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Barbon's 1685 Manifesto, and the
Rise of Projectable Urbanism.

Edited & with Introduction by Tim.McCormick
Forward & Foreward, by Sonja Trauss
San Francisco: YIMBY Press edition, 2020 

Table of Contents

[for the project doc, incorporating the book]

Table of Contents        6

Foreword & Forward        10

by Sonja Trauss        10

Introduction: Barbon, the rise of speculative building, and terraced housing as 'projectible' urban form.        13

Barbon's character & significance        13

Historical context        16

Why does Barbon write the Apology?        17

Speculative development        20

Notes on the related texts in this volume:        26

Stow's "A Survay of London" (1598)        26

Defoe's Essay on Projects (1701)        26

Gwynn's "On Public Magnificence" (1766)        27

The speculator/projector par excellence: a contemporary's portrait of Barbon        30


Of the Cause.        45

Of the Effects of the increase of Buildings, and first as it relateth to the City.        68

Of the Effects of New Buildings as they relate to the Country.        72

NEW Buildings are advantageous to the Country:        72

Of the Effects of the New Buildings, as they relate to the Government.        76

Stow. A Survey of London, 1598.        91

A Discourse of the names and first causes of the institution of Cities and peopled towns        92

The Singularities of the City of LONDON        97

Defoe. "An Essay on Projects" 1697.        101

Introduction.        101

THE History of Projects.        108

Of PROJECTORS.        114

On Public Magnificence:        117

Gwynn's critique of speculative London        117


Preface        119

Introduction        126

A discourse on Public Magnificence        130

Projectible urbanism: the rise of  of terraced housing in 17th century London, its global spread and present rebirth        155

The square and the townhouse        155

Terrace housing's birth & spread        156

City of Bath: speculative grandeur        164

Other paths, 1800-present        175

Philanthropic / social housing        175

Municipal / public housing        176

Suburban/villa housing        177

Terraced housing today        177

Amsterdam's east docklands        177

Houston        180

in "middle housing" / SF zoning reform        180

Appendix (possibly):  notable/surviving Barbon buildings:        183

References        184

Textual Notes        189

An Apology for the Builder        189

A Survay of London, 1598        189

An Essay on Projects        190

Project Notes        191

Mar 12, 2020        191

Feb 19, 2020 - Fri        191

Feb 12, 2020        195

Feb 5, 2020        196

Dec 26, 2020        197

July 30 call, Tim/Sonja        200

ISBN assignment        200

Print on Demand - Ingram        200

June 18        202

Word counts        203

Research Notes        208

Red Lion Square        209

Design / Typography notes        216

Book dimensions        216

Fell types        216

Marketing        218

Old / backgrounded materials        219


Tyler Cowan (& Emergent Ventures?)

Editing helpers (sign up now, to be featured!)

Emily Hamilton

Foreword & Forward

by Sonja Trauss

Forward draft (GDoc, restricted access).

connection to current pro-housing advocacy and housing debates.


Urbanist, speculator, projector: Nicholas Barbon and the liquid city

Projectors, speculators, builders, planners - Nicholas Barbon and the roles of urban development

Barbon's character & significance

Nicholas Barbon was not the earliest, only, or even most financially successful speculative developer, but is perhaps its most iconic figure, from his flamboyant practices and figure, and for crowning his efforts with the brash, sly, and enduringly fascinating essay,  "Apology for the Builder." It was a blazing riposte to critics, foes, creditors and aristocracy; part propaganda and self-excusal, and partly a seminal work of what might be called the first urban economist, laying key foundations of the study of urban agglomeration and land value.

In his multifarious theoretical and practical ventures, Barbon exemplified the new figure and spirit of his times, the 'projector'. This term of the times was memorialized, critiqued, and also exemplified by his younger contemporary Daniel Defoe in his first book, An Essay on Projects, 1697 (the Introduction to which is included in this volume). 'Projector,' in late 17th century English usage, spanned and related a wide range of activities, that we might today distinguish as those of an entrepreneur, inventor, scientist, adventurer, statesman, publisher or author, soldier of fortune, investor, or -- particularly in Barbon's case, and implicated in our present housing controversies -- the dreaded 'speculator'.  

Post-Great Fire London's leading swashbuckling schemer, a cosmopolitan ironist with both astute dealmaking and proto-economist observational powers, Barbon's positions were complex and his personae, dramatic.
At the same time, he came to so iconify the basic idea of market commodification that Marx quoted him in the opening pages of Das Capital, 175 years later, to define the key concept of exchange value as opposed to use value:

...Then one use value is just as good as another, provided only it be present in sufficient quantity. Or, as old Barbon says,

“one sort of wares are as good as another, if the values be equal. There is no difference or distinction in things of equal value ... An hundred pounds’ worth of lead or iron, is of as great value as one hundred pounds’ worth of silver or gold.”[1]

As use values, commodities are, above all, of different qualities, but as exchange values they are merely different quantities, and consequently do not contain an atom of use value.

Barbon was also an early exemplar in the long tradition of developer as iconic villain. As architect and critic Mark Hogan observes, the evil developer has a "long and distinguished history" in famous films. From the menacing banker-slumlord Mr. Potter in It's the Wonderful Life (1946), to Lex Luther the anti-hero in Superman (1978), to the nemesis of good architect dad Mike Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), "the developer is never the hero." [2] Why is that, though, if we live in a world where, by and large, 'developers' are who build the housing that many to most of us live in? How did positive concepts/terms like builder, carpenter, or the 17th/18th century 'projector' get peeled back to the often-negative 'developer,' or worse, 'speculator'?  

We may not, here, be able to fully untie that knot of contemporary antagonisms. However, we can cast new light on them, and perhaps usefully question the usual type-casting of good and evil in land use, by taking a deep retro look through the intriguing lens of Dr. Barbon, his 1685 essay on building, and a look at how and why "speculative housing", and its characteristic terraced or tract housing, emerged after the Great Fire of London in 1666 and went on to such worldwide success.

To set up this view though Barbon, let's take a glance at the unusual circumstances from which he came, and which he flourished.


the late 17th century in England was, by almost any standard, an exceptionally chaotic and traumatic time. The English Civil War (1642–1660) had seen the shocking regicide of King Charles I, and the democratic turned tyrannical reign of Cromwell and the Parliamentary faction. This was followed by the Restoration of the royalty with Charles II,  and the Great Plague, in 1665-66, devastating London' population, especially the poor. Following the plague was the Great Fire in September of 1666, which, in addition to claiming more lives, also caused financial ruin to many rich merchants.

In 1685, the same year An Apology for the Builder was published, the Kingdom of France revoked the Edict of Nantes which had granted religious freedom to French Protestants, leading to a flood particularly of Huguenots (French Calvinists) into England, somewhat analogous to the emigration of Jewish populations into the Anglosphere due to Nazi persecution. 

Then in 1688 came the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688: the invasion and takeover of British throne by Dutch Protestants, William and Mary.  

Suburban exclusionism, & Growing pains

London after the Great Fire of 1666 was a city that had long been crowded into two small areas, Westminster and the walled City of London, by legal restrictions on building and the unwillingness or inability of the major landowners to 'develop' their land.

In London, royal and noble interests had mostly imposed building moratoria or multi-acre lot minimums across much of what is present-day London.

A common, if not necessarily bulletproof-logical, rationale for the Tudor-era lot minimums was that housing should have enough agricultural land attached to it to employ the residents. The preceding century had seen accelerating Enclosure of common lands by feudal landowners, and agricultural productivity increased from new methods, furthering the dispossession and disaffiliation of the peasantry. This plus growth in economic opportunity in cities led to a rising tide of urban in-migration, to the growing alarm of the encroached-upon elites particularly in London.

Lawmakers in Parliament argued, successfully, that housing in the country -- which then meant most of what is now London, outside the City and Westminster districts -- should have enough agricultural land attached, so that the residents would have land and subsistence. The problem with this proposal should be immediately apparent - requiring each house to have land attached doesn’t make any more land, not employ the residents, not provide enough housing. The laborers were no better off after these new minimum lot sizes than they were before, and they continued to stream into cities, creating crowded squalor particularly in the already-filled-in walled City of London.

