Crossing the Thames: Watermen and the New Bridge

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, there was a clear stretch of water between Kingston Bridge and London Bridge. By 1800, despite lobbying by powerful vested interests, six new bridges spanned the river.

“To such a mad intemperance the age was come of building about a citty, by far too disproportionat already to the nation ...” So wrote John Evelyn in 1684 of the expansion of London. The City's recovery from the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666 had been remarkable. But the recovery had brought with it a new pattern of settlement, not limited to the rebuilding of the parts burnt down. "Many who had gardens round their houses in the old London," Sir Arthur Bryant has written, "recouped themselves for their losses by building houses and shops where formerly had been grass and trees." Likewise, large estates around the City were divided up and London came to be thought of as not merely the City itself but the whole built-up area round it. Defoe refers to this when he mentions some projects that "would greatly add to the beauty" of London, including the "uniting the whole body, Southwark and all, into one city, and calling it by one name, London.''

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