1902 Encyclopedia > London > Nineteenth Century

(Part 40)


London History (cont.) - Nineteenth Century

It is impossible to give here anything like a full account of the history of London during the 19th century. Since 1800 the City itself has been almost entirely rebuilt, and the suburbs on all sides have been vastly extended Russel Square was built about 1804, and the district north of Bloomsbury was laid out at the same time. Bloomsbury Square had been built in 1665, and Bedford Square at the end of the 18th century. Alexander Gibson Hunter, in a letter to Constable the publisher written in March 1807, says, "Young Faulder and I walked over all the duke of Bedford’s new fening grounds, Russel Square, Tavistock Place, Brunswick Square, &c. The extent of them, and the rapidity of the buildings, is beyond all comprehension." Bedford and Russel Squares were for some years the favored place of residence for the judges. To show how late has been the growth north of the New Road we may mention that at the beginning of the century grapes were ripened by the sun in the open air in gardens in Gower Street, and twenty five dozen of nectarines were gathered in 1800 from three completely exposed trees in a garden in Upper Gower Street. Still later the riches flavored celery was gathered in abundance in the same place. when dueling was in fashion the duelists naturally chose out the most unfrequented places, and we thus obtain an idea when these places were situated. Chalk Farm for some years rivaled in popularity Wimbledon Common, where the duke of York fought Colonel Lennox in 1789, Battersea Fields, where the duke of Wellington fought the earl of Winchealsea in 1829, and Putney Heath, where Pitt met Tierney in 1798, and Castlereagh and Canning fought in 1809. As late as 1843 a duel was fought at Chalk Farm between Lieutenant Monro and Colonel Fawcett, when the latter was killed.

In 1806 London saw the public funerals of three of England’s greatest men. On the 8th February the body of Nelson was borne with great pomp from the Admiralty to St Paul’s Cathedral, where it was interred in the presence of the prince of Wales and the royal dukes. Pitt was buried on 22nd February, and Fox on the 10th October, both in Westminster Abbey.

The first exhibition of Winser’s system of lighting the streets with gas took place on the king’s birthday (June 4) 1807, and was made in a row of lamps in front of the colonnade before Carlton House. Finsbury Square was the first public place in which has lighting was actually adopted, and Grosvenor Square the last. On October 11, 1811, the first stone of Waterloo Bridge was laid, and on June 18, 1817, it was publicaly opened. Southwark bridge was opened in April 1819, and new London Bridge, first tone of which had been laid on June 15, 1825, on August 1, 1831. Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges have been rebuilt within the last few years, and thus not one of the London bridges dates back farther than the present century. One of the greatest improvements in the West End was the formation of Regent Street, intended as a communication between Carlton House and the Regent’s Park, which had been planned in 1812. an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1813 for the purpose of carrying out Nash’s design. In the wintner of 1813-14 the Thames was again frozen over. The frost commenced on the evening of December 27, 1813, with a thick fog. After it had lasted for a month, a thaw of four days, from the 26th to the 29th of January, took place, but this thaw was succeeded by a renewal of the frost, so severe that the river soon became on immovable sheet of ice. There was a street of tents called the City Road, which was daily thronged with visitors. The fashionable Belgravia was built about 1825, over the squalid Five Fields, long known as a dangerous district. Belgrave Square was commenced in 1825, and Eaton Square was set out in 1827, but not wholly completed until 1853. It was about 1829, soon after Carlton House was pulled down, that the line of palatial club-houses in Pall Mall was commenced. In 1827 the Turnpike Act came into operation, and twenty-seven turnpikes were removed in one day. In 1838 the second Royal Exchange was destroyed by fire; and on October 28, 1844, the Queen opened the new Royal Exchange, which was built by Mr (afterwards Sir William) Tite. On April 27, 1840, the first stone of the new Houses of Parliament to be erected by Charles Barry was laid on the site of old buildings which had been burnt in October 1834. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1847 for the purpose of widening and lengthening Cannon Street, and subsequently the street was extended to St Paul’s Churchyard. In 1848 London was in danger from the threatened attack of the Chartists, and defensive preparations were extensively arranged. On the 10th of April, the mob having met on Kennington Common, was prevented from returning to London over the bridges, and no more was heard of any rising. The Great Exhibition of 1851 brought a larger number of visitors to London than had ever been in it before at one time. In 1852 the duke of Wellington’s lying in state at Chelsea Hospital, and his public funeral at St Paul’s, were two of the grandest London sights of the present century. On the occasion of the marriage of the Prince of Wales, the streets of London were illuminated as they never had been before. In 1864 Queen Victoria Street, a new thoroughfare from Blackfriars Bridge to the Mansion House, was begun, and in 1870 the northern shore of the river was embanked. The erection of the Thames Embankment, which was carried out at great expense, has shown itself to be the greatest improvement ever made in London. The river, which had been too long neglected, was again raised to its natural position as the chief ornament of London as well as the cause of its prosperity.

Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of London life in the latter half of the 19th century is the rush of Londoners which takes place each day after business hours from the center of the town to the outskirts. This daily exodus has been chiefly caused by the facilities offered by the various railway companion. The first emigration of the London merchants westward was about the middle of last century, but only those who had already secured large fortunes and possessed the highest reputations ventured as far as Hatton Garden. At the beginning of the present century it had become common for the tradesmen of the City to live away from their businesses, but it was only about thirty years ago that it became at all usual for those in the West End to do the same.

One point worthy of special mention in connection with the modern growth of London is the larger use of stone in building than at any previous period. The reason of this is that the increase in the value of land has made it worth of London is the larger used of stone in building than at any previous period. The reason of this is that the increase in the value of land has made it worth the builder’s while to spend more money on the building he raises. We might parody the remark on Augustus’s influence in Rome and say – the 19th century found London brick and will leave it stone.

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