1588 Statutes at Large:
“For the avoiding of the great inconveniencies which are found by experience to grow by the erecting and building of great numbers and multitude of cottages, which are daily more and more increased in many parts of this realm, be it enacted … that … no person shall within this realm … build … any manner of cottage for habitation or dwelling, ... unless the same person do assign and lay to the same cottage or building four acres of ground at the least,”

The Statutes at Large , 1588, pg 664)

The building restrictions enacted under Elizabeth I and successors not only tried to set large lot minimum, but tried, with varying levels of successful enforcement on landowners, to prohibit new buildings within some miles distance of Westminster or City of London boundaries.  The famous "Green Belt" around London, usually associated with the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act which established its modern form, really originated in Elizabethan times, for partly similar reasons.

Like urban growth boundaries today, these proto greenbelt laws had various rationales, and served various interests. Protecting valuable agricultural land or natural beauty also has a way of keeping grubby tradesmen and labourers from encroaching on the upper class’s riding fields, views, or golf courses. In the grand bargain of land use, then as now, the details of where or how the poor will live tend to be left for later discussion.

Much of London, especially the relatively open and well-situated areas west of City of London, was (and much still is) large land-holdings of titled nobles, some directly descending from Norman Conquest grants and much from disposal of former Church/monastery lands to nobles by Henry VIII. That included Covent Garden, the first London urban square, developed by the Bedford estate which had received the former grounds of Westminster Abbey's Convent. By traditional feudal practice, much of this land was entailed, meaning it couldn't be sold or passed out of the family.  

Later, suppressing housing in the suburbs caused   people to crowd into the city -- necessitating new laws forbidding new buildings.

This effort to contain London's population and development was already unstable and patchwork before the Great Fire, but that disaster helped break the situation open in several ways, in time for the returning Dr Barbon to capitalize on.

- a huge portion of City housing was lost, needed replacing at least.

- post-Great Fire building regulations substantially standardized the permissible building methods, designs, and materials.

Pre-Great Fire London - lots of wooden, irregular, overhanging, sagging and subsiding buildings.
Below 1844 painting and 1867 photograph show a street whose buildings survived from before the 1666 Great Fire.

[Context: what London of the time looked like to other visitors:

"Tourists’ Thoughts Of London After The Great Fire." Rachel Holdsworth, Londonist. 27 February 2013. https://londonist.com/2013/02/tourists-thoughts-of-london-after-the-great-fire. "Francis Maximilian Misson, a Frenchman who fled to England after the 1685 Edict of Nantes, looked at the bits of London that didn't burn in the 1666 fire and called the houses:

"The scurvyest Things in the World, as appears very plainly from the whole Streets still remaining, nothing but Wood and Plaister and nasty little Windows, with but one little Casement to open. The Stories were low and widen'd one over another, all awry and in Appearance ready to fall."

Barbon's return to England, and launch as land/building developer

Barbon had  returned to London from medical studies in Holland around 1670, with an eye for the main chance.

He managed to avoid personally experiencing the most recent calamities and returned to a city that had been decimated both physically and in population.

Why does Barbon write the Apology?

It's a complex question. We sense that Barbon does at least generally believe many of the arguments he's making, and that he is a shrewd observer with a proto-economist's analytic proclivity, and curiosity, to find general patterns underlying the still-mediaeval and fast-transforming muddle of London.

On the other hand, we sense that Barbon is:

    a) trying to tell opponents what he think will persuade them, e.g. by saying new houses will make all housing more valuable, when he might personally predict that in cases it would lower scarcity and thus prices/rents; and
  b) trying to directly or indirectly answer for a reputation as something of a fraudster, law-breaker, and underminer of civic order -- rather like the reputation now attaching to 'speculative' development and market housing, for many of the same reasons

[Law and Civic order had also been decimated. The legitimacy of the law in question, legitimacy of the leaders themselves, the people who had been enemies of the state became law makers and vice versa, twice. 2 inversions, ]

[Move the paragraphs about Barbon’s shitty behaviour up here. “Who was Nicholas Barbon?]

Law and civic order, and who the benefactor and what the right principle,  however, was a complicated matter both for Londoners of the time, and for Barbon himself. In his life, being from a Huguenot (French Calvinist) and Dissenter family, being somewhat outside the law was a familiar and honorable matter. It was also an era when the legitimacy of the 'law' and the State and the monarchic order in England were particularly contested and volatile -- with the Parliamentarian faction, including Shaftesbury and Cromwell, turning from discontent to insurgency against Charles I's exercises of royal prerogatives, his alarming tolerance of Catholics including his brother and potential heir James II, the Duke of York. (whom New York was named after, incidentally, when Charles I got New Amsterdam in negotiations with Holland).

Catholicism was seen, by many in England then, as not just a religious faith, but an existentially threatening world order, of tyrannical and extravagant power, national centralized states controlled by a global central Papacy, the antithesis of modern English-ness. (and a bit like later days' dreaded international Capital, a sort of Jewish Papacy and accommodator of conspiratorial as well as real concerns).

Barbon had lived as a Protestant minority in France, in fear of and sometimes flight from persecution as a Dissenter in England, and possibly changed his name in part to avoid being associated with his Cromwellian father; so we can imagine he appreciated the value of tolerance.

With ironies likely to strike someone of Barbon's background and analytical inclination, the Parliamentarians who sought to uphold civil over royal power were also inclined to suppress the Catholic minority and England and majority in Ireland; they committed a shocking regicide, and elevated Cromwell into dictatorial power and the dissolution of Parliament. Following on that disillusioning turmoil, Barbon also saw the subsequent abrupt return and Restoration of Charles' son to the throne as Charles II,  from his exile on the continent -- where Barbon was at the time studying -- and would soon see a further ['Glorious'] Revolution with the installation of Dutch Catholic monarchs William and Mary on the British throne in 1688.

To the ambiguously situated and cosmopolitan-inclined Barbon, likewise just back  from the Continent where he'd taken a medical degree at Leiden, it may have seemed hard to say what counts as  'usurpation' or civic order, or whose rules to follow for how long.

But on another level, Barbon also seems to have been a renegade and dodger in ways more dishonorable than philosophical, such as constantly evading payments and debts. (like Trump, he seemed to have a longtime policy of trying to avoid paying people he worked with, and forcing them to attempt to win it back off him). Barbon claimed to be merely building to meet need, but in Barbon's time and case, this is apparently debatable. [I was reading somewhere recently that there was a lot of vacant housing in London ca 1685. (need to find cite)].

Also, Barbon seems to have been generally a quite short-term developer / builder / flipper, so much so he would pass to the new owners of his developments the lawsuits/liabilities he incurred in often cutting corners on the development. His process didn't really require true demand for the new housing, just convincing backers and speculative partners/buyers there would be enough value gain in the property, which can often be speculative e.g. ponzi-scheme gambles.

In these senses, he embodied the disreputable short-term speculator, as contrasted to the long-term speculation of the typically aristocratic landowners. But of course, these inclinations and roles intermingled, required each other, even literally because Barbon often played development roles on aristocrat-owned estates, for example in his early speculative project on St. James Square.  

Speculative development

Speculative development has always been with us, in ways -- in essence it is housing built in anticipation of an owner/tenant, not for or by a specific one. There are many reasons this may happen, and in any case, housing usually lasts much longer than tenures, so most of us usually don't move into new housing -- it was almost always built for someone else.  

It's important to distinguish between this technical meaning of 'speculative' housing, vs general or housing speculation, which means, aiming to gain by rise in asset value.
They may be mingled, but the latter element is really, speculative ownership. 

All development is speculative, in a sense, in that it requires marshalling of resources for an expensive and labor intensive project, to be enjoyed in an unknown future. Public and non-profit / Housing Association development has these properties also, just with somewhat differing risk holders and beneficiaries.

While speculative development uses prospective asset gain (e.g. of the land's value) to incent hopefully useful action like housing creation, speculative ownership seeks/receives gain for mostly no action besides putting money in. Or, in the case of owned housing/land, often mostly just living there.  Speculative ownership is far more pervasive, larger scale, non-productive, and of more doubtful social value  than speculative development. It tends to create and amplify inequality, create perverse incentives for home/landowners to oppose development, misallocate capital into non-productive use, create systematic economic/financial-system risk, and encourage unsustainable long-term real housing price escalation.

'Speculative' development can clearly go off the rails and serve bad ends, as the chequered career and trail of fraud left by Barbon attests. On the other hand, it can also be part of enlightened long-term private planning, as illustrated by the history of central London's private, speculatively-developed residential estates and squares (including Barbon's Red Lion Square development), still widely popular, functional, and emulated.

Speculative development allows different parties to participate in mixed ways in land use change and responding to urban needs. This can often be helpful, for example as at times, a counterweight to the power of other sectors, such as 'homevoters', unconcerned absentee/feudal landowners, or aristocratic/royal disdain for the poor's and everyman's needs.

