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The History of London

From the Romans to the present day, London has continued to grow and evolve. AD43 saw the first permanent settlement from which London grew. This expansion and development has continued for over 2000 years.

London Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral
It is believed that Roman legions built the first bridge over the River Thames, its location being around Lambeth. With this bridge - and the grid system of the new town - trade and commerce soon flowed easily. The Thames' deep draft meant that ships bringing goods found easy berthing.

Although burnt to the ground by the forces of Queen Boudicea in AD61, Londonium (as it was known then) sprang back to life. The history of London continued to be written with the building of markets, monuments, baths, temples and city walls. St. Paul's Cathedral now occupies the land where a temple to Diana used to stand.

When the legions returned to Rome, Roman Britain ceased to exist. London fell into ruins and it would not rise again until the Anglo-Saxons came to Britain in AD450.

Charing Cross and St. Bride's
With the arrival of Anglo Saxons, Charing Cross came into being as a trading settlement. Councils began to be held in Chelsea. The first monastery was constructed at Westminster, and Southwark was created as a ferry crossing.

London began to be filled with small wooden houses and churches (the origins of St Brides can be traced to this time frame). It soon came to be the center of political and commercial life for Britain.

The Tower of London and The Great Hall at Westminster
The history of London now moves into the reigns of William the Conqueror, his sons and his grandsons. One of the city's most iconic sights, The Tower of London was built by William The Conqueror. His son, William Rufus, began the construction of the hall at Westminster. The city was granted liberties and civil rights.

Normans and Saxons continued to flow into London. Trade greatly increased, and with it the opportunity to flex political power. In a disagreement between two claimants for the English throne, Londoners made their choice, and that choice kept the throne.

Tyburn and Eltham Palace
Trade via The Thames, the influx of residents, and the attainment of political power were building apace during the Medieval years. The first Mayor of London was elected, and the trade guilds became vocal in how the city was governed. Eltham Palace began to be used for the sitting of the newly created Parliament.

With people flowing into London, facitilies to accomodate daily living came into prominence. Newgate Prison was opened. For many of its inmates, their final journey took them to either Tyburn or Smithfield Market for execution. Marble Arch now stands on the site of Smithfield Market.

Religion became a prominent part of everyday life, with the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitallers becoming established. The Order of St. John saw many of the Hospitallers begin their journey to the Holy Land.

The Globe and Hampton Court Palace
The history of London dramatically changed during the reign of The Tudors. With the reformation, churches were destroyed throughout the city. The vacated land added to the size of London as City Guilds claimed both it and attendant buildings for their trades. Wealthier citizens moved to 'the suburbs' while merchants began to create schools for the poor.

Henry VIII contributed much to London during this time. St. James Palace and the accompanying park were favoured by him, as was Hampton Court Palace.

Entertainment was an increasingly important part of city dwellers' lives. During Elizabeth I's reign, The Globe offered inexpensive plays and Londoners became eager theater-goers. Little wonder when its playwrights included the talented, new writer William Shakespeare...

Kings in and Out of Favour
Under James VI/I, much of London had access to clean water. Under his grandson, Charles II, the cleanliness of London's streets was put into law by The Sewers Act.

During this time frame though, the history of London is filled with anti-royalist feelings. The city turned against Charles I due to his demands and interference with trade. The Cromwellian Period began with Charles' execution.

St. Paul's Cathedral
The restoration of the monarchy, symbolized by the crowning of Charles II, was soon followed by two disasters. The great plague and the great fire are writ large in the history of London. The fire offered opportunity for rebuilding, however. The present St Paul's Cathedral is a direct result of the flames that destroyed parts of London.

Spanning the Thames
The Thames has played a vital role throughout the history of London. Up until George I, only one bridge had spanned the river. During the reign of the Hanover Georges, Westminster and Blackfriars Bridge were built to help the growing city. The last gates were demolished, as were the surrounding walls although a piece can be viewed from The Museum of London.

Bank of England and Buckingham Palace
The financial heart of London was built - The Bank of England while the elegant garden squares of Bloomsbury came into being. Houses began to wear numbers, and lighting the streets became a municipal duty. Buckingham Palace was transformed into a royal residence.

Victorian London saw tremendous expansion, which continues to this day. The history of London will never see an end to its pages.

Article by 'Tudor Rose'

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