Monday, August 22, 2016

What's Underfoot

Wench bond-street-gillray-elaine-golden
Bond Street and a passel of gentlemen
Joanna here, back with another exciting dispatch from the universe of the past. Talking about roads, in fact.

I was going to wax eloquent on road building in general, starting with the madly competent engineering Romans and going right on till I got to ugly but practical tar-bound macadam in 1902, pioneered by a Swiss doctor in Monaco.

Have you ever noticed how very many Victorian doctors invented things? I worry a bit about their patients, what with the physicians studying refrigeration, road surfaces, and coca cola instead of, for instance, gall bladders.

Back to roads.

I quickly discovered the history of road construction and law is mind-numblingly dull, so I decided to throw myself directly into what roads and pavements would have looked like in Regency London. This is not precisely enthralling, but better than Turnpike Trusts, believe me.

We're going straight to the hard, permanent, waterproof stuff laid down on city walkways and roadways to distinguish them from the endless tracks of dirt and muddy ruts with which the countryside was plentifully supplied.
Were there dirt roadways in the city of London?
Some, probably.

Wench a_view_on_the_thames_with_numerous_ships_and_figures_on_the_wharf-rowlandson 1818 crop
Probably some wheeled and foot traffic on Thames side
Wench dirt street
Here's a dirt road arriving at the edge of town
Dirt roadways approached the edges of the city, of course.

I imagine one of the welcome signs of arriving in London was the rumble and clack of London roads under wheel or hoof. The banks of the
Thames were unpaved and frankly mucky I should think and travelled by foot and the odd wagon. It's likely that some of the smallest alleys in the rookeries were essentially drainage swales washed out by the downpours and unpaved.

But on the whole, London was paved.

The rest of this little screed can be found at Word Wenches. Here.

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