In the tradition of feudal land ownership, the [land]Lords might or might not have been concerned to allow and support decent and sufficient housing for their peons & dependents. It was quite possible and might have been useful to keep it scarce and thus rents on it higher. What dark days!

In the 17th Century, London

[At some point] these large land-owners started moving their residences further out of the growing city, and needed to raise revenues off their city lands, so they turned to developing it, usually for leasehold.

These land-owners are 'speculators' in that they're concerned with the land's long-term revenue-producing value; so for example they're concerned how to attract upper-class residents and commercial tenants. On the other hand, since their interest is fairly stable and long-term (unless something really unlikely happens such as, say, a revolution, or a flip in the religious faith or execution of a King), they can often afford to and are inclined to take a long-term view, creating a type of 'planning' mentality. Arguably even more than professional / government planners, they have a full and long-term stake in it working well.

These aristocratic land-owner/developers are joined, in the 17th century, by merchant developers and often, financiers, who may play different roles such as building out leasehold-rented sites for a leaseholder, owning the leasehold for some term thus perhaps being long-term landlords themselves; or in cases, acquiring and building on or just holding and selling freeholds.  So, many large estate developments -- especially those of the Duke of Bedford, as studied in Donald Olsen's Town Planning in London: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1964) -- are actually very carefully and thoroughly planned, more so than public planning will attempt until centuries later; and perhaps often better.

Perhaps brief discussion here of how terraced housing plays into this -- bridging / pointing to discussion of terraced housing in later chapter.

Need some big, compelling, points here on why this is all is very relevant, fascinating, fun and uniquely worth your time and purchase, and to springboard you happily into reading subsequent parts of the book.  For example:

- a environment of (by our standards) very 'privatized' land use and development, of consciously 'speculative' large landowners and developers, produced what have for centuries been viewed as some of the most desireable, successful, exemplary, well-planned, and adaptive urban areas.  What made that work, and why does it not seem to match our present concept of 'speculator'?

[similar patterns are, 350 years later, widely looked to as models for equitable, high-density, high-amenity, urban housing -- perhaps with some revision of landownership/equity as in PolicyExchange UK's proposed model.

- most of the same accusations directed at 'speculative' developers, and "cookie-cutter" or 'tract' development, have been made since they emerged in the 17th century, but in many circumstances development of that type they have produced most of our popular and successful and more affordable housing. For example, London terraced and semi-detached housing, New York brownstones, New England triple-deckers, California dingbats, suburban ranch homes, etc. (not always success though! it can certainly go wrong).

- substantially "cookie-cutter" and 'formulaic' development, not unique and discretionarily approved/discussed housing, have historically produced much of all mass, affordable, and successful/popular urban housing. 'Formulae' naturally develop from many factors such as building methods and materials, commonalities of habitation needs and urban form (e.g. ratio of street width to building heights), local/regional style, cultural vernacular. Good mass-housing forms balance useful formulaicism with variation and adaptability and dweller control.

- what we call 'speculation,' and 'planning', are related and intertwined modes of shaping the future, and both have when dominant led to both major successes and massive failures. We should perhaps not consider them as antithetical, but as different aspects of and terms for ways we interrelate public and private roles, spaces, rewards. Just as a good city has a good balancing of public, private, and semi-public spaces.

Booth, Philip (1980). "Speculative Housing and the Land Market in London 1660-1730: Four Case Studies." The Town Planning Review, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Oct., 1980), pp. 379-398.
in /Readings.

McKellar, Elizabeth (1999). The Birth of Modern London: The Development and Design of the City 1660-1720. Manchester University Press, 1999.
[partly available at Google Books:
https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Birth_of_Modern_London/knRh5EOwaOEC]. [print available at PSU Millar library].

Clemoes, Charlie. "Houses as Money: The Georgian Townhouse in London." Failed Architecture, 27 November 2014. https://failedarchitecture.com/georgian-townhouse/

Notes on the related texts in this volume:

Stow's "A Survay of London" (1598)

the first systematic survey (other than Domesday book) of London, and exemplar of "topographic history" examining the history of every building or landmark in an area.

Also, in a later part of book presented here, it contains a beautiful brief etymological history of 'city' term/ideas and a mythical history of the emerging first city of the world.  

Plus, a passage defining the nature of cities that's become known to generations of planners and architects via its invocation at the start of Lewis Mumford's classic, often-anthologized [19xx] essay "What is a City?"

Defoe's Essay on Projects (1701)

This first published book by Daniel Defoe is, seen in retrospect, outstandingly characteristic of his lifelong energetic spirit, as well as describing this spirit of his times as he intended. It is "an age of Projectors," Defoe declares, before launching a diverse parade of examples and then floating a dozen or so new inventive schemes of his own in the following chapters of book.

For our purposes, the "Essay on Projects" illuminates the wide and fluid conceptions (and terms) of creating, building, inventing that flourished in Barbon's time. Encompassed in the excellent term 'Projector', which Defoe picked up and memorialized as icon of his times, are conceptions that today we departmentalize and disrelate as inventor, entrepreneur, explorer, scientist, 'speculator,' perhaps even soldier.

Defoe's explication of the 'Projector' archetype also gives us a helpful model of appreciation combined with critique, as applied to the speculative builder. For him, the expansive spirit of the era wasn't about to be nor generally should be contained -- like the expansive London which Barbon sought to unshackle from Royal and tradition enclosures. However, Defoe also freely recognizes that this unbounding spirit could go off the rails in ways, and misdirect as fraud, delusion, or usurpation. It was a time of stock frauds, fantastic and/or exploitative colonial schemes, and puffery in every field. As Roger North drily and resonantly notes about Barbon's methods, "here was an equality for all pretenders."  

Gwynn's "On Public Magnificence" (1766)

a cultivated critique of Barbon's speculative London, 75 years after.

John Gwynn RA (1713 – 1786) was an self-taught English carpenter/builder turned architect, civil engineer, and planner. He was also an influential institution-builder: as one of the founder members of the Royal Academy in 1768,  writer of the first encyclopedic study and canonicalization of English arts traditions, and a today-underrecognized forefather of urban / town planning via his startling illustrated essays "London and Westminster improved" and "On Public Magnificence."

Like Barbon and Daniel Defoe, Gynn was self-made, a sort of swashbuckling, representative spirit and eminence of his times, likewise a 'projector' and polymath, but inclining over time much to a more aristocratic station. Barbon's entrepreneurially-built London was, for Gwynn, a somewhat rash, adolescent urban phase, to now be surpassed by higher aspirations, rather like Gwynn's humbler early days compared to his later high-society ascension.

The essay "On Public Magnificence" was published, ironically, by Gwynn in 1766 as part of a speculative, entrepreneurial, and incremented venture of his own -- a volume expanding upon and around his earlier pamphlet "London and Westminster improved." He rather freely assembled and grew multiple independent texts into a larger book -- in the more fluid, componentized way that printing/publishing commonly worked in the 16th-18th centuries before becoming industrialized -- rather like builders from Barbon's time on would flexibly combine terraced houses into larger blocks or developments.

Gwynn is a close observer and also imaginative, even audacious  reformer/imaginer of the London he loves and hates ("you have to love it in order to hate it," as the character in The Last Black Man in San Francisco says to the newcomers)

He critically surveys the new London that Barbon & peers had built, and finds it fundamentally lacking, ramshackle, unorderly -- in notable contrast to the commonly positive view in the last few centuries about the West End's Georgian-era form of residential estates, terraced housing, and squares.

For Gwynn, these organic, comparatively piecemeal progressions didn't answer to his vision of London and England's. They betrayed baser, self-interested and speculative interests in the Barbon mold, which it was high time to subsume to a greater national good, or even civilizational mandate -- to be directed by cultivated and imperial leaders such as his lately ascended self.

"On Public Magnificence" could be seen as almost the founding document of urban planning in the UK. Gwynn became a lead founder of the Royal Academy, very influential in building institutions of cultural authority which came to include town planning organizations and departments. Indicatively, Gwynn bundled this essay to publish it, with what is essentially the first thorough survey of English arts across all forms.

The speculator/projector par excellence: a contemporary's portrait of Barbon

Excerpted from the memoir Notes of Me (written 1693-98, published 1890), by Roger North (1653-1734), an eminent lawyer and biographer who personally knew and had business dealings with Barbon.  
    North's sardonic, witty observations on Nicholas Barbon, half critiquing and half ironically admiring, are a key source of information about Barbon's practices and reputation in his time. It was written probably 1693-98, 1st published in 1890 in
The lives of the Right Hon. Francis North, baron Guilford; the Hon. Sir Dudley North; and the Hon. and Rev. Dr. John North: together with the Autobiography of the Author, edited by Augustus Jessop, published by George Bell & Sons, London, 1890.

