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Browsing | London History

London – A Brief History 43AD – 1529AD

London - A Brief History 43AD - 1529AD
A couple of low hills in the middle of a marsh don’t sound like a very promising start for a world class city, but that’s just how London, England began, over two millennia ago. And the story of its development is as exciting as any thriller. There was probably a settlement of sorts when the Romans invaded Britain for the second and decisive time, back in 43AD. But it was probably Roman engineers who built the first proper bridge across the River Thames in order to march further north. From these first steps grew the Roman city of Londinium. Today, the nature of the London topography gives a clue to the marshy nature of its origins. Look at any map of London and the snake-like route of the Thames still betrays the meandering nature of its original marshy course. The twin hills — on one of which now sits St Paul’s Cathedral — rising from this marshland would have instantly appealed to the military eye of a Roman general as a good defensive area upon which to build a fort. As was their custom, the Romans would have probably used timber for their first fort, replacing that speedily built structure later with locally quarried stone, brought in by the river. Gradually the Roman city become an enclosed one, roughly a mile square. The name “Square Mile” still exists today, as the informal name for the City of London — now one of the world’s leading financial centers. Nearly a thousand years after the Romans, a rival to Londinium arose. In 1065, the King of England, Edward the Confessor, completed his church of Westminster, on an island in the marsh, the Isle of Thorney just west of what was, by now, called London. 1065 was a significant date in the history of London — and, indeed, Britain — it being the final year of Saxon rule. The following year, after the death of Edward, William the Conqueror, from Normandy, on the north coast of France, invaded Britain to claim what he believed to be his inheritance: the crown of England. Once victorious, William set about getting his new kingdom organized. Not only did he cause the writing of the Doomsday Book — the first record of the lands and property of the whole country, he started a massive building program of both castles and cathedrals. One of the first castles constructed was the Tower of London, in the old Roman city, right on the banks of the River Thames. It became William’s royal palace and continued so until 1529. It was, by then, the reign of Henry VIII, who, having seized the Palace of Whitehall, a little way up river, from his erstwhile chum, Cardinal Wolsey, relocated to there. Thereafter, the Tower became a prison, notably for Wolsey, several of Henry’s soon to be ex-wives and any others who dared to contest the king’s right to divorce at will. That shift of the monarchy from the old Roman city to the Westminster area, coupled with the rising prosperity of England, ....read more

Florence Nightingale Museum

Florence Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820 into a rich, upper-class, well-connected British family at the Villa Colombaia, in Florence, Italy, and was named after the city of her birth.She came to prominence while serving as a manager of nurses trained by her during the Crimean War, where she organised the tending to wounded soldiers.She gave nursing a highly favourable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night. Nightingale underwent the first of several experiences that she believed were calls from God in February 1837, prompting a strong desire to devote her life to the service of others. In her youth she was respectful of her family’s opposition to her working as a nurse, only announcing her decision to enter the field in 1844. Despite the intense anger and distress of her mother and sister, she rebelled against the expected role for a woman of her status to become a wife and mother. Nightingale worked hard to educate herself in the art and science of nursing, in spite of opposition from her family and the restrictive social code for affluent young English women. Florence Nightingale‘s most famous contribution came during the Crimean War, which became her central focus when reports got back to Britain about the horrific conditions for the wounded. On 21 October 1854, she and the staff of 38 women volunteer nurses that she trained, were sent to the Ottoman Empire. During the Crimean war, Florence Nightingale gained the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp” On 13 August 1910, at the age of 90, she died peacefully in her sleep in her room at 10 South Street, Mayfair, London. Why not visit The Florence Nightingale Museum for more info ....read more

Jack The Ripper, Whitechapel murders

Jack The Ripper
Jack the Ripper is the best known name given to an unidentified serial killer or killers generally believed to have been active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. In the early hours of the 31st August  a man is walking to work down a dark lane in Whitechapel, he sees a shapeless bundle lying on the ground near some gates, curious he goes over to investigate. His gruesome discovery of a murdered East End prostitute then started one of the most famous man hunts in the world. It is unclear just how many women Jack the Ripper killed. It is generally accepted that he killed five, though some have written that he murdered only four while others say seven or more. The public, press, and even many junior police officers believed that Jack the Ripper was responsible for nine slayings. In a time before forensic science and even finger printing, the only way to prove someone committed a murder was to catch either him or her in the act, or get the suspect to confess. The Whitechapel Murders unhappily fall into this period of time. One interesting feature of this case is that not one, but two police forces carried out investigations. The Metropolitan Police, known as Scotland Yard, was responsible for crimes committed in all the boroughs of London except the City of London proper. The single square mile in the heart of London known as the City of London had their own police force….more ....read more

The Great Fire of London

Fire of London
The Great Fire of London was a destructive Fire which started at the bakery of Thomas Farriner on Pudding Lane shortly after midnight on Sunday, 2 September 1666. It is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the City’s 80,000 inhabitants.  The fire fighting techniques at the time where extremely limited and the only way to extinguish  the flames where to create fire breaks by means of demolition. Order in the streets broke down as rumours arose of suspicious foreigners setting fires. Fires were common in the crowded wood-built city with its open fireplaces, candles, ovens, and stores of combustibles.There was no police or fire brigade to call, but London’s local militia, known as the Trained Bands, was at least in principle available for general emergencies, and watching for fire was one of the jobs. London Bridge, was the only physical connection between the City and the south side of the river Thames, was itself covered with houses and had been noted as a death trap in the fire of 1632. There were fears that the flames would cross London Bridge to threaten the borough of Southwark on the south bank, but this danger was averted by an open space between buildings on the bridge which acted as a fire break. After two rainy summers in 1664 and 1665, London had lain under an exceptional drought since November 1665, and the wooden buildings were tinder-dry after the long hot summer of 1666, which helped to fuel the fire which spread quickly. The wind dropped on Tuesday evening the 4th September, and the fire breaks created by the garrison finally began to take effect.There were many separate fires still burning themselves out, but on Wednesday 5th September the Great Fire of London was finely out. The material destruction of the city has been estimated at around 13,500 houses,87 parish churches,44 Halls. The monetary value of the loss, first estimated at £100,000,000 in the currency of the time, was later reduced to an uncertain £10,000,000 (over £1 billion in 2015 pounds). A Monument to the Great Fire of London, designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, was erected near Pudding Lane. Standing 61 metres (200 ft) tall and known simply as “The Monument”, it is a familiar London landmark which has given its name to a tube station….more                 ....read more