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History of London

Tudor and Stuart London

St Paul’s Cathedral, seen from the Thames, 1647St Paul’s Cathedral, seen from the Thames, 1647London became England’s largest city and its centre of trade in the 16th century. Hundreds of ships crowded the Thames every day, waiting to unload their cargo or to load wool and cloth for shipping to other parts of Europe. The Royal Exchange, a place where merchants could conduct their business, opened in 1571. As a consequence of the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the 1530s, the Church lost possession of its London properties, which were acquired by wealthy supporters of Henry VIII. Many new businesses and charity hospitals also sprang up.

Inside a Tudor townhouseInside a Tudor townhouse

Life in Tudor London

Around 50,000 people lived in the City of London, the medieval city largely contained inside the Roman walls, in 1530. London's population would more than quadruple by the end of the century, when it would make up almost 10% of England's total. With so many people needing places to live, every spare corner of the City, including the former Church lands, was built on. But this was still not enough, so London began to expand beyond its walls. Houses for the well-to-do were built in the legal quarter around Fleet Street, along the Strand leading towards Westminster, and on Holborn to the northwest. Housing for craftworkers and semi-skilled workers—cottages or tenements (buildings divided into separate dwellings)—went up in the fields or villages to the east of the city, and along the south bank of the Thames.

In the 16th century, Tudor kings and queens used Hyde Park as a hunting ground for deer. It was also where public executions were held in front of crowds of spectators.

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