There was one Nicholas Barbon, son of the old sectarian, called Praise God Barbon (being christened, Unless- Jesus-Christ-had-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned), bred a doctor of physic, but that trade failing he fell into that of building, and the fire of London gave him means of doing and knowing much of that kind.    His talent lay more in economising ground for advantage and the little contrivances of a family than the more noble aims of architecture, and all his aim was at profit.    But he had like to have lost his trade by slight building in Mincing Lane, where all the vaults for want of strength fell in, and houses came down most scandalously.    In other places his building stood well enough, and at the upper end of Crane Court in Fleet Street he had made himself a capital messuage, where he lived as lord of the manor.    He was bred in the practices, as well as the knowledge, of working the people, under his father in the late times, though he was too young to make any figure himself ;  but that, with his much dealing in building, and consequently transacting with multitudes, he was an exquisite mob master, and knew the arts of leading, winding, or driving mankind in herds as well as any that I ever observed.    He judged well of what he undertook, and had an inexpugnable pertinacity of pressing it through.    He never proposed to tempt men to give way or join but by their interest, laid plainly before them.    Supposing that, however averse at first, the humour would spend, and they would come down to profit ;  all other arguments and wheedles he esteemed ridiculous and vain loss of time. If he could not work upon all together he would allure them singly by some advantage above the rest, and if he could not gain all, divide them, for which purpose he had a ready wit, and would throw out questions most dexterously.    If anyone was fierce against him he quarrelled, then that man's objections were charged upon the affronts that passed, and not the reason of the thing.    And he would endure all manner of affronts and be as tame as a lamb.    If it was proper to his end to be so, he would be called rogue, knave, damned Barbon, or anything, without being moved ;  then some others, seeing him treated so seurvily, would take the man's part, which advantage he failed not to improve.    I meddle not with his morals but his prudence.    He never failed to satisfy everyone in treaty and discourse, and if he had performed as well he had been a truly great man.    His fault was that he knowingly overtraded his stock, and that he could not go through with undertakings without great disappointments to the concerned, especially in point of time.    This exposed him to great and clamorous debts, and consequently, to arrests and suits, wherein he would fence with much dexterity, with dilatories and injunctions.    He had good address and could express himself cunningly, and being master of (for none is free from) passion, was never forward to speak importunely, and then made his design the centre of all he said or did.    He knew that passion and heat wear off, and as he regarded it not when rashly used by others, he never used it himself but as an engine to work with.    He never despaired of a design if it were sound at bottom, but would endure repulse after repulse, and still press his point.    If a proposition did not relish one way he would convert it to another, and adapt himself, as well as his designs, to the caprice as well as the interest of those he was to deal with.    And to conclude his general character, he was the inventor of this new method of building by casting of ground into streets and small houses, and to augment their number with as little front as possible, and selling the ground to workmen by so much per foot front, and what he could not sell build himself.    This has made ground rents high for the sake of mortgaging, and others following his steps have refined and improved upon it, and made a superfaetation of houses about London.

I had much conversation with him on the occasion of building our chambers, as well about that as other general things relating to the public. And it may be some diversion to give an account of some passages between us.

I once asked him why he dealt so much in building and to overrun his stock, and be not only forced to discontent everyone, but he perpetually harrassed with suits. He said it was not worth his while to deal little ; that a bricklayer could do.    The gain he expected was out of great undertakings, which would rise lustily in the whole, and because this trade required a greater stock than he had, perhaps £30,000 or £40,000, he must compass his designs either by borrowed money or by credit with those he dealt with, either by fair means or foul.    He said his trade would not afford to borrow on such disadvantage as he must, for want of sufficient security, be at, at 10 per cent, at least ;  so he was forced to take the other way of being in debt, which he said was very much cheaper to him than borrowing, for his way was to put men off from time to time by fair words, as long as they were current, and so he got one, two, and sometimes three years.    And then perhaps they would begin to threaten most fiercely to arrest him, which at last they did. So he put in bail, for which end he had always a bank of credit with a scrivener and goldsmith or two.    Perhaps for some carelessness of the plaintiff's attorney the suit baffled itself at first, but if it came so far as a trial he defended stoutly, if he had colour, if not let it go by default, then brought a bill in Chancery, and perhaps got an injunction, and at the last, when the injunction was dissolved, and judgment affirmed upon a writ of error (which was one delay seldom omitted) and execution ready to come out he sent to the party, and paid the money recovered, and costs, which might amount to three, four, or perhaps five per cent., and seldom more than half the charge of borrowing, and thus he maintained a gang of clerks, attorneys, scriveners, and lawyers, that were his humble servants and slaves to command.

Another time I asked him how he did to take off opposition when he was upon a design that concerned many, whom it would be very chargeable to buy off directly, as when a hundred or more old houses were to be pulled down to accommodate a building design.     He said he never bought off all, but only some few of the leaders and most angry of them, and that his method was this.    He appointed a meeting.    They would certainly be early at the place, and confirm and hearten one another to stand it out, for the Doctor must come to their terms.    So they would walk about and pass their time expecting the Doctor, and inquiring if he were come.    At last word was brought that he was come.    Then they began to get towards the long table (in a tavern dining-room for the most part) for the Doctor was come !    Then he would make his entry, as fine and as richly dressed as a lord of the bedchamber on a birthday.    And I must own I have often seen him so dressed, not knowing his design, and thought him a coxcomb for so doing.    Then these hard-headed fellows that had prepared to give him all the affronts and opposition that their brutal way suggested, truly seeing such a brave man, pulled off their hats, and knew not what to think of it.    And the Doctor also being (forsooth) much of a gentleman, then with a mountebank speech to these gentlemen he proposed his terms, which, as I said, were ever plausible, and terminated in their interest.    Perhaps they were, at this, all converted in a moment, or perhaps a sour clown or two did not understand his tricks,    or would not trust him, or would take counsel, or some blundering opposition they gave ;  while the rest gaped and stared, he was all honey, and a real friend ;  which not doing he quarrelled, or bought off, as I said, and then at the next meeting some came over, and the rest followed.    It mattered not a litigious knave or two, if any such did stand out, for the first thing he did was to pull down their houses about their ears, and build upon their ground, and stand it out at law till their hearts ached, and at last they would truckle and take any terms for peace and a quiet life.

He hated to make up accounts with anyone, and seldom failed to sink in his own profit a considerable balance, which the interested would lose rather than go to law upon an intricate account.    This article brought good profit. If he got into an undertaking he mattered not time, for some would depend many years, and if money failed he would stand stock still, whatever ruin attended his works.   Bricklayers, &c., could tease for money when employed, and if not paid knock off.    I have seen his house in a morning like a court, crowded with suitors for money.    And he kept state, coming down at his own time like a magnifico, in dishabille, and so discourse with them.    And having very much work, they were loth to break finally, and upon a new job taken they would follow and worship him like an idol, for then there was fresh money ;  as I observed upon his undertaking the Temple.    And thus he would force them to take houses at his own rates instead of money, and so by contrivance, shifting, and many losses, he kept his wheel turning, lived all the while splendidly, was a mystery in his time, uncertain whether worth anything or not, at last bought a Parliament-man's place, had protection and ease, and had not his cash failed, which made his works often stand still, and so go to ruin, and many other disadvantages grow, in all probability he might have been as rich as any in the nation.

He was certainly cut out for the business of the Temple, for he conversed much with those of the Society, being a neighbour and full of law, and this for many years.    He had dealt before with the Society, when he undertook the building of Essex House, and added the back gate and four staircases to the Temple.    He knew our way of disposing our rooms, what conveniences we had need of, and being a very good contriver could apply to serve not only our occasions but our fancies ;  and likewise knew the state of our interests, and the value of them, and what profit was to be made by dealing with us.    And in general he knew the best way of access to the business and how to make his profit out of it.

He applied to the gentlemen first, which in a mob age was the right way, knowing, that if he agreed with them, they would hand it to the benchers, whose point of having their chambers for nothing was also to be complied with.

