17th Century London

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London looked very different from the City we know today, the fire of London devastated large areas allowing re-building of the City and beyond.  Here is an Image of the Thames in 1706 by Horseferry with the new Saint Paul's in the Background and Lambeth Palace on the Opposite Shore.  Isaac lived somewhere near Saint Paul's and the Fleet Street and Holborn areas.  His children were baptised at Saint Peter's Paul Wharf (the church is no longer there) and at Saint Dunstan in the West (Fleet Street) and at Saint Sepulchre at Holborn near to the infamous Newgate Jail.  Well known institutions, the Bank of England for instance, were in their infancy.  The Bank was formed in 1694.  London had a higher death rate than birth rate hence we see many people entering the City from the country.  At some time, most families can trace their history through London.  

The Thames by Horseferry 1706

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London Around the Time of Antonio

An image of the Thames, circa 1633 attributed to Claude de Jonagh (d.1663).  It shows the view East toward London Bridge and the Tower of London.  Note the boats and overhanging buildings of the period.  This is a view Antonio Ferdinando Carvajal would have known well.  He lived in and around the Leadenhall Street area and would have had his Ships moored up around this point as the river was not navigable beyond London Bridge by Merchant shipping.  London Bridge looks to have fewer buildings on it than I have seen before.  I believe it went through many transformations over its long history.

A view of the Thames 1633

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The Commonwealth Period is a fascinating, if bloody, period during the 17th Century.  Charles I and Oliver Cromwell are the subject of most schoolchildren's history lessons but these concentrate on the battles between Cavaliers and Roundheads, the capture and "escape" of Charles I ( did he escape or was he allowed to? ).  The trial and subsequent execution of the King at Whitehall.  Study of this period also shows that this was a turning point in British Military strength and power.  From this point onward, Britain had a "modern" army and were feared by other nations.  Trade became an important and growing part of the countries economy and Merchants were able to use Britain as a base to trade around the world.  We see these merchants being used as Intelligencers by John Thurloe (Cromwell's secretary) and during this period the Jews were readmitted to the country and allowed to practice their faith without molestation.  This readmission was not approved by Parliament or Cromwell in some Act although that was what the Petition of the Jews wanted, in fact it was through a court case that the matter was finally settled.  The Interregnum also gave rise to the modern Parliamentary system and the Monarch of the day no longer had the rights previously enjoyed from this point forward.  

This is a fascinating time in our history and Samuel Pepys for one, records the dying days of Cromwell's tenure and the Restoration in the person of Charles II alongside many other interesting "goings on" of the time.  For books about this period of our history, look in the Family History Resource section.

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In 1665 the plague struck London.  The sheer numbers of people entering London and the conditions that they lived in made plagues a regular occurrence.  However, 1665 was perhaps the worst in terms of sheer numbers of victims.

Bills of MortalityBills of Mortality

Bills of Mortality

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London before the Fire

An image of London as seen from the South Shore of the Thames, prior to the Fire of London.  Note the abundance of Churches across the skyline and the Old Saint Paul's Cathedral.  In front of Saint Paul's and slightly to the right can be seen two church spires one square and one steeple.  This is the area of Saint Peter, Paul's Wharf, where Isaac most probably lived and worked, plying his trade as a Blacksmith.

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The people of London must have thought that the end of the world was coming.  Having barely recovered from the plague, they next had to contend with a massive fire that destroyed huge tracts of the City.  Whilst only a few were killed in this catastrophe, it must have made thousand homeless and made life, difficult enough already, even harder.  Parts of London had previously been destroyed by fire before but not on so massive a scale as this.  We could put the modern appearance of London down to this event although only some of the plans put forward were adopted for its renewal.  Many citizens re-built their properties without waiting for any grand design at all.  

Fire of London


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