Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Account of London

Selected by Pat Rogers
Introduction and Contents

Buildings Newly Erected

I come now to an account of new edifices and publick buildings, erected or erecting in and about London, since the writing the foregoing account; and with this I conclude.

The fine new church of St. Martin’s in the Fields, with a very fine steeple, which they tell us is 215 feet high, all wholly built by the contribution of that great parish, and finished with the utmost expedition.

The new Admiralty Office near White-hall, being on the same ground where the old office stood; but much larger, being both longer in front and deeper backward, not yet finished.

Mr. Guy’s new hospital for incurables, mentioned above, situated on ground purchased for that purpose, adjoyning to St. Thomas’s Hospital in Southwark, being a most magnificent building not yet quite finished.

Two large wings to the hospital of Bedlam, appointed also for incurables; proposed first by the charitable disposition of Sir William Withers deceased; this also not yet finished.

A large new meeting-house in Spittle-fields, for the sect of Dissenters, call’d Baptists, or Anti-pædo Baptists.

The South-Sea House in Threadneedle-street, the old house being intirely pulled down, and several other houses adjoyning being purchased, the whole building will be new from the foundation; this not finished.

Several very fine new churches, being part of the fifty churches appointed by Act of Parliament, viz. One in Spittlefields, one in Radcliff-High-way, one in Old-street, one at Limehouse, with a very beautiful tower, and one in Bloomsbury, and five more not finished.

The parish church of St. Botolph without Bishopsgate, pulled down and re-building, by the contribution of the inhabitants, not as one of the fifty churches.

N.B. In removing the corpses buried in this church, they found the body of Sir Paul Pindar, buried there about eighty years before, which was taken up and deposited again; and we are told, a new monument will be set up for him by the parish, to which he was a good benefactor.

The Custom-house, which since the late fire in Thames-street, is ordered to be inlarged; but is not yet finished. All these buildings are yet in building, and will all, in their several places, be very great ornaments to the city.

A new street or range of houses taken out of the south side of the Artillery Ground near Morefields, also an enlargement to the new burying ground as it was formerly called, on the north side of the same ground.

The iron ballustrade, or as others call it, balcony, on the lanthorn upon the cupola of St. Paul’s Church, gilded. It was done at the cost and as the gift of an Irish nobleman, who scarce lived to see it finished.

A new bear-garden, called Figg’s Theater, being a stage for the gladiators or prize-fighters, and is built on the Tyburn Road.

N.B. The gentlemen of the science, taking offence at its being called Tyburn Road, though it really is so, will have it called the Oxford Road; this publick edifice is fully finished, and in use.

I conclude this account of London, with mentioning something of the Account of Mortality, that is to say, the births and burials, from whence Sir William Petty thought he might make some calculations of the numbers of the inhabitants, and I shall only take notice, that whereas, the general number of the burials in the year 1666, and farther back, were from 17000 to 19000 in a year, the last yearly bill for the year 1723, amounted as follows,

Christenings 19203.   Burials 29197.

Here is to be observed, that the number of burials exceeding so much the number of births, is, because as it is not the number born, but the number christened that are set down, which is taken from the parish register; so all the children of Dissenters of every sort, Protestant, Popish and Jewish are omitted, also all the children of foreigners, French, Dutch, &c. which are baptized in their own churches, and all the children of those who are so poor, that they cannot get them registred: So that if a due estimate be made, the births may be very well supposed to exceed the burials one year with another by many thousands.

It is not that I have no more to say of London, that I break off here; but that I have no room to say it, and tho’ some things may be taken notice of by others, which I have pass’d over; yet I have also taken notice of so many things which others have omitted, that I claim the ballance in my favour.