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Daniel Defoe

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Letter 5 (London), Part 1: Overview and Suburbs

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SIR,---As I am now near the center of this work, so I am to describe the great center of England, the city of LondonLondon, and parts adjacent. This great work is infinitely difficult in its particulars, though not in itself; not that the city is so difficult to be described, but to do it in the narrow compass of a letter, which we see so fully takes up two large volumes in folio, and which, yet, if I may venture to give an opinion of it, is done but by halves neither.

However, be the task difficult, as it is, yet it must be done; to be concise and short, is absolutely necessary; to be plain and significant, as necessary; I shall observe both, as near as I can.

London, as a city only, and as its walls and liberties line it out, might, indeed, be viewed in a small compass; but, when I speak of London, now in the modern acceptation, you expect I shall take in all that vast mass of buildings, reaching from Black-Wall in the east, to Tot-Hill Fields in the west; and extended in an unequal breadth, from the bridge, or river, in the south, to Islington north; and from Peterburgh House on the bank side in Westminster, to Cavendish Square, and all the new buildings by, and beyond, Hannover Square, by which the city of London, for so it is still to be called, is extended to Hide Park Corner in the Brentford Road, and almost to Maribone in the Acton Road, and how much farther it may spread, who knows? New squares, and new streets rising up every day to such a prodigy of buildings, that nothing in the world does, or ever did, equal it, except old Rome in Trajan's time, when the walls were fifty miles in compass, and the number of inhabitants six million eight hundred thousand souls.

It is the disaster of London, as to the beauty of its figure, that it is thus stretched out in buildings, just at the pleasure of every builder, or undertaker of buildings, and as the convenience of the people directs, whether for trade, or otherwise; and this has spread the face of it in a most straggling, confus'd manner, out of all shape, uncompact, and unequal; neither long or broad, round or square; whereas the city of Rome, though a monster for its greatness, yet was, in a manner, round, with very few irregularities in its shape.

At London, including the buildings on both sides the water, one sees it, in some places, three miles broad, as from St. George's in Southwark, to Shoreditch in Middlesex; or two miles, as from Peterburgh House to Montague House; and in some places, not half a mile, as in Wapping; and much less, as in Redrirf.

We see several villages, formerly standing, as it were, in the country, and at a great distance, now joyn'd to the streets by continued buildings, and more making haste to meet in the like manner; for example, 1. Deptford, This town was formerly reckoned, at least two miles off from Redriff, and that over the marshes too, a place unlikely ever to be inhabited; and yet now, by the encrease of buildings in that town itself, and the many streets erected at Redriff, and by the docks and building-yards on the river side, which stand between both, the town of Deptford, and the streets of Redriff, or Rotherhith (as they write it) are effectually joyn'd, and the buildings daily increasing; so that Deptford is no more a separated town, but is become a part of the great mass, and infinitely full of people also; Here they have, within the last two or three years, built a fine new church, and were the town of Deptford now separated, and rated by itself, I believe it contains more people, and stands upon more ground, than the city of Wells.

The town of Islington, on the north side of the city, is in like manner joyn'd to the streets of London, excepting one small field, and which is in itself so small, that there is no doubt, but in a very few years, they will be intirely joyn'd, and the same may be said of Mile-End, on the east end of the town.

Newington, called Newington-Butts, in Surrey, reaches out her hand north, and is so near joining to Southwark, that it cannot now be properly called a town by itself, but a suburb to the burrough, and if, as they now tell is us undertaken, St. George's Fields should be built into squares and streets, a very little time will shew us Newington, Lambeth, and the Burrough, all making but one Southwark.

That Westminster is in a fair way to shake hands with Chelsea, as St. Gyles's is with Marybone; and Great Russel Street by Montague House, with Tottenham-Court: all this is very evident, and yet all these put together, are still to be called London: Whither will this monstrous city then extend? and where must a circumvallation or communication line of it be placed?

I have, as near as I could, caused a measure to be taken of this mighty, I cannot say uniform, body; and for the satisfaction of the curious, I have here given as accurate a description of it, as I can do in so narrow a compass, as this of a letter, or as I could do without drawing a plan, or map of the places.

