6. London Geography and Economy


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London in the 14th century. Layout of the city and some particular trades. Infrastructure: water supply, sewage, air pollution.

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  • When it happens that two neighbours wish to build between themselves a stone-wall, each of them ought to give one foot and a half of his land; and so at their joint cost they shall build a stone-wall between them, three feet in thickness and sixteen feet in height. And if they wish, they shall make a rain-gutter between them, at their joint cost, to receive and carry off the water from their houses, in such manner as they may deem most expedient. But if they should [not] wish to do so, either of them may make a gutter by himself, to carry off the water that falls from his house, on to his own land, unless he can carry it into the King's highway.―William Sprot complains that the cess-pit of Adam and William…is too near his tenement, and is so full of sewage that it overflows and penetrates his stone wall, and enters his house and collects there, causing a great stench…Judgment that within 40 days etc. the defs. wall the cess-pit with stone and remove it 2 ½ ft. from the pl.‘s wall‖As far as the records reveal, the environmental issues of London‘s public spaces became the personal concerns of its citizens when they threatened either their personal safety or their private spaces.―John Stockyngbury was brought before the Mayor and Aldermen for having a large dung heap on the banks of the Thames next to his house at Billingsgate, to the detriment of the Thames water, the damage of the commonalty and the disgrace of the city (1382)‖ The fishing trade also needed regulations, but for different reasons. Most of the environmentally-related ordinances for fishing and fishmongers concerned the protection of small, immature fish called ―fry,‖ which stemmed from complaints against fishermen using nets with too small of a mesh that trapped these fish. This practice was a nuisance to other fishmongers and fishermen who wanted to ensure that the common fish supply did not become depleted. In short, their motive was largely generated by self-interest; the environment of the Thames needed to be regulated in order to protect their business. In this case, their personal interests depended on the regulation of public space. However, city officials also regulated fishing practices, likely motivated by the need to protect the fish as a food source of the city.
  • Seacoal LaneBy 1228, however, it was common enough for a street to be named "Sea-Coal Lane," and in 1257 definite mention was made of imports of sea coal into London.The London sea coal trade was extensive enough by the late 13th century to warrantthe appointment of a coal meter, an official charged with regulating its import and sale;Ed-ward I, therefore, issued a royal proclamation in 1307 prohibiting the use of sea coals in kilns as the King learns from the complaint of prelates and magnates of his realm, who frequently come to London for the benefit of the commonwealth by his order, and from the complaint of his citizens and all his people dwelling there and in Southwark that the workmen in the city and town aforesaid and in their confines now burn them [kilns] and construct them of sea-coal instead of brushwood and charcoal, from the use of which sea-coal an intol-erable smell diffuses itself throughout the neighboring places and the air is greatly infected, to the annoyance of the magnates, citizens and others there dwelling and to the injury of their bodily health.
  • Many residences had latrines above cesspits.Even at a much later date, in 1579, inquiries on the part of a certain constable revealed that fifty-seven households within Tower Street in the Parish of All Hallows, containing in all eighty-five people had for their convenience only three privies
  • The barrel had been sunk into a pit in a city backyard and used as the base of a latrine.The seeds, insects and parasite eggs that were discovered within it provide a valuable insight into life in medieval Worcester. Much of the material within the barrel must have survived digestion but it is likely that some kitchen scraps and environmental remains are also represented.Twenty edible plants were identified including fruit such as gooseberry, apple, pear, bilberry and strawberry, and fig and grape which may have been imported. Evidence of herbs were also found such as chervil, coriander and fennel along with other foods like broad beans and bran. The bones of chicken, eel and herring were probably thrown into the latrine as scraps, perhaps along with the stones of damsons and sloes. From the local environment of the time were found, seeds and pollen representing the presence of straw, hay and sedge. Weld and linseed used in the clothing industry were also found along with a sample of cloth.
  • "The King to the Mayor and Sheriffs of our City of London, greeting. Considering how that the streets, and lanes, and other places in the city aforesaid, and the suburbs thereof, in the times of our forefathers and our own, were wont to be cleansed from dung, laystalls, and other filth, and were wont heretofore to be protected from the corruption arising therefrom, from the which no little honour did accrue unto the said city, and those dwelling therein; and whereas now, when passing along the water of Thames, we have beheld dung, and laystalls, and other filth, accumulated in divers places in the said city, upon the bank of the river aforesaid, and have also perceived the fumes and other abominable stenches arising therefrom; from the corruption of which, if tolerated, great peril, as well to the persons dwelling within the said city, as to the nobles and others passing along the said river, will, it is feared, ensue, unless indeed some fitting remedy be speedily provided for the same;1388 ParliamentFor that so much dung and filth of garbage and entrails be cast and put in ditches, rivers and other waters, so that the air there is grown greatly corrupt and infected, and many intolerable diseases do daily happen... it is accorded and assented that the proclamation be made as well in the city of London, as in other cities where it be needful, that they who do cast and lay all such annoyances, dung, garbages, entrails, and other ordure, in ditches, rivers, waters, and other places, shall cause them utterly to be removed, avoided, and carried away, every one on pain to pay a fine of £20.
  • Individual citizens, indeed, were often quite zealous concerning the cleanliness of the street before their own property. For instance, in 1326, in Cheap Street near St Mary le Bow, a certain pedlar, passing there, threw the skins of eels, which he was carrying in a pail, into the street before two shops, thereby arousing the bitter resentment of the shop-keepers. In the quarrel that followed, one of the shop apprentices struck the pedlar and killed him.3 There was, however, an ulterior reason for such resentment. In the time of Mayor Gregory Rocksley (1275-1281) an ordinance had been passed making citizens who threw filth or rubbish into the streets before their houses liable to a fine of four pence, or else subject to distraint, if they refused to pay. If, on the other hand, the committer of the nuisance was shown to be another person, the fine was to be levied on the latter and the property owner let go free.4 In 1326, however, the year of this murder, the fine may have been even larger; for by 1345 the penalty for such nuisances had been increased to two shillings,5 the level at which it seems to have remained until 13792. In that year the beadles and constables were empowered to levy the fine of two shillings on the occupants of houses either before or within which they found ordure, and were, of course, to distrain for the fine, where necessary. Moreover they were to levy a fine, not now of two but of four shillings, on those who threw filth before the houses of others, taking half of this fine for themselves and giving half of it to the city chamberlain. They were also granted half of the fines imposed for leaving casks, carts, rubbish, and other nuisances in the streets.6 Moreover in that year the offence of throwing water (that is, kitchen slops, the contents of bedroom urinals, and so forth) from windows was by explicit statute put under the penalty of two shillings.7 In actual practice, however, it probably came long before this under the ordinance forbidding the throwing of filth into the highway before one's house. These regulations of 1372 seem to have continued in force right on into the fifteenth century, since they are mentioned again in 1381, 1385, and 1390.8
  • A corn-market, says Stow, was, "time out of mind, there holden." Drapers were the earliest inhabitants. Lydgate speaks of it as a place where old clothes were bought, and sometimes stolen
  • 6. London Geography and Economy

