“An Emporium for many Nations”

Cheapside-procession-of-Marie-de-Medici-1638-sepia-resized

Yesterday I attended the 53rd annual Local History Conference of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society in the Museum of London, which featured seven talks and an additional  number of poster presentations on the theme of “An Emporium for many Nations” – London shaped by trade.

The highlight for me was the talk by Dr John Price of Goldsmiths’, University of London, on “Porters, sugar boilers, stone cutters and surgeons: trades in London on the eve of the Great Fire”.

Price demonstrated that the commonest occupations in London in 1666, based on Hearth Tax returns pertaining to 2000 householders (out of a total of 39000), were, in decreasing order, Merchant-Tailor, Seaman, Goldsmith, Victualler, Shoemaker, Silkman, Cooper, Haberdasher, Alehouse-Keeper, Porter, Draper, Druggist, Apothecary, Joiner, Tobacconist, Skinner, Vintner, Fishmonger, Blacksmith, Chandler, Barber, Bookseller, Carpenter and Clothworker (*).   He  also  demonstrated a certain amount of occupational zoning, with, for example, mercantile and ancillary trades concentrated in the parishes of St Gabriel Fenchurch, All Hallows Staining and St Katherine Coleman, in the area between  Leadenhall Market and Aldgate; and jewellery, luxury goods and book trades, in the parishes of St Botolph Aldersgate, St Anne and Agnes and St Martin-le-Grand, in the area around Cheapside and St Paul’s.

The  Hearth Tax dataset that formed the basis of his analysis may be accessed  through the “British History Online” website.

(*) Incidentally, the Baker Thomas Farriner, of the parish of St Margaret New Fish Street, is recorded in the returns as having five hearths in his household, and also one oven – the fateful one in which the Great Fire of London was to break out on the night of 1st/2nd September, 1666!

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