As I am forced, in many places, to take in some unbuilt ground, so I have, on the other hand, been obliged to leave a great many whole streets of buildings out of my line: So that I have really not stretched my calculations, to make it seem bigger than it is; nor is there any occasion of it.


The Line begins, for the Middlesex Side of the Buildings ,

Miles Fur. Rods
1. At Peterborough House, the farthest house west upon the River Thames, and runs N.W. by W. by the marshes to Tutthill Fields, and passing by the Neat Houses, and Arnold's Brewhouse, ends at Chelsea Road, measured - 1 6 16
2. Then, allowing an interval from Buckingham House cross the park, about one furlong and half to the corner of my Lord Godolphin's garden wall, the line goes north behind the stable-yard buildings, and behind Park-Place, and on the park wall behind the buildings; on the west side of St. James's Street, to the corner in Soho, or Pickadilly, then crossing the road, and goes along the north side of the road west to Hide Park Gate - 1 2 11
3. Then the line turns N.E. by E. and taking in the buildings and streets, called May-Fair, and holds on east till the new streets formed out of Hide House Garden, cause it to turn away north, a point west reaching to Tyburn-Road, a little to the east of the great mother conduit; then it goes north, and crossing the road, takes in the west side of Cavendish Square, and the streets adjoining, and leaving Marybone, goes away east, 'till it reaches to Hampstead-Road, near a little village called Tottenham Court - 2 5 20
4. From Tottenham Court, the line comes in a little south, to meet the Bloomsbury, buildings then turning east, runs behind Montague and Southampton Houses, to the N.E. corner of Southampton House, then crossing the path, meets the buildings called Queen's Square, then turning north, 'till it comes to the N.W. corner of the square, thence it goes away east behind the buildings on the north side of Ormond Street, 'till it comes to Lamb's Conduit - 1 1 13
5. Here the line turns south, and indents to the corner of Bedford Row, and leaving some few houses, with the cock-pit, and bowling green, goes on the back of Gray's Inn Wall, to Gray's Inn Lane, then turns on the outside of the buildings, which are on the west side of Gray's Inn Lane, going north to the stones end, when turning east, it passes to the new river bridge without Liquor-pond Street, so taking in the Cold Bath and the Bear Garden; but leaving out Sir John Old-Castle's and the Spaw, goes on east by the Ducking-Pond to the end of New Bridewell, and crossing the Fairfield, comes into the Islington Road by the Distiller's House, formerly Justice Fuller's, - 1 2 6
6. Here to take in all the buildings which joyn Islington to the streets, the line goes north on the east side of the road to the Turk's Head ale-house; then turning north west, passes to the New River House, but leaving it to the west, passes by Sadler's Well, from thence to Bussby's House, and keeping on the west side of Islington, 'till it comes opposite to Cambray House-Lane, turns into the road, and passes south almost to the lane which turns east down to the lower street, but then turns east without the houses, and goes to the Cow-keeper's in the lower street crossing the road, and through the Cow-keeper's Yard into Frog-lane, then running west on the south side of the town, just without the buildings, joyns again to the buildings on the west side of Wood's-Close, passing behind the Sheep-market wall - 2 4 39
7. From Wood's-Close, the line goes due east to Mount Mill, where, leaving several buildings to the north, it passes on, crossing all the roads to Brick-lane, to the north side of the great new square in Old-street, and taking in the Pest-house wall, turns south at the north-east corner of the said wall, to Old-street Road; then going away east till it meets the buildings near Hoxton Square, it turns north to the north west corner of the wall of Ask's Hospital, then sloping north east, it passes by Pimlico, the Cyder House, and the two walls to the north end of Hoxton, when it turns east, and inclosing the garden walls, comes into the Ware road, just at the King's Head in the new buildings by the Land of Promise - 2 0 16
8. From the King's Head, the line turns south, running to the stones end in Shoreditch, then turning east, it takes in a burying ground and some buildings in the Hackney road, when sloping south east by south, it goes away by the Virginia House to a great brewhouse, and then still more east to the back of Wheeler-street, and then east by south, to Brick-lane, crossing which, it goes away east towards Bethnal Green; but then turning short south, it goes towards White Chapel Mount, but being intercepted by new streets, it goes quite up to the south end of the Dog-Row at Mile End - 1 6 19
9. From the Dog-Row, the line crosses the road, and takes in a little hamlet of houses, called Stepney, tho' not properly so, and coming back west to the streets end at White Chapel Moll, goes away south by the Hog-houses into Church Lane, and to Rag Fair, when turning again east, it continues in a strait line on the north side of Ratcliff High-way, 'till it comes almost to the farther Glass-houses, then turning north, it surrounds all Stepney and Stepney causeway to Mile End Road, then turning east again, and afterwards south, comes back to the new streets on the north side of Lime-house, and joyning the marsh, comes down to the water side at the lower shipwright dock in Lime-house Hole - 3 7 1
18 4 21

