Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Account of London

Selected by Pat Rogers
Introduction and Contents

Defoe’s Line of Measurement

I have, as near as I could, caused a measure to be taken of this mighty, I cannot say uniform, body; and for the satisfaction of the curious, I have here given as accurate a description of it, as I can do in so narrow a compass, as this of a letter, or as I could do without drawing a plan, or map of the places.

As I am forced, in many places, to take in some unbuilt ground, so I have, on the other hand, been obliged to leave a great many whole streets of buildings out of my line: So that I have really not stretched my calculations, to make it seem bigger than it is; nor is there any occasion of it.

A Line of Measurement, Drawn about all the Continued Buildings of the City of London, and Parts Adjacent, including Westminster and Southwark, etc.

The Line begins, for the Middlesex Side of the Buildings,


    Miles Fur. Rods
1. At Peterborough House, the farthest house west upon the River Thames, and runs N.W. by W. by the marshes to Tutthill Fields, and passing by the Neat Houses, and Arnold’s Brewhouse, ends at Chelsea Road, measured - 1 6 16
2. Then, allowing an interval from Buckingham House cross the park, about one furlong and half to the corner of my Lord Godolphin’s garden wall, the line goes north behind the stable-yard buildings, and behind Park-Place, and on the park wall behind the buildings; on the west side of St. James’s Street, to the corner in Soho, or Pickadilly, then crossing the road, and goes along the north side of the road west to Hide Park Gate - 1 2 11
3. Then the line turns N.E. by E. and taking in the buildings and streets, called May-Fair, and holds on east till the new streets formed out of Hide House Garden, cause it to turn away north, a point west reaching to Tyburn-Road, a little to the east of the great mother conduit; then it goes north, and crossing the road, takes in the west side of Cavendish Square, and the streets adjoining, and leaving Marybone, goes away east, ’till it reaches to Hampstead-Road, near a little village called Tottenham Court - 2 5 20
4. From Tottenham Court, the line comes in a little south, to meet the Bloomsbury, buildings then turning east, runs behind Montague and Southampton Houses, to the N.E. corner of Southampton House, then crossing the path, meets the buildings called Queen’s Square, then turning north, ’till it comes to the N.W. corner of the square, thence it goes away east behind the buildings on the north side of Ormond Street, ’till it comes to Lamb’s Conduit - 1 1 13
5. Here the line turns south, and indents to the corner of Bedford Row, and leaving some few houses, with the cock-pit, and bowling green, goes on the back of Gray’s Inn Wall, to Gray’s Inn Lane, then turns on the outside of the buildings, which are on the west side of Gray’s Inn Lane, going north to the stones end, when turning east, it passes to the new river bridge without Liquor-pond Street, so taking in the Cold Bath and the Bear Garden; but leaving out Sir John Old-Castle’s and the Spaw, goes on east by the Ducking-Pond to the end of New Bridewell, and crossing the Fairfield, comes into the Islington Road by the Distiller’s House, formerly Justice Fuller’s, - 1 2 6
6. Here to take in all the buildings which joyn Islington to the streets, the line goes north on the east side of the road to the Turk’s Head ale-house; then turning north west, passes to the New River House, but leaving it to the west, passes by Sadler’s Well, from thence to Bussby’s House, and keeping on the west side of Islington, ’till it comes opposite to Cambray House-Lane, turns into the road, and passes south almost to the lane which turns east down to the lower street, but then turns east without the houses, and goes to the Cow-keeper’s in the lower street crossing the road, and through the Cow-keeper’s Yard into Frog-lane, then running west on the south side of the town, just without the buildings, joyns again to the buildings on the west side of Wood’s-Close, passing behind the Sheep-market wall - 2 4 39
7. From Wood’s-Close, the line goes due east to Mount Mill, where, leaving several buildings to the north, it passes on, crossing all the roads to Brick-lane, to the north side of the great new square in Old-street, and taking in the Pest-house wall, turns south at the north-east corner of the said wall, to Old-street Road; then going away east till it meets the buildings near Hoxton Square, it turns north to the north west corner of the wall of Ask’s Hospital, then sloping north east, it passes by Pimlico, the Cyder House, and the two walls to the north end of Hoxton, when it turns east, and inclosing the garden walls, comes into the Ware road, just at the King’s Head in the new buildings by the Land of Promise - 2 0 16
8. From the King’s Head, the line turns south, running to the stones end in Shoreditch, then turning east, it takes in a burying ground and some buildings in the Hackney road, when sloping south east by south, it goes away by the Virginia House to a great brewhouse, and then still more east to the back of Wheeler-street, and then east by south, to Brick-lane, crossing which, it goes away east towards Bethnal Green; but then turning short south, it goes toward White Chapel Mount, but being intercepted by new streets, it goes quite up to the south end of the Dog-Row at Mile End - 1 6 19
9. From the Dog-Row, the line crosses the road, and takes in a little hamlet of houses, called Stepney, tho’ not properly so, and coming back west to the streets end at White Chapel Moll, goes away south by the Hog-houses into Church Lane, and to Rag Fair, when turning again east, it continues in a strait line on the north side of Ratcliff High-way, ’till it comes almost to the farther Glass-houses, then turning north, it surrounds all Stepney and Stepney causeway to Mile End Road, then turning east again, and afterwards south, comes back to the new streets on the north side of Lime-house, and joyning the marsh, comes down to the water side at the lower shipwright dock in Lime-house Hole - 3 7 1
    18 4 21


