taking the trip from Greenwich, south to the old Dover road across Blackheath, originally built by the Romans and as they normally did, using hills as landmarks to ensure the road was straight. There is probably not a better example of this than Shooters Hill on the old A2 just east of Blackheath where the Roman road makers took the old Dover road right up to the top of Shooters Hill and down again. The result on horse drawn coaches is well described in the first chapter of the Tail of Two Cities-the passengers had to get out and push. Eltham lies just south of this road and north of the A20.


We must start this period some 100 years earlier in 1660 that is just before the Great Fire of London. The population of London had increased from 80,000 in 1500 to 250,000 in 1600 and 375,000 in 1650.

During the short period when England was a republic under Oliver Cromwell London was continuously under threat from the pro-Royalists so Cromwell built a new defensive city wall which conveniently defines the limits of London at that time.
Starting on the Thames well to the west of Westminster Abbey at present day Vauxhall Bridge the wall went north east to Hyde Park Corner. Then turning north west to present day New Oxford street and further North and east along present day Pentonville and City roads. Then in a southerly circular route along Great Eastern Street, Commercial street and south to the Thames at Wapping. The south side of the river had a city wall for the first time starting in the east, south of Wapping close to the southern entrance to present day Rotherhithe Tunnel along to an east west wall running from the Old Kent Road (Old Dover Road) to the Elephant and Castle to the Imperial War Museum then South West to Vauxhall Bridge. In all eleven miles.
This wall was never attacked and was demolished in 1647 such that today almost nothing remains.
In 1665 London was hit by another massive bout of Bubonic Plague which mainly hit the poor areas outside the old Roman city walls. (Although all areas were affected to some extent)