With the Olympic games starting this month, lots of visitors are arriving in London. While I was visiting one of my favorite places—the library—I came across a book called Shakespeare’s London on Five Groats a Day by Richard Tames. I thought it would be fun to tell you a little about what a visitor to London during Shakespeare’s times would experience.
Weather and when to visit:
Summer can be short and wet while winters are often savage. Keep a good, thick cloak if visiting during winter. In 1565 and 1595 the Thames froze solid. Two feet of snow fell in 1577 while an earthquake shook the city in 1589.
If bees refuse to leave their hives, you can be sure of severe weather on the way. Other signs of bad weather approaching are cows and dogs lying on their right side and earthworms coming to the surface.
Where to stay and eat:
Alehouses – if you’re seeking refreshment and don’t mind rowdy company, try an alehouse. Most aren’t too clean, but provide bread, cheese, or pottage of beans with bacon. Alehouses are for eating rather than accommodation.
Taverns – seek amusement, meet women and drink wine
Inns – the High Road of Southwark is lined with inns and stabling for horses. The standards of service are usually high.
Life in London:
It is legal and socially acceptable to discipline servants with a beating, but they must not suffer an injury. Some householders find it better to fine their servants for transgressions. e.g. if a cook fails to produce a meal on time – half a days wages or attempting improper relations with a maid – 4 pence.
Meat, usually beef, tops the list of Londoner’s favorite foods. To meet demand cattle are driven to London, sometimes as far away as Wales.
Country folk still eat badgers and hedgehogs.
The rich often suffer from eating so much meat. Early in their adult life they are likely to suffer from scurvy and loose teeth. Some suffer bladder problems, kidney pains and failing eyesight.
If you get a head cold, a sliver of turnip in the nostril should see you right. Retention of urine? No problem. Insert three large lice into the penis to fix the problem.
Queen Elizabeth, like many of her subjects, is addicted to sugared almonds. The result is discolored and missing teeth. This is why people seldom smile in their portraits.
Water is used for washing and cooking. Ale is the usual household drink. Milk is usually only drunk by the poor.
Watch out for London’s pickpockets. They’re extremely skilful and work in pairs or teams. They excel at distraction.
Ask the locals for the best place to stand and watch an execution. Get there early and don’t worry about taking food and drink. There will be plenty of food for sale.
Make sure you take the time to visit the London Bridge. It’s lined with over a hundred houses and shops. Make sure you keep to the left while crossing the bridge.
The Tower of London is also another must-see place. Guardsmen of the garrison conduct regular tours.
Shopping for souvenirs? Guns, swords, armour, clocks, books, maps, navigational and scientific instruments are all available.
For entertainment try the theatre for a play or if you fancy more excitement there’s bear baiting or cock fighting. Dance or listen to music, find feminine company and while your time away.
Enjoy your visit to London.