Historical Overview of London Population


London has been a trading centre for nearly 2000 years, from the time the Romans had possession of it; relics of Roman buildings are frequently found, and part of the old Roman walls remains to this day. Roman London was about one mile in length and half a mile in breadth.

London has passed through many troubles and tribulations, each of which had an impact on the population. In the year 664 it was ravaged by the plague; in 764 it suffered severely by fires; in 1380 occurred the rebellion of Wat Tyler, who was slain by Lord Mayor Walworth at Smithfield; in 1450 Jack Cade's outbreak occurred; during the reign of Henry VIII and his daughter Mary, from 1509 to 1558, a great many protestants were burnt at the stake in London.

In 1649 Charles I was beheaded at Whitehall; in 1665 the Great Plague of London occurred claiming about 100,000 lives; in 1666 the Great Fire of London took place: in 1760 the Gordon "No Popery" riots occurred, so well described by Charles Dickens in Barnaby Rudge.

1740 was the year of the great frost, during which a fair was held on the Thames; in 1806 Lord Nelson's funeral took place; and in 1852 the Duke of Wellington was also buried at St. Paul's. Other great public events included the reception of the Princess Alexandra, on her arrival to marry the Prince of Wales in 1863, and the Thanksgiving for the Prince's recovery from illness in 1872.

London experienced an exponential level of growth throughout the 19th century due to the growth of the British Empire and the Industrial Revolution. It was during this period that the city expanded into a giant metropolis and became known as Greater London.

Comparing the beginning of the 19th century with the end we see two starkly different cities both in terms of size and also in terms of technological advancement. In 1800 there were no railways, no cabs, no buses, no telegrams, no telephones, no gas, no electric-light, no 'penny post', and no new Metropolitan Police. In 1900 all of the above existed.

London had become a network of railways, and hardly a month passed without some suggestion for some new tunnelling, and buses (then called omnibuses) were so numerous that it was actually proposed that the Home Secretary should bring a Bill into Parliament to regulate their routes and limit their numbers. The first locomotive, which was constructed by Stephenson, and attained a speed of 6 miles an hour, was not built until 1814, and the first omnibus did not run in England until July 4th, 1829.

But we can see the difference still more if we think that the crowded suburbs from which millions go to work every day, were little country villages, and if we look for the bridges and streets.

London Bridge existed in 1800 but not the bridge we know now, which is not on quite the same site as the former one, and was opened first in 1831, then redeveloped and opened by the Queen in 1973. The only other bridges in existence then were Old Westminster, which was opened in 1750, and Old Blackfriars, which was opened in 1769.

The chief of the other bridges were opened as follows :- Vauxhall 1816, Waterloo 1817, Southwark 1819, Hungerford 1845 and Chelsea 1858, Tower Bridge 1894, Lambeth Bridge 1932, Hampton Court Bridge 1933, Waterloo Bridge 1945, Millennium Bridge 2002. In 1800 people who wished to cross the river had to tramp some way for the means of doing so, or employ a waterman, but during the 19th century the watermen entirely disappeared due to the emergence of the bridges.

London's most popular street, Regent Street was not in existence in 1800; it was not commenced until 1813.

Of places of amusement Cremorne and Vauxhall have gone, though Drury Lane and Covent Garden, both rebuilt after destruction by fire, still exist.

The Haymarket existed in 1800, as did the Lyceum, under the name of the English Opera House. The Adelphi was not opened until 1806, the St. James until 1835, the Princess's until 1840. Astley's, which was open in 1800, has gone. The Surrey was in existence, but our other theatres are of later date, except old Sadler's Wells, Music-halls in 1800 were unknown, so perhaps one of the greatest contrasts between London past and London present is in her night life and entertainment.

Population statistics for London

1Fewer than 5,000
500Fewer than 5,000
1066Est 5,000 - 40,000 (William the Conqueror)
1600Est 200,000
1650Est 350,000
1300Est 50,000 - 100,000
1700Est 700,000
18813,815,544 (or Greater London 4,776,661)
18914,211,056 (or Greater London 5,633,332)
18996,528,434 (Greater London)
19398,615,245 (Greater London) - population's peak
19518,196,978 (Greater London)
19617,992,616 (Greater London)
19717,452,520 (Greater London)
19816,805,000 (Greater London - midyear est)
19916,829,300 (Greater London - midyear est)
20017,322,400 (Greater London - midyear est)
20027,361,600 (Greater London - midyear est)
20037,364,100 (Greater London - midyear est)
20047,389,100 (Greater London - midyear est)
20057,456,100 (Greater London - midyear est)
20067,512,400 (Greater London - midyear est)