London's Story

Georgian London

A famous Georgian -Lord Nelson

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. 


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