« PreviousContinue »
of different names are certainly appreciable in these closely packed columns. Where 140,000 names are ranged in alphabetical order, from Aaron the jeweller to Zygomalas the merchant, there cannot fail to be a goodly number belonging to the clans Smith, Brown, Jones, and Robinson. These four favourites of the renowned Dr. Dilworth mustered strongly in the Directory even half a century ago; but in later years the Joneses appear to have somewhat increased in relative number, as if there had been a large influx of Welchmen. The Smiths, of course, remain at the head of the list, amounting almost exactly to one in a hundred of its entire occupants. If this ratio be maintained also among those persons who do not obtain admission into the Directory, the Metropolis must contain at the present time about twenty-five thousand Smiths! The Wilsons and Wilkinsons, the Williams and Williamsons, the Johnsons and Jacksons, the Roberts and Robertsons, the Thomases and Thompsons, the Richards and Richardsons-household names, together with the four above mentioned, make up no less than six thousand commercial men in London, men who have a claim to write their names over a shop or on the door of a countinghouse. The fourteen hundred Smiths may with tolerable ease be distinguished one from another; for, although there may be fifty John Smiths, and several of these John Smiths may be shoemakers, yet the custom of giving a number to every house in a street, affords ready means of identification.
This curious subject of the numbering of houses, trifling as it may appear when first regarded, is really one among the tests of the progress of society-a measure of the changes time and advancement have wrought. One of the old customs of London, largely exemplified in Hogarth's pictures, was to exhibit a sign-board in front of a house or shop, either to denote the kinds of commodities sold within, or to distinguish each shop from others of a similar kind. There can be little question that this plan arose originally rather from necessity than from choice. When the mass of the people could not read, picture-writing was adopted as a kind of language all could understand. An uneducated porter could not, perhaps, have deciphered the name of Master Franklin, Hosier, in Cheapside, but he could understand the meaning of a golden fleece hanging over the door; and this pendent sign served both for name and for number. It would not be difficult to find, even now, a few golden fleeces and barbers' poles, among the emblems of London shops; while the three golden balls of the pawnbroker, and the brilliant crimson and blue globes exhibited by the
VOL. CIV. NO. CCXI.
druggist, still maintain a recognised place among our street ornaments. It is to the breweries and inns, the taverns and public-houses, however, that the retention of this old custom is chiefly due, not because there is real occasion for the usage, but because it is part of a system which no one volunteers to be the first to abandon. As the invention of new signs for these houses has become almost impossible, now that the number has risen to many thousands, the repetition of old signs would seem to have deprived the system of any advantages it may once have presented. A Directory of modern London would be an impossibility if the houses were not numbered; or if possible, the results would frequently be of a most embarrassing nature.
Didot's excellent Directory for Paris illustrates a particular mode of numbering streets in that city. In those which run parallel to the Seine, the numbers follow the course of the river, the odd numbers on the left and the even on the right, while in the streets running at or nearly at right angles to the Seine, the numbers begin at the end nearest to the river. There is a manifest superiority in this plan over the chaos of our London street numbering.
It is to be hoped, that as the Metropolis is gradually subjected to a more comprehensive and effectual system of municipal government, our ædiles will exert a reasonable authority to prevent the endless repetition of names, which have ceased to have a meaning or to convey a distinction. King Streets, Duke Streets, George Streets, Church and Chapel Streets, Stanhope Streets, Chester Streets, James Streets, occur in endless confusion, and it is only by adding the name of the district to that of the precise locality that an address can be accurately described in London. The Acacias, Myrtles, Bellevues, Minervas, Adelaides, Victorias, Torrianas, Belindas, Alphas, Lavenders, and similar affectations, are abundantly observable in the names of terraces and rows in new suburban localities; Grove place, or road, or terrace may be met with at Brixton, Brompton, Hackney, Clapham, St. John's Wood, Deptford, Walworth, Bayswater, Camberwell, Nottinghill, and Highbury; there are nearly forty Victorias' in one or other of the varieties of road, street, place, square, row, terrace, grove, cottages, or villas; and even the Westbournes' present a body of nearly thirty strong, absorbing not only the nine varieties just named, but also crescent, gardens, green, and park. Under the new Metropolitan Management Act (18 and 19 Vict. c. 120.), a power is given to the Metropolitan Board of Works to regulate and alter the naming of streets and the
numbering of houses; this power, if judiciously exercised, may lead to useful results.
