A Narrative History of London
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Georgian London
By Margaret Johnson

The early Hanoverian kings lacked popularity in Britain and there was still significant Jacobite support around the country. However, the City required stability in order to continue its trading interests and stood firmly behind the crown during the two Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1745. The Thames had always been the chief thoroughfare of London and was used to transport both people and goods; though, under Queen Anne, the sedan chair had become very popular. There were remarkably few bridges across the Thames. Until 1750, there was only the bridge between the City and Southwark. Then a bridge was built at Westminster. Nearly 20 years later a third bridge was opened at Blackfriars.

Between 1760-66 the last gates to the City and surrounding walls were demolished. By this time the City, under the Lord Mayor and his aldermen, was a small part of an ever-increasing area which formed the Capital, with suburbs stretching in every direction as the country people moved to the outskirts of the city.

The Corporation was instrumental in promoting freedom of the press. For a long time Parliament had banned publication of debates on the grounds of parliamentary privilege. In March 1771, some printers reported these openly for the first time. The printer of The Evening Post was arrested on Parliament's authority. Two aldermen, acting with the authority of the City, freed him and arrested the parliamentary messenger. The Lord Mayor supported their stand. However, both the Lord Mayor, Brass Crosby, and Alderman Oliver were sent to the Tower and only released six weeks later. They were greeted, on their release, by a vast crowd, including the City officers and the full common council in their official dress, who accompanied them, with great celebration, to the Mansion House. From this time onwards debates were freely reported in the press.

In 1780, following an act of parliament to improve the civil rights of Roman Catholics, the Gordon Riots wrought widespread damage on London. Evenutally the army put an end to the rioting at a cost of 285 dead and 173 wounded. Unofficial estimates put the casualties at nearer twice this figure. Twenty of the ring-leaders were later hanged. Executions still took place at Tyburn until 1783 and were treated as public holidays.

This was a time of opulent architecture, evidenced in the work of Chambers, Soane, Gibbs, Kent, the brothers Adam and the elder and younger Dance. Amongst the most magnificent buildings are the present Somerset House, rebuilt on the riverfront, and the Bank of England, Sir John Soane's greatest triumph. The Mansion House, Horse Guards and Lansdowne House also date from this era. The elegant garden squares of Bloomsbury date from this period as does house numbering and the acceptance of street lighting as a municipal duty.

Next: 19th Century London

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