What was life like in London during the reign of Elizabeth the 1st?

I need to find out what life was like in London during this period. Please help? 10 points to the best answerer, its for my English homework…

In ‘Elizabethan England’ Alison Plowden writes:

The heart and centre of Elizabethan London was the City, bounded by the river and by its ancient Roman and medieval walls. The City was the centre of merchantile life, run by the Aldermen, who belonged ot the Liveried Companies, which evolved out of t he medieval guilds. The liveried companies regulated trading practises, laid down standards of workmanship, dctated and suerpvied working conditons and the treatment of apprentices, and provided welfare for orphans, widows, the sick, and maintained almshouses and schools.

Along the Strand, connecting London proper with the royal suburb of Westminster, lay a string of great mansions with gardens running down to the river. These houses, many of which are commemorated by modern street names, included Arundel House, Essex House, Somerset House, the Savoy (once John of Gaunt’s palace, Russel, House, Worcester and Durham Houses; all combined to tmake this the most fashionable and exclusive part of the town. Beyond Westminster was the country, with the riverside villages of Chelsea, where Queen Elizabeth had spent some of her girlhood, Putney, Hammersmith and Chiswick, where the boys of WEstminster school were evacuated in time of plague.

The Thames, then a crystal stream ‘full of swans white as snow’ according to a foreign visitor, played a vital part in the life of the capital and was alive with craft of every kind – wherries (the taxis of Elizabethan London), plying for hire, private barges, skiffs, lighters and sailing ships – for everyone, from the Queen downwards, used the river for convenience, pleasure and gtrade. Ferries operated from several places, for London Bridge, connecting the c/ity with Southwark and the Dover Road, was still the only other means of crossing from north to South. This bridge, one of the sights of Europe, was an astonishing stlructure built on 20 arches of squared stone 60 ft high and lined on both sides with houses, shops and chapels ‘so that it seemeht more a continual stree than a bridge’. There were towers with gates in them at either end, and a drawbridge which could be raised both for defense and to allow tall-masted ships to pass upstream to the dock basin of Queenshithe. An additional point of interest was the display of shrivelled heads of those executed for high treason which were impaled on poles over the tower guarding the drawbridge – the Duke of Wuttertemberg counted 34 of them on one occasion in 1592.

The first thing that must have strukc most visitors was the din: the clatter and hammering from a thousand workshops, the rumble and squeak of cart-wheels, the lowing of cattle being driven to market, the raucous cries of street vendors proclaiming their wares (anything from hot mutton pies to mouse-traps) and the constant noisy sales patter of shopkeepers standing in their doorways to lure the passers-by with their ‘What do ye lack?’

The crowds too, with their vigorous and free and easy ways came as something of a shock to the newcomer. Pickpockets and cutpurses mingled with sober groups of merchants in long furred gowns on their way to do business at the new Royal Exchange, and with gaggles of smartly dressed housewives out shopping. Apprentices and maidservants, making and earrnad last as long as they could, joined in backchat with urchins hoping to earn a penny by holding some fine gentleman’s horse. Gangs of boys from rival schools engaged in running battles, using their satchels as weapons, and the drivers of carts and drays exchanged insults and sometimes blows over a disputed right of way.

London already had traffic problems. ‘The number of carts, drays and coaches, more than hath been accustomed, the streets and lanes being straitened (narrow) must needs be dangerous, as daily experience proveth.’ wrote John Stow.

But there was no stopping the march of progress in ‘the storehouse and mart of all Europe’ the magent which attracted the trade of the civilised world. ‘Most of the inhabitants’ wrote Thomas Platter ‘are employed in commerce. They buy, sell, and trade in all corners of the globe, for which purpose the water serves them well since ships from France, the Netherlands and Germany and other countries land in this city, bringing goods with them and loading others in exchange.’ ‘What can there be in any place under the heavens’ asked the dramatist John Lyly ‘that is not in this nobel city either to be bought or borrowed?’