N.B. This line leaves out all the north side of Mile End town, from the end of the Dog-Row, to the Jews Burying Ground, which is all built; also all the north part of the Dog-Row, and all Bethnal Green: Also all Poplar and Black-Wall, which are, indeed, contiguous, a trifle of ground excepted, and very populous.

For the Southwark Side of the Buildings, the Line is as follows ;

Having ended the circumference of the Middlesex buildings at Lime-house, and the street extending towards Poplar, the hamlets of Poplar and Blackwall, tho' very near contiguous in buildings, being excluded, I allow an interval of two miles, from Poplar, cross the Isle of Dogs, and over the Thames, to the lower water gate at Deptford, and tho' in measuring the circumference of all cities, the river, where any such runs through any part of the buildings, is always measured, yet; that I may not be said to stretch the extent of the buildings which I include in this account, I omit the river from Limehouse to Deptford (where, if included, it ought to begin) and begin my line as above.

Miles Fur. Rods
1. From the said upper water-gate at Deptford, the line goes east to the corner next the Thames, where the shipwright's yard now is, and where I find a continued range of buildings begins by the side of a little creek or river, which runs into the Thames there, and reaches quite up the said river, to the bridge in the great Kentish road, and over the street there, taking in the south side of the street, to the west corner of the buildings in that street, and then measuring down on the west side of the long street, which runs to the Thames side, 'till you come to the new street which passes from Deptford to Rederiff, then turning to the left, passing on the back side of the king's yard to Mr. Evelin's house, including the new church of Deptford, and all the new streets or buildings made on the fields side, which are very many, this amounts in the whole, to - 3 1 16
2. From Mr. Evelin's garden gate, the line goes north west, taking in all the new docks and yards, the Red-house, and several large streets of houses, which have been lately built, and by which the said town of Deptford is effectually joined to the buildings, reaching from Cuckold's Point, eastward, and which are carried out, as if Rederiff stretch'd forth its arm to embrace Deptford; then for some length, the said street of Rederiff continues narrow 'till you come to Church-street, where several streets are also lately built south, and others parallel with the street, till gradually, the buildings thicken, and extend farther and farther to the south and south by east, 'till they cross over the east end of Horslydown to Bermondsey Church, and thence east to the sign of the World's End, over against the great fort, being the remains of the fortifications drawn round these parts of Southwark in the late civil wars. This extent is, by computation, four miles; but being measured, as the streets indented, the circuit prov'd - 5 6 12
3. From this fort, to the corner of Long Lane, and through Long Lane to the Lock, at the end of Kent-street, is - 1 7 2
4. From the corner of Kent-street to the town of Newington Butts, drawing the line behind all the buildings as they stand, and round the said village of Newington, to the Haberdashers Alms Houses, and thence by the road to the windmill, at the corner of Blackman-street, is - 3 2 16
5. From the windmill crossing St. George's Fields, on the back of the Mint, to the Fighting Cocks, thence to the Restoration Gardens, and thence on the outside of all the buildings to Lambeth-Wells, and on to Faux-Hall Bridge, over against the other fort of the old fortifications, being just the same length that those old fortifications extended, tho' infinitely fuller of buildings; this last circuit measures - 3 5 12
17 6 18

Thus the extent or circumference of the continued buildings of the cities of London and Westminster, and borough of Southwark, all which, in the common acceptation, is called London, amounts to thirty six miles, two furlongs, thirty nine rods.

N.B. The town of Greenwich, which may, indeed, be said to be contiguous to Deptford, might be also called a part of this measurement; but I omit it, as I have the towns of Chelsea and Knights Bridge on the other side, tho' both may be said to joyn the town, and in a very few years will certainly do so.