    1. 1. London Life 14th Century Environment & Economy
    2. 2. London 1300
    3. 3. London 1543 London Bridge
    4. 4. Trades
    5. 5. Codes Assize of buildings – Party walls, gutters, location of cesspits, fire prevention Assize of Nuisance – Blocked drains, blocked roads, sewage overflows, ruinous structures Regulations on minimum fish size Curfew
    6. 6. Air Pollution - Seacoal 1285 Royal Commission to look into results of burning coal in lime kilns 1298 Smiths forgo night work because of pollution
    7. 7. Population and Wood • Late 12th C. Increased population leads to conversion of woodland to arable land – Wood prices rise – Water transport improves – Newcastle coal replaces wood
    8. 8. Population and Wood • Plague leads to restoration of woodland – Wood prices drop – Wood exported – Coal use drops • Elizabethan period – Population rises and demand for coal rises
    9. 9. Water Supply • • • • Thames Shallow wells Walbrook Great Conduit (begun 1245) – 1345 Built so rich and middling persons … might there have water for preparing their food, and the poor for their drink; the water aforesaid was now so wasted by brewers, and persons keeping brewhouses, and making malt, that in these modern times it will no longer suffice for the rich and middling, or for the poor; to the common loss of the whole community.
    10. 10. Sewage Disposal Overview
    11. 11. Sanitation • Latrines – Cesspits – Streams • Chamber pots • Gutters Sidbury, Worcester Barrel Latrine
    12. 12. Sanitation 1357 Royal order for cleansing the streets of the City, and the banks of the Thames. 1388 Town Sanitation Statute they who do cast and lay all such annoyances, dung, garbages, entrails, and other ordure, in ditches, rivers, waters, and other places, shall cause them utterly to be removed, avoided, and carried away, every one on pain to pay a fine of £20.
    13. 13. Cleaning the waterways • 1357 Tolls for cleaning Port at Queenhythe • Tolls on vessels carrying hay and straw
    14. 14. Enforcement 1326 Littering and murder Fines for littering 1275 4d 1345 2s 1372 2-4s
    15. 15. Problem Locations Butchers St Nicholas Shambles, inside Newgate Stocks Market, Walbrook, West Cheap; East Cheap Garbage dumps Portsoken, east; Tanners Fleet Farringdon Without, west
    16. 16. Shambles York
    17. 17. Roadways • Paved with stone slabs, cobbles, bricks or packed clay • Gutters
    18. 18. Curfew 1352-3 No one wander about the City after curfew rung at St. Martin le Grand except he be of good character and carry a light; … with a mask (od fause visage) or with his face covered 1368 Forbid the holding of "Evynchepynge" for old clothes on Cornhill after the bell at sunset
    19. 19. Cornhill "Then into Corn Hyl anon I yode, Where was mutch stolen gere amonge; I saw where honge myne owne hoode, That I had lost amonge the thronge; To buy my own hood I thought it wronge, I knew it well as I dyd my crede, But for lack of money I could not spede.” Lydgate
    20. 20. London and Southwark 1543
    21. 21. Video Economic Life in Chaucer’s London Robert Bucholz Loyola U, Chicago