The Maps and the Directories receive support from another quarter, in reference to the expansion of the Metropolis; a third aspect of the subject is that which is afforded by the Registrar-General's Report, and by the labours of the Census Commissioners. The wonderful growth of London, whether it be tested by three centuries of change in map engraving, by a tenfold increase in the bulk and contents of commercial directories, or by the decennial tables relating to the census, is intimately connected with a circumstance likely to escape our notice by its very familiarity. This circumstance is, the absence of every kind of wall, fortification, barrier, or gate between the Metropolis and the open country. True there has been a city toll, amounting to a few thousand pounds per annum, levied on business vehicles on entering the central or city part London; and there are still a few turnpike gates remaining at the outskirts of the Metropolis; but these gates simply provide, through the tolls there collected, the means of repairing roads, and are likely to be diminished rather than increased in number. Practically, the expansive power of London is unchecked by any of those obstructions which so frequently exist in continental cities. The Census Commissioners, in drawing their Report after the completion of the last Census, advert to this subject in the following terms:
'The population of the towns is not so completely separated in England, as it is in some other countries, from the population of the surrounding country; for the walls, gates, and castles, which were destroyed in the civil wars, have never been rebuilt; and the population has outgrown the ancient limits; while stone lines of demarcation have never been drawn around the new centres of population. Tolls have been collected since a very early period in the market-places; but the system of octroi-involving the examination, by customs' officers, of every article entering within the precincts of the townhas never existed. The freemen in some of the towns enjoyed, anciently, exclusive privileges of trading; but the freedom could always be acquired by the payment of fines; and by the great measure of municipal reform (1835), every town has been thrown open to settlers from every quarter. At the same time, too, that the populations of the towns and of the country have become so equally balanced in number ten millions against ten millions—the union between them has become, by the circumstances that have led to the increase of the towns, more intimate than it was before; for they are now connected together by innumerable relationships, as well as by the associations of trade. A large proportion of the population in the market towns, the county towns, the manu
facturing towns, and the metropolis, was born in the country.' (Population Tables, 1851, vol. i.; Report, p. lxxxiii.)
These observations, it will be perceived, bear upon the characteristics of English towns in general; but London presents its full ratio of the effect, of the causes which led to the effect, and of the circumstances tending to produce still more striking effects in future years. The same principle has been illustrated in a very clear manner by Mr. Laing:
'Every traveller on the Continent must have observed that the town and city population live much more apart and separate from the country population than with us. Each town or city is like a distinct island, or small nation, with its own way of living, ideas, laws, and interests, and having little or nothing in common with the country population around it... The towns and cities, in consequence of this estrangement, have less influence on the civilisation of the country, on the manners, ideas, and condition of the mass of the population, than with us. Our town or city population forms no mass so distinct in privileges, intelligence, and interests from the rest of the community, as the town-populations are abroad. The city, on the Continent, sits, like a guardship riding at anchor, on the plain, keeping up a kind of social existence of her own, shutting her gates at sunset, and having privileges and exactions which separate her from the main body of the population. In Germany and France, the movements and agitations of 1848 were entirely among the town population. The country population has not advanced either towards good or evil with the progress of the cities. In Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Frankfort, and other great cities, taste, literature, refinement, or the pleasures and enjoyments proper to wealth, abound; but in the country, outside of these oases of civilisation, the people are in the same condition in which they have been for ages. The town civilisation has not acted upon them as it has on the general population of England.' (Observations on the State of the European People in 1848-9.)
To trace the application of reasoning such as this to the growth of the British Metropolis is easy enough. London is the largest and most populous city in the world; it is the residence of the sovereign and the court; it is the seat of parliament and of all the great offices of state; it is the centre of influence for the army and navy; it is the headquarters for the administration of justice; it contains the places of assemblage for most of the important societies by which science, art, and literature are cultivated; it sets the fashions to all the kingdom, after being itself indebted to the fashions of Paris; it contains the most skilled of workmen in the trades that relate to luxury; it is the great market that determines the price of most articles of food at a given time; it is a general house of call for those who seek employment in a thousand different occupations; it is
a reservoir of charity and benevolence, as displayed in the ex-
Few persons have the slightest conception of the extraordinary number of country people residing in London. What if we were to say that, of all the men and women now living in the Metropolis, in all grades of society, more than half are country people,would this be generally believed? The Census Commissioners ascertained this to be unquestionably the fact in 1851; for, of 1,395,000 persons, aged twenty years and upwards, no more than 645,000 were born in London, the remaining 750,000 having been born in the country or abroad, and having changed their residence to London at some period or other of their lives. Including children, and taking account of the increase of population between 1851 and 1856, there must at the present moment be more than one million inhabitants of London who were born either in the country or abroad — that is, one-million inhabitants of London who are not Londoners by birth. It is curious to see how this enormous aggregate has been made up. Some counties appear to be remarkable for their tendency to send their folk up to London. Thus our metropolitan population comprises 28,000 Norfolk people, and about an equal number from Suffolk; Hampshire claims credit for 34,000; there are 25,000 acute Yorkshire folk; Somerset comes out in force with 32,000; and what is perhaps yet more remarkable, considering the distance of the county, we have no less than 37,000 Devonshire people among us; we might, perchance, have expected more than