He once met with the gentlemen and laid before them a crude project, to this effect :  that every man's interest should be rated, and a value paid for it ;  that in the new building provision should be made for all that were burnt, and preference of choice in the disposition of chambers should go according to value, and parity by lot ;  and so much as the new was worth more than the old should be paid towards the charge of building, and the surplus towards the bench chambers, which he undertook should be done with it, the house allowing him 20 a piece.    This imperfect or rather uncertain proposal none would so much as hearken to, for it was impossible to adjust the values of chambers, which the gentlemen all overvalued, and would never submit to be arbitrated.    The most part would not take chance, nor anyone's determination but their own, for the new settlement ; whereby the Doctor saw this would not work, and he must find some way that should answer all objections, or at least, by the terms of it, seem so to do.

At our next meeting he proposed that a new model should be made of the whole Temple, making the best of the ground, but preserving the courts and gardens.    That a survey be taken of the dimensions of every man's interest by the old foundations, and projected in flat, so as the quantity and height might appear.    That everyone should have a chamber in the new building, in the same height as the old was, and as near the situation as could be ;  and that if any had more dimensions than before he should pay, if less receive a certain rate.    That the bench chambers should all be built for the advantage of the improvement.    That there should be four floors in the building, all ten feet high except the upper, which should be nine, and every chamber have a cellar.    And the charge and rates were according to this proposal for the value and distribution of it, viz. :

Price of ground.         Charge of building.

Ground chamber per square .        

6                         12                   

One pair stairs . . .                         

6 '15                 13 '10        

Two pair stairs . . .

                         5                 10        

Upper story . . . .                        

3  5                         6         10        

In all by the square or

100 feet flat .         

                        21                 42                 

Here was a seeming equality to answer all pretenders. If another has more he pays, if less he is paid for it ;  if high the charge is less than lower.     Who can assign a juster rate?    You shall be as near the old as the model admits, what would you have?    I must confess I was at first against this design, thinking the improvement would be too much profit, as it had been if the Doctor had had money to go through.    But at last I reflected that somewhat must be done, it was late in the year, the vacations pending, next term the benchers would be upon our backs ;  this was equal though many would not like it, and so resolved to make the best of my way and join with as strong a party as could be made, and so drive it through.    It happened that from my relation I had not a little authority amongst them, and when it was seen that I had put myself in the head I had much the better and stronger part of the gentlemen joined with me, and though there was a schismatic party arose and separated into a distinct meeting to disturb us, we gained upon them continually.    In short, we agreed :  I made the articles, had them engrossed, allowed by the bench, and the model annexed, and we being settled in the model went to work briskly.

The method of settling ourselves was this.    The model lay exposed, and everyone was to write his name on the ground plot with the number of pair of stairs high, as near as could be to his old station.    And it is strange to see with what ease this was done, which one would have thought the most difficult part of all, but they were either so ingenious or so fond of their old being, that they sought not so much an amendment as the proximity to their old interest.    And however large the place was the better, everyone chose rather to pay for amelioration than receive for pejoration.    It was my fortune to commute a ground interest for one up two pairs of stairs, for which I wrote and where I am now, and proves the best in the Society.    None else had a pretence to it but my relation, Mr. G-. Mountagu, who was so civil as to give way to me in it.    Thus was the model settled, contracted, and signed as to situation, by the best of the gentlemen which concluded them, room being left for all others who would come in, and so it was delivered into the Treasury as the act of the whole Society, and was the happiest resolution of a perplexed touchy affair that I have known, and the present prosperity of the Temple is owing to the fortunate circumstances of it.    But nothing which concerns many moves long together smooth and uniform ;  and there was here a party that was not so well pleased as the rest, and as the way was, opposed the whole proceeding, and hoped by such distress upon Barbon to get terms of him.    But our party resolved to maintain the point and support him.    The colour they found to mutiny upon was, that the building straitened the hall court at the further end, which is true, but not to the inconvenience of the place, for it was made to run parallel to the hall, which formerly went bevel, widening at the further end.    These gentlemen met at taverns, and several times sallied down upon the buildings, and threw down what they could, and we were never safe till the walls were out of reach, and then they acquiesced.

And Barbon wanting money, materials were wanting, or came in very thin.    It was pleasant to see how intent the gentlemen were upon their own concerns, promoting the work and expostulating at every delay, nay, sometimes scarce forbearing violence to the workmen and to one another.    For they were apt to quarrel to have bricks, &c., carried to their respective works; sometimes much of it stood still, which put the concerned out of all patience.    And there was at length a fail (as always in Barbon's affairs) so the house was fain to take upon them the winding up of the matter, and the accounts standing out, whereby at last it was happily finished and in the state we see.


TO write of Architecture and its several parts, of Situation, Platforms of Building, and the quality of Materials, with their Dimensions and Ornaments: 

To discourse of the several Orders of Columns, of the Tuscan, Dorick, Ionick, Corinthian, and composit, with the proper inrichments of their Capitals, Freete and Cornish, were to transcribe a Folio from Vitruvius and others; and but mispend the Readers and Writers time, since we live in an Age and Country, where all the Arts belonging to Architecture are so well known and practised:

And yet at the same time and place to write an Apology for the Artist may seem a greater trifling. In a time when since the Grecian Greatness their Arts were never better performed. In a place where Buildings are generally so well finish'd, that almost every House is a little Book of Architecture; and as the ancient Artists made Athens and the rest of their Cities famous by their Buildings, and still preserve the memory of the places by the ruins of their excellent Arts: so the Artists of this Age have already made the City of London the Metropolis of Europe, and if it be compared for the number of good Houses, for its many and large Piazzas, for its richness of Inhabitants, it must be allowed the largest, best built, and richest City in the world. But such is the misfortune of Greatness to be envied.

The Citizens, nay the whole Nation is astonished at the flourishing condition of this Metropolis, to see every year a new Town added to the old one; and like men affrighted are troubled with misapprehensions, and easily imposed on by the false suggestions of those that envy her Grandeur, and are angry with the Builders for making her so great.

The Citizens are afraid that the Building of new Houses will lessen the Rent and Trade of the old ones, and fancy the Inhabitants will remove on a sudden like Rats that they say run away from old Houses before they tumble.

The Country Gentleman is troubled at the new Buildings for fear they should draw away their Inhabitants, and depopulate the Country, and they want Tenants for their Land. And both agree that the increase of Building is prejudicial to the Government, and use for Argument a simile from those that have the Rickets, fancying the City to be the Head of the Nation, and that it will grow too big for the Body.

This is the Charge that is laid on the Builders: Therefore the design of this Discourse is to answer these aspersions, to remove these fears and false conceptions, by confuting these Popular Errors, and shewing that the Builder ought to be encouraged in all Nations as the chief promoter of their Welfare.

This is done by shewing the Cause of the increase of Building, and the Effects; as they relate to the City, to the Country, and to the Government.

Of the Cause.

THE Cause of the Increase of Building is from the natural increase of Mankind, that there is more born than die. From the first blessing of the Creation, Increase and multiply, joined to the good Government of a Gracious King.

 There are three things that man by nature is under a necessity to take care of, to provide food for himself, Clothes and a House. 

 For the first, all the rest of Creation as well as man is under that necessity to take care of: For life cannot be maintained without food.

 The second belongs only to man, and it is a question by some, whether it is required of him by nature, or custom, because in some Countries (and those cold) men go naked.

 But as to the last, it is most certain, that Man is forced to build by nature, as all those Creatures are, whose young are born so weak (like the offspring of Mankind), that they require some time for strength after their birth, to follow their Parents, or feed themselves. Thus the Rabbit, the Fox and Lion make themselves Burrows, Kennels, and Dens to bring forth, and shelter their young, but the Mare, Cow, Sheep, &c. bring forth in the open field, because their young are able to follow them as soon as folded.

 So that the natural cause of Building a House is to provide a shelter for their young; and if we examine man in his Natural condition without Arts, his Tenement differs little from the rest of Nature's Herd: The Fox's Kennel though not so large; being a lesser creature, may yet for its contrivance in its several apartments be compared with any of his Cottages: Earthen walls, and covering are the manner of both their Buildings, and the Furniture of both their Houses alike: Now as the Rabbits increase, new Burrows are made, and the Boundaries of the Warren are enlarged. So it is with Man, as he increaseth, new Houses are built, and his Town made bigger.

 When Mankind is civilized, instructed with Arts, and under good Government, every man doth not dress his own meat, make his own Clothes, nor build his own House. He enjoys property of Land and Goods, which he or his Ancestors by their Arts and industry gained. These Possessions make the difference among men of rich and poor. The rich are fed, clothed, and housed by the labour of other men, but the poor by their own, and the Goods made by this labour are the rents of the rich mens Land (for to be well fed, well clothed, and well lodged, without labour either of body or mind, is the true definition of a rich man.)