2 Responses to “What was life like in London during the reign of Elizabeth the 1st?”

  • Prof says:

    I suggest you read books around that period,C.J.Sansom has written some excellent ones,some marginally earlier.Even looking around the net will help you to get a "feel".
    Don’t be lazy !
    References :
    Teacher.

  • Louise C says:

    In ‘Elizabethan England’ Alison Plowden writes:

    The heart and centre of Elizabethan London was the City, bounded by the river and by its ancient Roman and medieval walls. The City was the centre of merchantile life, run by the Aldermen, who belonged ot the Liveried Companies, which evolved out of t he medieval guilds. The liveried companies regulated trading practises, laid down standards of workmanship, dctated and suerpvied working conditons and the treatment of apprentices, and provided welfare for orphans, widows, the sick, and maintained almshouses and schools.

    Along the Strand, connecting London proper with the royal suburb of Westminster, lay a string of great mansions with gardens running down to the river. These houses, many of which are commemorated by modern street names, included Arundel House, Essex House, Somerset House, the Savoy (once John of Gaunt’s palace, Russel, House, Worcester and Durham Houses; all combined to tmake this the most fashionable and exclusive part of the town. Beyond Westminster was the country, with the riverside villages of Chelsea, where Queen Elizabeth had spent some of her girlhood, Putney, Hammersmith and Chiswick, where the boys of WEstminster school were evacuated in time of plague.

    The Thames, then a crystal stream ‘full of swans white as snow’ according to a foreign visitor, played a vital part in the life of the capital and was alive with craft of every kind – wherries (the taxis of Elizabethan London), plying for hire, private barges, skiffs, lighters and sailing ships – for everyone, from the Queen downwards, used the river for convenience, pleasure and gtrade. Ferries operated from several places, for London Bridge, connecting the c/ity with Southwark and the Dover Road, was still the only other means of crossing from north to South. This bridge, one of the sights of Europe, was an astonishing stlructure built on 20 arches of squared stone 60 ft high and lined on both sides with houses, shops and chapels ‘so that it seemeht more a continual stree than a bridge’. There were towers with gates in them at either end, and a drawbridge which could be raised both for defense and to allow tall-masted ships to pass upstream to the dock basin of Queenshithe. An additional point of interest was the display of shrivelled heads of those executed for high treason which were impaled on poles over the tower guarding the drawbridge – the Duke of Wuttertemberg counted 34 of them on one occasion in 1592.

    The first thing that must have strukc most visitors was the din: the clatter and hammering from a thousand workshops, the rumble and squeak of cart-wheels, the lowing of cattle being driven to market, the raucous cries of street vendors proclaiming their wares (anything from hot mutton pies to mouse-traps) and the constant noisy sales patter of shopkeepers standing in their doorways to lure the passers-by with their ‘What do ye lack?’

    The crowds too, with their vigorous and free and easy ways came as something of a shock to the newcomer. Pickpockets and cutpurses mingled with sober groups of merchants in long furred gowns on their way to do business at the new Royal Exchange, and with gaggles of smartly dressed housewives out shopping. Apprentices and maidservants, making and earrnad last as long as they could, joined in backchat with urchins hoping to earn a penny by holding some fine gentleman’s horse. Gangs of boys from rival schools engaged in running battles, using their satchels as weapons, and the drivers of carts and drays exchanged insults and sometimes blows over a disputed right of way.

    London already had traffic problems. ‘The number of carts, drays and coaches, more than hath been accustomed, the streets and lanes being straitened (narrow) must needs be dangerous, as daily experience proveth.’ wrote John Stow.

    But there was no stopping the march of progress in ‘the storehouse and mart of all Europe’ the magent which attracted the trade of the civilised world. ‘Most of the inhabitants’ wrote Thomas Platter ‘are employed in commerce. They buy, sell, and trade in all corners of the globe, for which purpose the water serves them well since ships from France, the Netherlands and Germany and other countries land in this city, bringing goods with them and loading others in exchange.’ ‘What can there be in any place under the heavens’ asked the dramatist John Lyly ‘that is not in this nobel city either to be bought or borrowed?’
    References :
    Elizabethan England by Alison Plowden

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