Were it possible to reduce all these buildings to a compact situation, 'tis generally thought, that the whole body so put together, allowing the necessary ground, which they now employ for the several trades in the out-parts, such as the building yards by the river, for shipwrights, tanners yards, dyers, whitsters, &c. I say, 'tis believed the whole would take up twenty eight miles in circumference, very compactly built.

The guesses that are made at the number of inhabitants, have been variously form'd; Sir William Petty, famous for his political arithmetick, supposed the city, at his last calculation, to contain a million of people, and this he judges from the number of births and burials; and by this rule, as well by what is well known of the increase of the said births and burials, as of the prodigious increase of buildings, it may be very reasonable to conclude, the present number of inhabitants within the circumference I have mentioned, to amount to, at least, fifteen hundred thousand, with this addition, that it is still prodigiously increasing.

Nor is it hard to account for this increase of people, as well as buildings in London; but the discourse seems too political to belong to this work, which, rather, relates to the fact than the reason of it, and is properly to describe the thing, not to shew why it is so, for which reason I omit entring into the enquiry.

The government of this great mass of building, and of such a vast collected body of people, though it consists of various parts, is, perhaps, the most regular and well-ordered government, that any city, of above half its magnitude, can boast of.

The government of the city of London in particular, and abstractedly considered, is, by the lord mayor, twenty four aldermen, two sheriffs, the recorder and common council; but the jurisdiction of these is confined to that part only, which they call the City and its Liberties, which are marked out, except the Borough, by the walls and the bars, as they are called, and which the particular maps of the city have exactly lin'd out, to which I refer.

Besides this, the lord mayor and aldermen of London have a right presidial, as above, in the borough of Southwark, as conservators of the bridge, and the bridge itself is their particular jurisdiction.

Also the lord mayor, &c. is conservator of the River Thames, from Stanes Bridge in Surrey and Middlesex, to the River Medway in Kent, and, as some insist, up the Medway to Rochester Bridge.

The government of the out parts, is by justices of the peace, and by the sheriffs of London, who are, likewise, sheriffs of Middlesex; and the government of Westminster is, by a high bailiff, constituted by the Dean and Chapter, to whom the civil administrations is so far committed.

The remaining part of Southwark side, when the city jurisdiction is considered, is governed, also by a Bench of Justices, and their proper substituted peace officers; excepting out of this the privileges of the Marshalseas, or of the Marshal's Court, the privilege of the Marshal of the King's Bench, the Mint, and the like.

To enter here, into a particular description of the city of London, its antiquities, monuments, &c. would be only to make an abridgment of Stow and his continuators, and would make a volume by itself; but while I write in manner of a letter, and in the person of an itinerant, and give a cursory view of its present state, and to the reader, who is supposed to be upon the spot, or near it, and who has the benefit of all the writers, who have already entered upon the description; it will, I believe, be allowed to be agreeable and sufficient to touch at those things principally, which no other authors have yet mentioned, concerning this great and monstrous thing, called London.

N.B. By this may be plainly understood, that I mean not the city only, for then I must discourse of it in several parts, and under several denominations and descriptions, as,

  1. Of the city and liberties of London.
  2. Of the city and liberties of Westminster.
  3. Of the Tower and its hamlets.
  4. Of the suburbs or buildings annex'd to these, and called Middlesex.
  5. Of the borough of Southwark.
  6. Of the Bishop of Winchester's reserv'd privileged part in Southwark, called the Park and Marshalsea.
  7. Of Lambeth.
  8. Of Deptford, and the king's and merchants yards for building.
  9. Of the Bridge-house and its reserv'd limits, belonging to the city.
  10. Of the buildings on Southwark side, not belonging to any of these.

But by London, as I shall discourse of it, I mean, all the buildings, places, hamlets, and villages contain'd in the line of circumvallation, if it be proper to call it so, by which I have computed the length of its circumference as above.

We ought, with respect to this great mass of buildings, to observe, in every proper place, what it is now, and what it was within the circumference of a few years past; and particularly, when other authors wrote, who have ventured upon the description of it.