Now as men differ in Estates, so they differ in their manner of living. The rich have variety of Dishes, several suits of Clothes, and larger Houses; and as their riches increase, so doth their wants, as Sir William Temple hath observed, men are better distinguished by what they want, than by what they injoy. And the chief business of Trade is the making and selling all sorts of Commodities to supply their occasions. For there are more hands imployed to provide things necessary to make up the several distinctions of men. Things that promote the ease, pleasure and pomp of life, than to supply the first natural necessities from hunger, cold, and a house only to shelter their young.

 Now the Trader takes care from time to time, to provide a sufficient quantity of all sorts of Goods for mans occasions, which he finds out by the Market: That is, By the quick selling of the Commodities, that are made ready to be sold. And as there are Butchers, Brewers and Cooks, Drapers, Mercers and Taylors, and a hundred more, that furnish him with food and clothes; so there are Bricklayers, Carpenters, Playsterers, and many more Traders, that build houses for him, and they make houses of the first, second, and third rate of building in proportion to the increase of the several degrees of men, which they find out by the Market, that is by letting of Houses already built: so that if it were throughly believed, that Mankind doth naturally increase; this miracle of the great increase of Houses would cease, it is therefore necessary to shew that man doth naturally increase. 

 This may be sufficiently proved by Sacred History, That the World was first peopled by the increase from Adam and Eve, and after the deluge repeopled by Noah and his Sons Shem, Ham, and Japhet. That the Jews began from the single stock of Abraham by Isaac, and so from Jacob; and when Moses numbred them, which was not long distance of time (being computed to be about Two hundred and sixty years from Jacob) they were above Six hundred thousand fighting men, reckoning only from Twenty years old and upward, besides Women and Children. And when numbred by David, which was about four hundred and fifty years after, they were grown a very great Nation, being Thirteen hundred thousand fighting men of Judah and Israel.

But the late Lord Chief Justice Hales in his Discourse on this subject was not contented to rely wholly on Arguments from Authority of of Holy Writ, and therefore takes other Topics to confirm the relation of Moses concerning the beginning of the world, and the peopling of it by a natural increase.

I. From the novity of History, That no Authentic History is older than four thousand years, and none so old as Moses of the Beginning of the World.

II. From the Chronological Account of Times. That the Assyrian, Egyptian, and Grecian Accounts are to be found out in what year of the World they began.

III. From the beginning of the ancient Kingdoms, That Rome was built by Romulus in the Seventh Olympiad, the Assyrian Monarchy began by Cyrus in 55 Olympiad, and the Grecian by Alexander in 111.

IV. From the first invention of Arts, That the times of the first invention of Husbandry and making of Wine are as well known, as the later Inventions of Gun-powder and Printing.

V. From the beginning of Religions, That the time of the Inauguration of the Heathen Deities are known; As when that Jupiter, Bacchus, Ceres and Aesculapius, and the rest of them were but men of great renown, and for their Good Deeds after their death worshipped; As well as when Moses, our Saviour, and Mahomet were born.

VI. From the Decays of Humaue Nature; but how far that may be true, I leave to further inquiry.

VII. From the beginning of the Patres familias, or the first Planters of the Continents and Islands of the World; that Helen gave denominatio to the Grecians called Hellenista, Pelasigus, to the Pelasgi, Latinus to the Latins, and the place called Latium, Italus to the Italians, and Italy is as much to be believed, as that the English gave name to New England in America, and the Names of the Towns there, London and New York.

VIII. From the gradual increase of Mankind; That considering the time of his first Procreation, which is agreed to be about 15 or 16 years, to the time he gives over, which is about sixty: It cannot be otherwise believed but that in the space of five and forty years he must produce a numerous off-spring: And it is no wonder amongst us; For a person to live to see some hundreds descended from his loins.

Afterwards he comes to a particular Observation of the Increase of England by comparing the present State of it with the Survey set down in the Doomsday-Book, and makes an Instance in Gloucester-Shire, by which it appeareth, that the Inhabitants of that County since that time are greatly increased. And last of all he argueth the Increase of London from the Bills of Mortality.

These are the Arguments of the late Lord Chief Justice Hales, to prove that Mankind naturally increaseth, of which he discourseth at large in his Book of the Origination of Mankind, and therein answereth all the Objections to the contrary. And because these two last Arguments from the Survey of the Doomsday-Book, and Bills of Mortality carry with them the greatest force, for they best discover the matter of Fact as to our own Nation. I have therefore made it my business to make a scrutiny into the truth of them: As to the first, it is easie to make it appear that there is thirty times more people in England than they were in William the Conqueror's time, when the Survey was taken. And as to the latter, I shall have occasion to discourse of at large hereafter.

And if it were necessary to use any further Arguments for the proof of this Matter, they would plainly appear by comparing ancient Histories with Modern in the Descriptions they give of the Countries. As to the great Woods, the many little Governments, and the manner of the Peoples living without Arts: But not to wanderover many Countries, and among several Historians I will only take the short description that Caesar giveth of our own, to show how it differs from what it now is.

He says, That the inner part of Britany is inhabited by such as memory records to be born in the Island: And the Maritime Coast by such as came out of Belgia, either to make Incursions or Invasions, and after the War was ended they continued in the Possessions they had gained, and were called by the name of the Cities from whence they came.

It is true, he saith, The Country is very populous and well inhabited, with Houses like unto them in Gallia: But that must be understood as other Countries of Europe were then. It appears that in England there were many Governments and little Colonies of people, for he reckons four Kings in the County of Kent, besides some little States.

And he says, Most of the Inland people sow no Corn, but live on Milk and Flesh, clothed with skins, and having their faces painted with a blew color to the end they might seem more terrible in fight. The Britans Towns, he says, is a place ditched about to make a shelter for themselves and Cattel. And their manner of fighting was by making sudden Excursions out of the Woods, and then retiring into them for shelter.

All which Descriptions shew the Country was not so populous as now. For were there are great Woods, there is not room for Pasture or Corn, to feed Mankind:

Besides they are a shelter for beasts of prey, which man as he increaseth doth every where destroy, and suffers no Flesh-eaters to live but himself, except the Dog and Cat, which he maketh tame for his use. The Lion, Wolf, and the Bear are not to be found in a populous Country; and it is the first business of all the Planters in America to destroy the wild Beasts, and the Woods, to make room for themselves to plant in.

And the reason probably of those Roman Causways, that we find in England, was to make Roads through great Woods to the several Roman Colonies; though at this time we find them in open Champaign Countries; for had the Country been so then, they would certainly have made them straiter than we now find them.  The many little Governments shew the infancy of a Country, for from single Family-government first began; those Governments were but so many families of great Men: Now the large Boundaries that so many little Governments take up in a Country, make one half of the Country useless: For men are afraid to plant or sow too near their enemies Country for fear they should lose their Harvest. Therefore the same Land cannot feed so many people as when it is under but one Government.

Besides without Arts, a great number of People cannot live together; the earth by the arts of Husbandry produceth ten times more food than it can naturally. And neither can there be any great Cities, for the Inhabitants have nothing to exchange for their food, for it is the Arts of the City which are paid for the provisions of the Country.

To conclude, nothing is so plain from ancient History as that Asia was first peopled, and (according to the Description of Moses) began about Babylon: And as Mankind increased, and the Country filled with Inhabitants; Arts were invented, and they possest more ground, till they spread themselves into Egypt, and so over Africa, and from thence into Greece, over Europe, and now Europe being full, their swarm begins to fill America.

 And all the ancient Descriptions of the Countries of Europe, in the times of the Roman Greatness, are just such as are now given of America, and differs vastly from what they are now, in the number of Cities, Towns, and Arts of Inhabitants.

 For were America so well peopled as Europe is, those great Countries that are possest there by the Spaniards, French, Dutch and English, some of them bigger than their own Countries in Europe, could not be so quietly held, and injoyed by not a hundredth part of the people of their own Country.

And although the valor of the Roman Soldiers, and their affected Bravery (grown as it were a fashion, and a popular Emulation) conduced much to the greatness of the Roman Empire; yet nothing promoted its success so much, and gave it such large extent as the Infancy of Europe at that time, being thinly inhabited with people, without Arts, and full of little Monarchies aud States. For had it not been so, Caesar could never have over-run Gallia, Belgia, Britany, and some part of Germany, and kept them in subjection with only ten Legions of Soldiers, which was but fifty thousand men; for we have seen within these late years much greater Armies in Belgia alone, (that is within the Seventeen Provinces, and amongst them men not inferior either in courage or skill in War, and yet have not wholly subdued one Province. And perhaps had these Forces at the same time been sent into America, they might have extended their conquest over as much ground and over as many people as Caesar did. 

