Monday, 2 May 2011
The Act of 1592 says there are
"great Mischiefes and Inconveniences" from the habit of dividing up houses "into several Tenements or Dwellings". Because of this overpopulation it was hard to find food or fuel - after all coal had to be brought in by boat from elsewere, and there were few trees left standing. The document says
"great Infection of Sickness and dearth of Victuals and Fuel hath growen and ensued."
Elizabeth was also concerned about the kind of incomers that were making their way to the city.
"Many idle vagrant and wicked Persons have harboured themselves there and divers remote places of the Realme have been disappointed of Workmen and dispeopled."
The solution? Just as we are preserving the countryside with our Green Belt laws, a law was passed forbidding any more building
"That noe person (shall) henceforth make and erect any newe Building or Buildings House or Houses for Habitation or dwelling within either of the said cities [of London and Westminster] or within three miles of any of the Gates."
Of course the law had no effect whatever, and by the time of the Restoration, the city had stretched to Piccadilly and beyond.
Which is just as well, for by the time my two incomers - Sadie and Ella Appleby from Westmorland - arrive in 1661, it is a veritable warren of tenements and rookeries, alleyways and ginnels. The Gilded Lily tells how the sisters hope they will be able to hide from their pursuers. But the London underworld is full of beggars and ne'er-do-wells who will sell their soul for a penny, and they soon find there is no-one they can trust.
Not even each other.