History of London in 1000 words

Roman London

London was born in 50 AD, known then as Londinium.  It was founded by the Romans after they invaded.  Ostorius Scapula was the Roman Governor and with his orders a permanent base was built on the north bank. They built a bridge over the Thames and built a port.

Queen Boudicca invaded Londinium in 61AD and burned London to the ground and died soon after. The Romans eventually restored government and Londinium was rebuilt.

In 125 AD a 20 foot stone wall was built around London. In 290 AD the London Mint was established and coins went into production.

Roman London had potteries, glass works, brickworks and used donkeys to power mills for grinding grain. Water came from wells and roman baths were for socializing not just to keep clean.  The rich had baths in their homes and there were underground grains to remove rainwater.  An amphitheatre saw gladiators fight and cockfighting was also popular. It was also used for people to watch executions.

In 407AD the last Roman soldier left Britain.

Saxon London

Saxons were a group of Germanic tribes which settled in Britain around 410AD. Anglo-Saxons which they became known were converted to Christianity by monks from Rome.

St Pauls Cathedral was built in 604 on the orders of St Ethelbert, King of Kent.  St Ethelbert was the first Christian King of England and the cathedral was built by a monk called Mellitus and dedicated to St Paul.

Edward the Confessor was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England.  He built a palace at Westminter and also Westminster Abbey.

Middle Ages London

On 25th December in1066 following his victory at Hastings, William the Conqueror is crowned King in Westminster Abbey.  He won over Londoners and gave London a charter confirming certain rights to freedom.  He built a wooden tower to stand guard which was later replaced by stone and was the start of the Tower of London.

The 12 century saw London’s population grow.  In 1176 a stone bridge replaced the wooden bridge across the Thames.

A writer from said London is one of the most renowned, possessing above others, abundant wealth, extensive commerce, great grandeur and significance.

In 1255 King Henry III received an elephant as a gift from Louis IX of France. It joined other exotic animals at the Tower of London.

Football was banned in 1365 and people were encouraged to practice archery.

The city was spelt Lunden or Lundon until the late 14th century when it was spelt London.

In 1381 peasants from Kent and Essex marched into London ransacking buildings and beheading the Archbishop of Canterbury on Tower Hill.

1397 sees Dick Whittington become Mayor of London.  He was a member of parliament and a sheriff of London. He paid to improve the drainage systems in poor areas of the city and a hospital wardfor unmarried mothers amongst other public projects

16th-17th Century London

1538 saw monks and nuns turned out onto the streets and their monastery buildings were demolished or sold off.

The coronation of Edward V1 in 1547 saw a procession through the streets of London and 3 years later the first map of London was put together by George Hoefnagel.

The Royal Exchange was founded by the merchant Thomas Gresham in 1571 and opened by Queen Elizabeth I.

A waterwheel was installed in one of the arches of London Bridge to supply water to homes in 1581.

1652 saw the first coffee house open in St Michael’s Alley.  At the time a wooden shack and rebuilt over years but still today a coffee house.

In 1659 Nicholas Vanacker becomes the first person to draw a cheque on a London bank.

1665 is when the great plaque hit London and killed more than 8000 people in a single week.  By the end of that year it had claimed around 100,000 residents.

The great fire of London broke out on 2nd September 1665 and brought over 13 thousands homes to the ground. Also damaged were over 80 churches, St Pauls Cathedral, the guildhall, four bridges and the Royal Exchange.

The remains of St Pauls Cathedral are demolished and work starts on the rebuild in 1670,

The Bank of England is founded in 1694 with Sir John Houblon the first governor.

18th -19th Century London

The 18th century brought a number of hospitals including Westminster hospital, Guys hospital, St Georges hospital and London Hospital.

The British Museum was founded in 1753 as well as Mansion House for the Lord Mayor of London to reside.

An Act of Parliament in 1761 set up a body of men called Board of Commissioners whose job was to pave and clean up the streets.

The city walls were demolished between 1760 and 1766.

During the 19th century London became a global political, financial, and trading capital and the population excelled.

Railways began to transform the city so people could travel to the center of London for work.  Euston,  Kings Cross Station and St Pancras were built in the 1800’s.

Robert Peel the Prime Minster in 1829 established the Metropolitan Police force and they were affectionately known as ‘Bobbies’ or ‘Peelers’ after their founder.

Gas light lit up Pall Mall for the first time in1807 and used throughout London in the 1840’s. Electric light was used from 1883.

Parliament was destroyed in 1834 and rebuilt with the clock now known as Big Ben.

Trafalgar Square was created in 1839 by John Nash and 3 years later Nelsons column was erected.

Lots of green spaces were opened to the public later in the century and all the main museums.

20th Century London

In 1940 London suffers badly from the bombing of WWII, better known as ‘The Blitz’.  Tube stations were used as shelters during air raids.

Between 1945 and 1963 saw Waterloo Bridge built, The Royal Festival Hall built, the Shell Centre built and Millbank Tower built. The Post Office Tower opened to the public in 1966. Haywards Gallery opened in 1968. The Museum of London opened in 1976.

Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral takes place in 1965 and is given a state funeral.



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