It is, in the first place, to be observed, as a particular and remarkable crisis, singular to those who write in this age, and very much to our advantage in writing, that the great and more eminent increase of buildings, in, and about the city of London, and the vast extent of ground taken in, and now become streets and noble squares of houses, by which the mass, or body of the whole, is become so infinitely great, has been generally made in our time, not only within our memory, but even within a few years, and the description of these additions, cannot be improper to a description of the whole, as follows.


This account of new buildings is to be understood,

  1. Of houses re-built after the great fires hi London and Southwark, &c.
  2. New foundations, on ground where never any buildings were erected before.

Take, then, the city and its adjacent buildings to stand, as described by Mr. Stow, or by any other author, who wrote before the Fire of London, and the difference between what it was then, and what it is now, may be observed thus:

It is true, that before the Fire of London, the streets were narrow, and publick edifices, as well as private, were more crowded, and built closer to one another; for soon after the Fire, the king, by his proclamation, forbid all persons whatsoever, to go about to re-build for a certain time, viz. till the Parliament (which was soon to sit) might regulate and direct the manner of building, and establish rules for the adjusting every man's property, and yet might take order for a due inlarging of the streets, and appointing the manner of building, as well for the beauty as the conveniency of the city, and for safety, in case of any future accident; for though I shall not inquire, whether the city was burnt by accident, or by treachery, yet nothing was more certain, than that as the city stood before, it was strangely exposed to the disaster which happened, and the buildings look'd as if they had been form'd to make one general bonefire, whenever any wicked party of incendiaries should think fit.

The streets were not only narrow, and the houses all built of timber, lath and plaister, or, as they were very properly call'd paper work, and one of the finest range of buildings in the Temple, are, to this day, called the Paper Buildings, from that usual expression.

But the manner of the building in those days, one story projecting out beyond another, was such, that in some narrow streets, the houses almost touch'd one another at the top, and it has been known, that men, in case of fire, have escaped on the tops of the houses, by leaping from one side of a street to another; this made it often, and almost always happen, that if a house was on fire, the opposite house was in more danger to be fired by it, according as the wind stood, than the houses next adjoining on either side.

How this has been regulated, how it was before, and how much better it now is, I leave to be judged, by comparing the old unburnt part of the city with the new.

But tho' by the new buildings after the fire, much ground was given up, and left unbuilt, to inlarge the streets, yet 'tis to be observed, that the old houses stood severally upon more ground, were much larger upon the flat, and in many places, gardens and large yards about them, all which, in the new buildings, are, at least, contracted, and the ground generally built up into other houses, so that notwithstanding all the ground given up for beautifying the streets, yet there are many more houses built than stood before upon the same ground; so that taking the whole city together, there are more inhabitants in the same compass, than there was before. To explain this more fully, I shall give some particular instances, to which I refer, which there are living witnesses able to confirm: For example,

  1. Swithen's Alleys by the Royal Exchange, were all, before the Fire, taken up with one single merchant's house, and inhabited by one Mr. Swithin; whereas, upon the same ground where the house stood, stands now about twenty-two or twenty-four houses, which belong to his posterity to this day.
  2. Copt-Hall-Court in Throckmorton-street, was, before the Fire, also a single house, inhabited by a Dutch merchant; also three more courts in the same streets, were single houses, two on the same side of the way, and one on the other.

The several alleys behind St. Christopher's Church, which are now vulgarly, but erroneously, call'd St. Christopher's-Churchyard, were, before the Fire, one great house, or, at least, a house and ware-houses belonging to it, in which the famous Mr. Kendrick lived, whose monument now stands in St, Christopher's Church, and whose dwelling, also, took up almost all the ground, on which now a street of houses is erected, called Prince's-street, going through into Lothbury, no such street being known before the Fire.

Kings-Arms-Yard in Coleman-street, now built into fine large houses, and inhabited by principal merchants, was, before the fire, a stable-yard for horses and an inn, at the sign of the Kings Arms.

I might fill up my account with many such instances, but 'tis enough to explain the thing, viz. That so many great houses were converted into streets and courts, alleys and buildings, that there are, by estimation, almost 4000 houses now standing on the ground which the Fire left desolate, more than stood on the same ground before.

