Day School in London History, Summer 2017

Course date(s): 
20 Jul 2017
Course tutor(s): 
Dr Simon Trafford


The London History Day School is presented in association with the Centre for Metropolitan History (CMH) and will feature tutors from the principal archives and research units concerned with London. We shall cover the incredibly rich and abundant history of London and its surrounding area, exploring both its identity as a capital city but also the special qualities of its many constituent towns, villages and suburbs. Participants will have ample opportunities to discuss their own work with each other and with the experts; the aim is to provide a showcase for London local history and a forum for the exchange of ideas, views and approaches.

The day school is open to all those keen to expand or update their skills in local history research. The full fee is £75. A concessionary fee of £60 is also available.


We are delighted to announce that Dr Duncan Hay, of the Survey of London, will be the keynote speaker; his talk is entitled 'Survey of London Whitechapel: Writing East London's Histories Online'.

The provisional programme for the day is as follows:

  • 09.00 Introduction
  • 09.30 Nathalie Cohen (Museum of London Archaeology): 'The Fishful Thames: evidence for fishing on London’s river from the Anglo-Saxon to the Victorian period'
  • 10.20 Eliott Wragg (Museum of London Archaeology): 'London Shipbuilding from Sail to Steam'
  • 11.15 Coffee
  • 11.45 Dr Peter Jones (IHR): ‘"The Key of the Street": Uncovering the Unauthorized Histories of Urban Locality'
  • 12.45 Lunch
  • 14.00 Matt Bristow (Victoria County History): 'London pubs'
  • 15.00 Keynote Lecture: Dr Duncan Hay (Survey of London): 'Survey of London Whitechapel: Writing East London's Histories Online'. 
  • 16.00 Tea
  • 16.30 Dr Tony Keen (University of Roehampton): 'Mythological iconography in London's architectural fabric'
  • 17.30 Finish




Matt Bristow (Victoria County History): London Pubs

Pubs, Inns, Alehouses and Taverns are an integral element of the historic environment of English villages, towns and cities.  As a building type, they are seen as quintessentially English and can often be found at the heart of place-based historically writing.  London in 2017 boasts both a huge number, but also a huge variety of pubs, inns and taverns; from the 17th Century George Inn (London’s last galleried pub), to more modest beerhouses, built as the result of the 1830 Beer Act, and ornate ‘Gin Palace style’ Victorian pubs such as the Princess Louise on High Holborn.

However this session will not look at these pubs, nor the Edwardian pubs of the early part of the 20th century.  It will look instead at the development of the London pub, firstly during the period between the two world wars and then secondly in the post-war period.  It will examine the Improved Public Houses Movement, changes in the approach of pub architects and the major London brewers such as Truman’s, how the breweries met the challenge of public house provision during the period of post-war reconstruction and expansion and how public house design evolved.  It will explore the anatomy of the 20th century pub, discuss survival of historic fabric, and the extent to which it is fair to deride the ‘Estate Pub’ before concluding with a discussion of available sources of information for researching and writing about 20th century public houses.

Nathalie Cohen (Museum of London Archaeology): 'The Fishful Thames: evidence for fishing on London’s river from the Anglo-Saxon to the Victorian period'

This paper will explore the archaeological evidence recorded on the inter-tidal foreshore by the Thames Discovery Programme and the Foreshore Recording and Observation Group for fishing activity in the Thames, from Anglo- Saxon structures to Victorian baskets.  The talk will also discuss artefacts associated with fishing and documentary research on the lives of fisherman, as part of a project undertaken by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Dr Duncan Hay (Survey of London): 'Survey of London Whitechapel: Writing East London's Histories Online'

Since its establishment in 1894, the Survey of London has viewed its purpose to bring authoritative histories of London’s built environment to non-specialist audiences. Each richly-illustrated volume seeks to provide a comprehensive account of what has been built, what has been lost, and to what purpose, in its area of study. Though all of the Survey’s research is available through the British History Online website, in October 2016 the Survey of London launched a new platform: Survey of London Whitechapel. This website represents the organisation’s first foray into using digital technology not only to publish its research, but to involve members of the public in the production of that research itself.

The site consists of an interactive map of Whitechapel through which people living in East London and beyond can contribute their information — memories, reflections, and research; photographs, audio and video — in addition to being able to explore the Survey of London’s ongoing research about the area. In this way, the different strands of thinking about the past — what we might term, following Raphael Samuel, ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ history — come into dialogue with one another. This paper will introduce the site, the ideas that informed its creation, and explore some of the contributions we’ve had so far, and how these are beginning to create a comprehensive document of Whitechapel, not just as it was in the past, but as it is today.

Dr Peter Jones (IHR): ‘"The Key of the Street": Uncovering the Unauthorized Histories of Urban Locality'

How can historical researchers develop methods of archival enquiry which capture the untidy and transitory life of London’s streets? Histories of street-level interaction can be elided or entirely overlooked in the institutional, municipal or documentary record. By referring to exemplary cases from my own research into urban street markets, this talk will describe a multifocal approach to archival investigation which explores strategies for reading between the lines of monolithic historical narratives. The idiosyncratic complexities of street life are often revealed through sources which appear to play no part in the production of ‘official’ knowledge about place and locality – a petition tucked into the minutes of the local vestry, a street trader’s barrow donated by a Lord, or a ‘topographical plan’ sketched by a zealous missionary.

Dr Tony Keen (Open University): 'Mythological iconography in London's architectural fabric'

From the early attempts to establish North American colonies in the sixteenth century, London, as capital of England, and then the United Kingdom, was at the heart of an empire that became the biggest the world has ever known, or is ever likely to know. The architectural fabric of London soon came to reflect its status as an imperial capital. To do so, it used the common architectural vocabulary of London, which was the architectural vocabulary of ancient Rome and Greece. Part of that vocabulary was representations of mythological imagery.

This talk looks at some of the ways in which that mythological iconography was used, and can still be seen, on the streets of London, as part of free-standing statue groups, on pediments, relief sculpture, etc. It will focus in particular on the area around Bloomsbury, on the use of the divine triad of Minerva, goddess of wisdom and handicrafts, Mercury, god of commerce and communication, and Vulcan, the smith god, and hence god of manufacturing, and on the use of the hero Hercules.

Eliott Wragg (MOLA): 'London Shipbuilding from Sail to Steam'

Abstract to follow