Nor was England so populous then as now it is; For had it been, Caesar would never at first have ventured to invade it with two Legions; and at the second time when he designed a full conquest brought over with him but five Legions, that is but five and twenty thousand men. 

For although some may think from the great Armies we read of; neer two Millions of men under Cyrus and Xerxes in Asia; and of vast swarms of the Goths and Vandals in Europe, in their Invasions under King Attila and others, that the world was more populous than now, because we hear of no such numbers of late; yet if it be considered, it demonstrates only the manner of their fighting, and the infancy of the world; The want of people, and Arts, rather than that it was populous. 

For the Gentiles Armies were made up after the manner of the Jews, by taking all that were able to bear Armes, reckoning from about 20 years old to sixty. For when Caesar had slain the Army of the Nervii, being about 50000 men, (a valiant people, one of the Seventeen Provinces); the old men and Women Petitioning for mercy, declared that there was not 500 men left in the whole Nation, that were able to bear Arms.

 And if the King of England should reckon his Army after this manner; Of his eight Million of Subjects (as they are computed to be) there could not be less than three Millions that were able to bear Armes, which would be a greater Army than ever we read of; which must shew that the world was thin of People; since the Assyrian Empire the oldest, and therefore most populous did never raise so great a number. 

And those great numbers shew that they wanted Arts; for we read that the Athenians a small but learned people baffled and destroyed all the great Army of Xerxes, reckoned by some to be Seventeen hundred thousand men; And Alexander with a small number of skilful and valiant Greeks subdued the then inhabited World. 

And although the Goths and Vandals, and the Cold parts of the World made their Invasion for want of room to live in, yet that proceeded from the want of Arts. 

For by Arts the Earth is made more fruitful, and by the invention of the Compass and Printing, the World is made more habitable and conversable: By the first the Countries Traffick and Exchange the Commodities they abound with, for those they want. The Timber, Pitch and Tarr of the cold Countries are Exchanged for the Wine, Brandy, and Spices of the hot. By the latter all Arts are easier discovered; By Traffick and Arts the Inhabitants of the cold Countries are better fed, better clothed, and better lodged; which make them indure the Extremities of their Climates better than formerly; and as they increase they build new Towns, inlarge their Cities, and improve their own Country; instead of invading and destroying their Neighbours.

 But to return home: It is plain that the natural increase of Mankind is the cause of the increase of the City, and that there are no more Houses built every year in it, than are necessary for the growth of the Inhabitants: As will somewhat appear by the number of Apprentices made free, and Marriages every year in the City.

 By the best computation that I can learn, there are no less than ten thousand Married every year in the City; which is no great number considering the number of Inhabitants: And if we should allow two Weddings in a Parish every week one with another, (there being a hundred and thirty Parishes in all) it will much exceed this proportion. Now in some Parishes there is seldom less than ten in a week. And in Dukes-place, and St. Katharine's, being priviledg'd places, there is ordinarily twenty or thirty in a week.

 As to the number of Apprentices that come every year out of their time, there are not less than Nine thousand; which will not be thought too great a number, if we reckon the Houses in the City, to be about Fourscore thousand: And if the fourth part of this number be allowed for the Gentry, or those which live without Trades or Professions; and the three other parts being Sixty thousand, for Trades or Professions; and one Aprentice to every House (though in some Houses are three or four Apprentices); and that in seven years the whole number come out of their time; then in every year a seventh part of Sixty thousand, (which is about Nine thousand a year) will come out of their time. Now if Mr. Grant's Computation be right, that these Houses contain Eight persons, one with another, then there ought to be a thousand Houses at least built every year for these Nine thousand Apprentices that come out of their time, and the Ten thousand Weddings to have room to breed in. And this proportion is only sufficient to lodg them, and not for places to Trade in, for nine Traders cannot live in one House.

Therefore some of their  Masters, or other Traders must either die, break, or being grown too rich give over their Trades to make room for some of them to have places to Trade in, besides those that are furnish'd with places by the new Houses.

 But I find Mr. Grant much mistaken in his account about the number of Inhabitants in each House in the out-parts; Perhaps it was from the rebuilding of the City with Houses more capacious and more in number. For in this last five and twenty years: the Inhabitants are now a third part more, as appeareth by the Bills of Mortality; For in the year 1660 and 1661 there died between Thirteen and fourteen thousand a year, and now there dies betwixt Twenty one and twenty two thousand a year. So that there ought to have been built above Twenty six thousand Houses in these twenty five years, which is above a thousand Houses a year to lodg this increase, which are much more than have been built in the out parts, for it appears by Mr. Morgan's Map of the City that there have not been built in this time 8000 Houses, that is not 300 Houses one year with another. 

But this is certain, that there are no more Houses built every year than are occasion for; because there are Tenants for the Houses, when built, and a continuancee every year to  build more. For the Builders will do as other Traders, who, when the Market is overstocked with their Commodities, and no occasion for those already made, forbear to make any more, or bring them to Market, till a new occasion requireth them. And when they find they cannot lett those already built, they will desist from building, and need no Act of Parliament to hinder them.

So that we may as well complain that there is too much Cloth and Stuff made, too much Corn sowed, too many Sheep or Oxen bred, as that there are too many Houses built; too many Taylors, Shoo-makers, Bakers and Brewers, as there are too many Builders. 

Of the Effects of the increase of Buildings, and first as it relateth to the City.

NEW Buildings are advantageous to a City, for they raise the Rents of the old Houses. For the bigger a Town is, the more of value are the Houses in it. Houses of the same conveniency and goodness are of more value in Bristol, Exeter and Northampton, than in the little Villages adjoyning. 

Houses in the middle of a Town are of more value than those at the out ends; and when a Town happens to be increased by addition of New Buildings to the end of a Town, the old Houses which were then at the end, become nearer to the middle of the Town, and so increase in value. 

Houses are of more value in Cheapside, and Cornhill, than they are in Shoreditch, White-Chappel, Old-Street, or any of the Out-parts; and the Rents in some of these Out-parts have been within this few years considerably advanced by the addition of New Buildings that are beyond them. As for instance, the Rents of the Houses in Bishopsgate-Street, the Minories, &c. are raised from fifteen or sixteen pounds Per Annum, to be now worth thirty, which was by the increase of Buildings in Spittle-Fields, Shadwells and Ratcliff-Highway. 

And at the other end of the Town those Houses in the Strand and Charing-Cross are worth now fifty and threescore pounds Per Annum, which within this thirty years were not Lett for above twenty pounds Per Annum, which is by the great addition of Buildings since made in St. James's, Leicester-Fields, and other adjoyning parts. But in those Our-parts where no New  Buildings have been added, as in Old-Street, Grub-Street, and all that side of the City which does not increase, Houses continue much of the same value, as they were twenty years ago: And the reason of this is; because Houses are of value, as they stand in a place of Trade, and by the addition of new Buildings the place becomes to be a greater Thorough-fare, by the passing and repassing of the Inhabitants to these new Buildings.

2. They are advantageous to the City, because they increase the Trade of it: The Trade of the City is either Wholesale, or Retail. Now the New Buildings of Bloomsberry, Leicester-Fields, St. James's, Spittle-Fields, &c. are like so many new Towns for the Wholesale-Trader to Traffick in. The Inhabitants of these places do eat, wear Clothes, and furnish their Houses, and whatsoever Commoditie they use, come first from the Merchants, or Wholesale-Trader. For the City is the great Mart for Goods, from whence all other places must be furnished; so that the New Buildings are beneficial to the Wholesale Trade of the City. And it appears that they are likewise advantageous to the Retail-Traders, because they can afford to give more Rent for their old Houses, than they did formerly;  for otherwise none would believe that the Tenants of Bishopsgate-street, and the Minories could subsist and pay double the Rent for their Houses within this thirty years, had they not a better Trade in those places than formerly. 

Of the Effects of New Buildings as they relate to the Country.

 NEW Buildings are advantageous to the Country:  

I. By taking off the Commodities of the Country, The Materials of these Houses, as Stones, Bricks, Lime, Iron, Lead, Timber, &c. are all the Commodities of the Country. And whatsoever the Inhabitants of these New Houses have occasion for, either for food, Apparel, or Furniture for their Houses, are at first the growth of the Country; And the bigger the Town grows, the greater is the occasion and consumption of these Commodities, and so the greater profit to the Country.