Another increase of buildings in the city, is to be taken from the inhabitants in the unburnt parts following the same example, of pulling down great old buildings, which took up large tracks of ground in some of the well inhabited places, and building on the same ground, not only several houses, but even whole streets of houses, which are since fully inhabited; for example;

Crosby-Square within Bishopsgate, formerly the house of Sir James Langham merchant.

Devonshire-Square and Street, with several back streets and passages into Petticoat-Lane one way, and Hounsditch another way, all built on the ground where the old Earl of Devonshire had a house and garden, and are all fully inhabited.

Bridgwater-Square, and several streets adjoyning all fully inhabited, built on the ground where the Earl of Bridgwater had a large house and garden in Barbican.

Billeter-Square, and several passages adjoyning, built upon the grounds of one great house, in which, before that, one merchant only lived.

All those palaces of the nobility, formerly making a most beautiful range of buildings fronting the Strand, with their gardens reaching to the Thames, where they had their particular water-gates and stairs, one of which remains still, viz. Somerset House, have had the same fate, such as Essex, Norfolk, Salisbury, Worcester, Exceter, Hungerford, and York Houses; in the place of which, are now so many noble streets and beautiful houses, erected, as are, in themselves, equal to a large city, and extend from the Temple to Northumberland-House; Somerset House and the Savoy, only intervening; and the latter of these may be said to be, not a house, but a little town, being parted into innumerable tenements and apartments.

Many other great houses have, by the example of these, been also built into streets, as Hatton-House in Holborn, and the old Earl of Bedford's great garden, called New Convent Garden; but those I omit, because built before the year 1666; but I may add the Lord Brook's house in Holborn; the Duke of Bedford's last remaining house and garden in the Strand, and many others.

These are prodigious enlargements to the city, even upon that which I call inhabited ground, and where infinite numbers of people now live, more than lived upon the same spot of ground before.

But all this is a small matter, compared to the new foundations raised within that time, in those which we justly call the out parts; and not to enter on a particular description of the buildings, I shall only take notice of the places where such enlargements are made; as, first, within the memory of the writer hereof, all those numberless ranges of building, called Spittle Fields, reaching from Spittle-yard, at Northern Fallgate, and from Artillery Lane in Bishopsgate-street, with all the new streets, beginning at Hoxton, and the back of Shoreditch Church, north, and reaching to Brick-Lane, and to the end of Hare-street, on the way to Bethnal Green, east; then sloping away quite to White Chapel Road, south east, containing, as some people say, who pretend to know, by good observation, above three hundred and twenty acres of ground, which are all now close built, and well inhabited with an infinite number of people, I say, all these have been built new from the ground, fince the year 1666.

The lanes were deep, dirty, and unfrequented, that part now called Spittlefields-Market, was a field of grass with cows feeding on it, since the year 1670. The Old Artillery Ground (where the Parliament listed their first soldiers against the King) took up all those long streets, leading out of Artillery Lane to Spittle-yard-back-Gate, and so on to the end of Wheeler-street.

Brick-Lane, which is now a long well-pav'd street, was a deep dirty road, frequented by carts fetching bricks that way into White-Chapel from Brick-Kilns in those fields, and had its name on that account; in a word, it is computed, that about two hundred thousand inhabitants dwell now in that part of London, where, within about fifty years past, there was not a house standing.

  1. On the more eastern part, the same increase goes on in proportion, namely, all Goodman's Fields, the name gives evidence for it, and the many streets between White-Chapel and Rosemary Lane, all built since the year 1678. Well Close, now called Marine Square, was so remote from houses, that it used to be a very dangerous place to go over after it was dark, and many people have been robbed and abused in passing it; a well standing in the middle, just where the Danish church is now built, there the mischief was generally done; beyond this, all the hither or west end of Ratcliff-high-way, from the corner of Gravel-Lane, to the east end of East Smithfield, was a road over the fields; likewise those buildings, now called Virginia-street, and all the streets on the side of Ratcliff-high-way to Gravel-Lane above named.
  2. To come to the north side of the town, and beginning at Shoreditch, west, and Hoxton-Square, and Charles's-Square adjoyning, and the streets intended for a market-place, those were all open fields, from Anniseed-clear to Hoxton Town, till the year 1689, or thereabouts; Pitfield-street was a bank, parting two pasture grounds, and Ask's Hospital was another open field: Farther west, the like addition of buildings begins at the foot way, by the Pest-house, and includes the French hospital, Old street two squares, and several streets, extending from Brick-Lane to Mount-Mill, and the road to Islington, and from the road, still west, to Wood's Close, and to St. John's, and Clerkenwell, all which streets and squares are built since the year 1688 and 1689, and were before that, and some for a long time after, open fields or gardens, and never built on till after that time.

