Central London 500 Years Ago


It’s safe to say London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Gleaming streets, sparkling skyscrapers and the shimmering surface of the Thames are just a few of the attractions which make our capital one of the most sought after destinations both to live in and to visit. But London wasn’t always this way. In fact, if you hopped in a time machine and visited central London as it was 500 years ago, you might be very shocked to see how different our capital looked in its past life.

Houses of Parliament London

Nowadays you might visit the attractive district of Soho near our Montcalm hotel to enjoy some side-splitting stand-up comedy at Soho Theatre, or visit one the many opulent restaurants that line the streets of the borough. Entertainment here was a little different 500 years ago; people would visit Soho fields for a hunting session during their free time. The area was still wild enough for animals to inhabit and had relatively little in the way of buildings. A vast contrast to how it is now.

Many of our guests staying with us in one of our hotels near central London also visit The Tower of London. With interactive digital tours and the chance to see the dazzling Crown Jewels, it’s an alluring attraction for many tourists. 500 years ago The Tower of London was actually home to Anne Boleyn, who was imprisoned by the infamous Henry VIII and later executed at the Tower.

Although his murderous and bloodthirsty antics don’t make for pleasant reading, it was during the 1500s that London began its transformation from a town of 60,000 into the global powerhouse that the city is today. The building work of iconic Westminster structures such as St Margaret’s Church and Henry VIII’s chapel was built during this time. They marked the beginning of the mass development London would see over the course of the next 500 years.

As previously mentioned, the beautiful winding waterway of the River Thames is one of London’s biggest attractions, with many visitors to the city choosing to stay at hotels in central London just to be near it. Tourists can enjoy everything from exhilarating speedboat rides to relaxing boat tours along the marvellous river, and as a result the Thames is packed with water traffic. If you were alive 500 years ago, however, you may have found enjoying a ride along the Thames quite difficult. This is because the Thames actually froze over completely during the winter in the 1500s, making any journey along the famous waterway impossible.

Population size too, was hugely different 500 years ago. There are currently around 8.8 million people living in London from an array of backgrounds and cultures. In the early 1500s London was home to mere 60,000 people, a fraction of what it is today. The population back then would’ve been a lot less attractive too; Londoners in the 1500s only bathed once a year during this period of the Middle Ages!