N.B. This line leaves out all the north side of Mile End town, from the end of the Dog-Row, to the Jews Burying Ground, which is all built; also all the north part of the Dog-Row, and all Bethnal Green: Also all Poplar and Black-Wall, which are, indeed, contiguous, a trifle of ground excepted, and very populous.

For the Southwark Side of the Buildings, the Line is as follows ;

Having ended the circumference of the Middlesex buildings at Lime-house, and the street extending towards Poplar, the hamlets of Poplar and Blackwall, tho’ very near contiguous in buildings, being excluded, I allow an interval of two miles, from Poplar, cross the Isle of Dogs, and over the Thames, to the lower water gate at Deptford, and tho’ in measuring the circumference of all cities, the river, where any such runs through any part of the buildings, is always measured, yet; that I may not be said to stretch the extent of the buildings which I include in this account, I omit the river from Limehouse to Deptford (where, if included, it ought to begin) and begin my line as above.


    Miles Fur. Rods
1. From the said upper water-gate at Deptford, the line goes east to the corner next the Thames, where the shipwright’s yard now is, and where I find a continued range of buildings begins by the side of a little creek or river, which runs into the Thames there, and reaches quite up the said river, to the bridge in the great Kentish road, and over the street there, taking in the south side of the street, to the west corner of the buildings in that street, and then measuring down on the west side of the long street, which runs to the Thames side, ’till you come to the new street which passes from Deptford to Rederiff, then turning to the left, passing on the back side of the king’s yard to Mr. Evelin’s house, including the new church of Deptford, and all the new streets or buildings made on the fields side, which are very many, this amounts in the whole, to - 3 1 16
2. From Mr. Evelin’s garden gate, the line goes north west, taking in all the new docks and yards, the Red-house, and several large streets of houses, which have been lately built, and by which the said town of Deptford is effectually joined to the buildings, reaching from Cuckold’s Point, eastward, and which are carried out, as if Rederiff stretch’d forth its arm to embrace Deptford; then for some length, the said street of Rederiff continues narrow ’till you come to Church-street, where several streets are also lately built south, and others parallel with the street, till gradually, the buildings thicken, and extend farther and farther to the south and south by east, ’till they cross over the east end of Horslydown to Bermondsey Church, and thence east to the sign of the World’s End, over against the great fort, being the remains of the fortifications drawn round these parts of Southwark in the late civil wars. This extent is, by computation, four miles; but being measured, as the streets indented, the circuit prov’d - 5 6 12
3. From this fort, to the corner of Long Lane, and through Long Lane to the Lock, at the end of Kent-street, is - 1 7 2
4. From the corner of Kent-street to the town of Newington Butts, drawing the line behind all the buildings as they stand, and round the said village of Newington, to the Haberdashers Alms Houses, and thence by the road to the windmill, at the corner of Blackman-street, is - 3 2 16
5. From the windmill crossing St. George’s Fields, on the back of the Mint, to the Fighting Cocks, thence to the Restoration Gardens, and thence on the outside of all the buildings to Lambeth-Wells, and on to Faux-Hall Bridge, over against the other fort of the old fortifications, being just the same length that those old fortifications extended, tho’ infinitely fuller of buildings; this last circuit measures - 3 5 12
    17 6 18


Thus the extent or circumference of the continued buildings of the cities of London and Westminster, and borough of Southwark, all which, in the common acceptation, is called London, amounts to thirty six miles, two furlongs, thirty nine rods.

N.B. The town of Greenwich, which may, indeed, be said to be contiguous to Deptford, might be also called a part of this measurement; but I omit it, as I have the towns of Chelsea and Knights Bridge on the other side, tho’ both may be said to joyn the town, and in a very few years will certainly do so.

Were it possible to reduce all these buildings to a compact situation, ’tis generally thought, that the whole body so put together, allowing the necessary ground, which they now employ for the several trades in the out-parts, such as the building yards by the river, for shipwrights, tanners yards, dyers, whitsters, &c. I say, ’tis believed the whole would take up twenty eight miles in circumference, very compactly built.