From hence we go on still west, and beginning at Gray's-Inn, and going on to those formerly called Red Lyon Fields, and Lamb's Conduit Fields, we see there a prodigious pile of buildings; it begins at Gray's-Inn Wall towards Red-Lyon Street, from whence, in a strait line, 'tis built quite to Lamb's Conduit Fields, north, including a great range of buildings yet unfinish'd, reaching to Bedford Row and the Cockpit, east, and including Red Lyon Square, Ormond Street, and the great new square at the west end of it, and all the streets between that square and King's Gate in Holbourn, where it goes out; this pile of buildings is very great, the houses so magnificent and large, that abundance of persons of quality, and some of the nobility are found among them, particularly in Ormond Street, is the D------of Powis's house, built at the expence of France, on account of the former house being burnt, while the Duke D'Aumont, the French Ambassador Extraordinary lived in it; it is now a very noble structure, tho' not large, built of free-stone, and in the most exact manner, according to the rules of architecture, and is said to be, next the Banquetting House, the most regular building in this part of England.

Here is also a very convenient church, built by the contribution of the gentry inhabitants of these buildings, tho' not yet made parochial, being called St. George's Chapel.

Farther west, in the same line, is Southampton great square, called Bloomsbury, with King-street on the east side of it, and all the numberless streets west of the square, to the market place, and through Great-Russel-street by Montague House, quite into the Hampstead road, all which buildings, except the old building of Southampton House and some of the square, has been form'd from the open fields, since the time above-mentioned, and must contain several thousands of houses; here is also a market, and a very handsome church new built.

From hence, let us view the two great parishes of St. Giles's and St. Martin's in the Fields, the last so increased, as to be above thirty years ago, formed into three parishes, and the other about now to be divided also.

The increase of the buildings here, is really a kind of prodigy; all the buildings north of Long Acre, up to the Seven Dials, all the streets, from Leicester-Fields and St. Martin's-Lane, both north and west, to the Hay-Market and Soho, and from the Hay-Market to St. James's-street inclusive, and to the park wall; then all the buildings on the north side of the street, called Picadilly, and the road to Knight's-Bridge, and between that and the south side of Tyburn Road, including Soho-Square, Golden-Square, and now Hanover-Square, and that new city on the north side of Tyburn Road, called Cavendish-Square, and all the streets about it.

This last addition, is, by calculation, more in bulk than the cities of Bristol, Exeter and York, if they were all put together; all which places were, within the time mentioned, meer fields of grass, and employ'd only to feed cattle as other fields are.

The many little additions that might be named besides these, tho' in themselves considerable, yet being too many to give room to here, I omit.

This is enough to give a view of the difference between the present and the past greatness of this mighty city, called London.

N.B. Three projects have been thought of, for the better regulating the form of this mighty building, which tho' not yet brought to perfection, may, perhaps, in time, be brought forwards, and if it should, would greatly add to the beauty.

  1. Making another bridge over the Thames.
  2. Making an Act of Parliament, abrogating the names as well as the jurisdictions of all the petty privileged places, and joyning or uniting the whole body, Southwark and all, into one city, and calling it by one name, London.
  3. Forbidding the extent of the buildings in some particular places, where they too much run it out of shape, and letting the more indented parts swell out on the north and south side a little, to balance the length, and bring the form of the whole more near to that of a circle, as particularly stopping the running out of the buildings at the east and west ends, as at Ratcliff and Deptford, east, and at Tyburn and Kensington roads, west, and encouraging the building out at Moor-fields, Bunhil-fields, the west side of Shoreditch, and such places, and the north part of Gray's-Inn, and other adjacent parts, where the buildings are not equally filled out, as in other places, and the like in St. George's Fields and behind Redriff on the other side of the water.

But these are speculations only, and must be left to the wisdom of future ages.

Daniel Defoe, A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies (London: JM Dent and Co, 1927)

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