A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1909.
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THE importance of the History of London has led to a departure from the original plan of the Victoria County History by the addition of volumes treating London as a county apart from Middlesex. In these it is proposed to include the district within the Bars of London, the borough of Southwark, and the ancient parish of Westminster.
Although the history of London has already received full attention from various writers, it is nevertheless thought that the great interest of the subject warrants a separate treatment in this series, especially when we consider the advance that has been made during the last few years in the study of archaeology and municipal history and the recent facilities afforded for consulting the stores of manuscript material bearing upon the subject, not hitherto accessible.
The first to compile a topographical description of London was William Fitzstephen, the biographer of Becket, who died in 1190. His work, entitled 'Descriptio nobilissimae civitatis Londoniae,' gives a valuable and graphic account of London in the 12th century. The most important history of London, however, and that to which historians of London must for all time refer, is John Stow's Survey of London contayning the original antiquity and increase, modern estates and description of that citie. This work first appeared in 1598, and was re-issued with additions in 1603. Many later editions have been published, the best of which is that by Mr. C. L. Kingsford, M.A., published in 1908. Anthony Munday continued Stow's Survey down to 1633, and John Strype to 1720. Stow was a tailor by trade, and devoted the latter part of his life to the study of history and antiquities, with considerable prejudice to his worldly prospects. He, however, cheerfully 'suffered the pinch of poverty' in the cause of history till his death in 1605, and will perhaps be remembered as the most careful and painstaking of English historians of the 16th century. Stow happily compiled his Survey at a time of great change in the political, ecclesiastical, and social history of Europe, which strongly influenced the topography of London, hence the extraordinary interest and value of his work.
After Stow the number of writers who deal with the history of London is so great that it will be impossible to do more here than mention the more important. None has as yet equalled him, although some occasionally record contemporary details which are of considerable value. In chronological order the first of these is William Maitland, who published The History of London from its foundation by the Romans to the present time, in 1739. This volume includes the area comprised in the Bills of Mortality, so that it treats of parts of the districts now called the suburbs of London. A new edition was published in 1766 by John Entick, and a posthumous edition in 1776. A New History of London including Westminster and Southwark was brought out by John Noorthouck in 1773. This was followed in 1790 by Thomas Pennant's popular History of London, which went through several editions.
The 19th century produced work of more scholarly value, but much of it was still lacking in original research. William Herbert's History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of London (1836–7), although not a history of London, deals so well with an important feature of that history that it deserves mention here. Thomas Allen's History and Antiquities of London, Westminster and Southwark (1827–8), Charles Knight's London (1841–4), and Peter Cunningham's Handbook of London (1849) give much information in a popular way. The Rev. W. J. Loftie, M.A., F.S.A., has brought together an immense amount of information in his History of London, published in 1883–4; and although his conclusions do not always meet with universal approval, students of the history of London owe him much for his effort to give an account of London drawn largely from original sources. London and the Kingdom, by Dr. R. R. Sharpe, published in 1894–5, deals principally with political history, but contains so many references to original documents that it is valuable to all those working on any branch of the history of London. Mr. Charles Welch, F.S.A., in his Modern History of London, published in 1896, has collected much interesting matter about London since 1760. A recent work on London is that of the late Sir Walter Besant, in which a popular account of London principally from the social point of view will be found.
Although not strictly an historian of London, a list such as the foregoing cannot be closed without a reference to Henry Thomas Riley, M.A., whose editions of various London records have eased the labours of many historians. Particular mention must be made to his Munimenta Gildhallae Londoniensis, printed in the Rolls Series in 1860, and his Memorials of London and London Life, published in 1868. Reference should also be made to Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londonense, by Richard Newcourt, published in 1708–10, and to the new edition of the same work by the Rev. George Henessey, B.A., published in 1898, which have done much to assist in elucidating obscure points in the history of London parishes. The publications of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society and the London Topographical Society contain many valuable papers with regard to the history of London.
For making available the records of the Corporation of London the gratitude of students is due to Mr. Reginald R. Sharpe, D.C.L., Records Clerk of the City of London, for his scholarly work on the documents under his charge, particularly in regard to his Calendar of the Letter Books of the City of London; and to Mr. E. J. L. Scott, M.A., D. Litt., for his arrangement of the muniments of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. By the careful classification also of the records of the Bishop of London and of the Dean and Chapter of London these valuable collections are now laid open to students.
The editor desires to express his thanks to all who have assisted him and his various contributors to this volume, particularly to Professor F. J. Haverfield, LL.D., F.S.A., Mr. Philip Norman, LL.D., F.S.A., and Mr. William Ransom, F.S.A., with regard to the article on 'Roman Remains'; to Mr. Reginald R. Sharpe, D.C.L., the Rev. Henry Gee, D.D., F.S.A., and Mr. J. H. Wylie, M.A., D. Litt., for reading the proofs of the article on 'Ecclesiastical History'; and to Mr. H. W. Lee, registrar of the Bishop of London, Mr. F. H. Lee, registrar of the Court of Arches, Rev. Canon Besley, M.A., librarian of the Dean and Chapter of London, Dr. R. R. Sharpe, Records Clerk of the City of London, Mr. Charles Welch, F.S.A., late librarian, Mr. Edward M. Borrajo, librarian, and the other officers of the Guildhall Library, Mr. Geo. H. Radcliffe, M.A., clerk to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, Dr. E. L. J. Scott, archivist to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, and to the incumbents and parish clerks of many of the London churches for facilities given to inspect the records under their charge; to Mr. F. Sumner, M. Inst. C.E., the City Engineer, Sir John Wolfe-Barry, K.C.B., Mr. E. P. Seaton, M. Inst. C.E., Mr. R. H. Selbie, secretary of the Metropolitan Railway, and Mr. R. O. Graham, secretary of the Central London Railway, for details as to Roman and other remains found in London during the construction of railways, drains, or other works under their charge. The editor wishes also to thank the Society of Antiquaries, the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, the Library Committee of the Corporation of London, the Goldsmiths' Company, and Mr. W. Ransom, F.S.A., for illustrations and permission to take photographs and drawings for illustration.