II. New Buildings provide an habitation and livelihood for the Supernumerary and useless Inhabitants of the Country. The younger Sons of the Gentry, the Children of the Yeomen and Peasants are by these means provided with Callings, Imployments, and Habitations to exercise them in; which should they have continued in the Country, would have been burdensome, and chargeable to their Friends for want of Imployments.

For there is always Inhabitants enough left in the Country for the imployments of the Country. For if the Country wanted people, there would be a want of their Commodities, for want of hands to provide them.

Now there is as much Land Plowed, and all sorts of Grain sown, and reaped every year, as there is occasion for; and sometimes more: For the Crown in some years hath been at charge to Export it. And there is as much Wooll provided and made into Clothes and Stuffs, as the Market can take off, and so for all other Commodities of the Country.

Nay there are more of all the Country Commodities every year made than formerly: There are more Stuffs, more Clothes sent up to Gerard's and Blackwell-Hall, as appears by the Entries of those Halls; and more Sheep and Oxen sent to London, and eaten, than formerly.

For there are more people in the City to be fed; so that there must be more hands in the Country to provide this greater quantity of Commodities: And the Country does increase as well as the City, as hath been already observed from the Doomsday-Book.

Therefore if the Rents of the Lands fall in the Country, it must not be ascrib'd to the New-Buildings draining their Inhabitants, but to some other occasions; Which probably may be from the great improvements that are made upon the Land in the Country, either by draining of Fens; improving of Land by Zanfoin; or other profitable Seeds; inclosing of grounds, or disparking and plowing of Parks, by which means the Markets are over stock'd and furnished at a cheaper rate than those Lands can affford, who have had no advantage from improvements:

Or else the Market is removed at a greater distance, and the Lands are forced to abate in their price for the carriage; The Town perhaps is decayed, that they used to furnish, and the Trade removed to some other flourishing place at a greater distance; occasioned some times by the death or removal of some great Clothier or Trader; or some other natural obstruction of the place; as the choaking up of some Haven, and the forsaking of the Sea, which is the reason of the decay of the Cinque-Ports.

These or some other occasions may make some particular mens Farms fall in value; but there is never a County in England, where the Land of the whole County doth not produce a third part more in value than it did within a 100 years, and whosoever will compare these present Rents, with what they were then, will find them generally increased. Therefore the New Buildings of this City cannot prejudice the Country, but are greatly advantageous to it.

Of the Effects of the New Buildings, as they relate to the Government.

1. NEW Buildings are advantageous to the King and Government. They are instrumental to the preserving and increasing of the number of the Subjects; And numbers of Subjects is the strength of a Prince: for Houses are Hives for the People to breed and swarm in, without which they cannot increase; And unless they are provided for them from time to time in proportion to their increase, they would be forced to go into the Plantations and other Countries for habitations; and so many times become the Subjects of other Princes; but at the best the Country loseth the profit of feeding them; for they that live in a City are unskilful and unfit for Country-life; and this is the reason why so many Scotch Citizens are wandring Pedlers: and that every Town in Europe hath a Scotchman for an Inhabitant.

 And that this will be the Effects will appear plainly by examining the growth of the City of London, since the Buildings have flourished, with its condition, when the Buildings were prohibited; And we cannot make a better discovery of it than by the Bills of Mortality, for it is reasonable among such a number of Mankind, such a number should die; and whether it be in such a proportion as one in three and thirty, as Mr. Grant and Sir William Petit have observed, is not not so material to this purpose; but it is a certain demonstration, That if the Burials have increased, the number of Citizens hath increased, though the proportion may be uncertain.

 Now to begin the Observation from the first Bills, that were Printed, which was in the year 1606, for the space of six and seven and twenty years, we shall find very little increase in the City, for in 1606 and 1607, there died between six and seven thousand a year; and in the years 1632 and 1633 there died betwixt eight and nine thousand; Now the reason of this was the People of England were a little before that time under the same mistake, as they are generally now, and cried out against the Builders, that the City would grow too big; and therefore in the 38 of Queen Elizabeth they made a Law to prohibit Buildings in the City of London; which though it was but a probationary Act, to continue only to the next Sessions of Parliament (which was but a short time) yet its effects were long; For it frighted the Builders, and obstructed the growth of the City; and none built for thirty years after, all King James his Reign, without his Majesties License;

But for want of Houses the increase of the People went into other parts of the world; For within this space of time were those great Plantations of New England, Virginia, Mariland, and Burmudas began; and that this want of Houses was the occasion is plain; For they could not build in the Country, because of the Law against Cottages. For people may get children and so increase, that had not four Acres of ground to Build on.

 But the People of England at last were convinced of this popular error, and petitioned in Parliament his Majesties K. Charles the Martyr, that he would take his restraint from the Builders; and if the next period of seven and twenty years be examined, wherein there was a greater liberty of Building, though in this space there was a great Rebellion and Civil Wars, which is a great allay to the growth of the People, yet there appeareth a much greater increase of the City of London; For in the years 1656 and 1657, the Burials were twelve and thirteen thousand,

 But the flourishing condition of the City of Londen raised a new clamour against the Builders, and Oliver the Usurper glad of any pretence to raise a Tax, made use of this clamor, and laid it upon the new Foundations; but though it was an heavy and unjust Tax upon the Builders, yet he got little by it, for the whole Summ collected was but Twenty thousand Pounds clear of all charges, as appears by the Records of the Exchequer; however it had the same ill effects to stop the Builders, and growth of the City; for the People for want of Houses in that time began that great and flourishing Plantation of Jamaica. 

Now if the last Period since his Majesties happy Restauration be examined, wherein the Builders have had the greatest liberty, it will appear that the Inhabitants of the City have increased more than in both of the former Periods; for the yearly Bills of Mortality are now betwixt two and three and twenty thousands, so that the City is since increased one third, and a much as in sixty years before.

 This is sufficient to shew that a Nation cannot increase without the Metropolis be inlarged, and how dangerous a consequence it may be to obstruct its growth, and discourage the Builders. It is to banish the People, and confine the Nation to an Infant Estate, while the Neighbouring Nations grow to the full strength of Manhood, and thereby to render it an easie conquest to its enemies.

 For the Metropolis is the heart of a Nation, through which the Trade and Commodities of it circulate, like the blood through the heart, which by its motion giveth life and growth to the rest of the Body; and if that declines, or be obstructed in its growth, the whole body falls into consumption: And it is the only symptome to know the health, and thriving of a Country by the inlarging of its Metropolis; for the chief City of every Nation in the world that flourisheth doth increase.

 And if those Gentlemen that fancy the City to be the Head of the Nation, would but fancy it like the heart, they would never be afraid of its growing too big; For I never read of such a disease, that the Heart was too big for the Body. 

And if we are of Machiavel's opinion, this simile is the best, for he saith, that Citizens make no good Counsellors, for having raised their Fortunes by Parsimony and Industry, they are usually too severe in punishing of Vice, and too niggardly in rewarding of Vertue.

2.  It is the interest of the Government, to incourage the Builders; not only because they preserve and increase the Subjects, but they provide an imploy for them, by which they are fed, and get their livelihood.

 There are three great ways that the People in all Governments are imployed in: In provividing Food, Clothes, and Houses. Now those ways are most serviceable to the Government, that imploy most of the People; Those that are imployed in feeding of them, are the fewest in number: for ten men may provide food enough for a thousand: but to cloth, and build Houses for them, requireth many hands: And there is  that peculiar advantage that ought to be ascribed to the Builder, that he provideth the place of birth for all the other Arts, as well as for man. 

The Cloth cannot be made without houses to work it in. Now besides the vast numbers of People that are imployed in digging and making the Materials, the Bricks, Stone, Iron, Lead, &c. all those Trades that belong to the furnishing of an house, have their sole dependencies on the Builders, as the Upholsterers, Chair-makers, &c.

 But that which is the greatest advantage, they do not only provide a Livelihood to those that belong to the building, and furnishing of Houses, but for the Tenants of those New Houses: For the People being collected and living together in one Street, they serve and trade one with another: For Trade is nothing else but an exchange of one mans labour for another: as for instance, supposing an hundred men which lived at great distance before; some in Cornwall, others in Yorkshire, and so dispersed over all the Countries in England, live together in one Street; one is a Baker, the other a Brewer, a Shoo-maker, Taylor, &c. and so in one Trade or other the whole hundred are imployed; The Baker gets his living by making Bread for the other ninety, and so do all the rest of them; which while they were dispersed at distances, were useless, and could not serve one another, and were ready to starve for want of a Livelihood.

3. But they get not only a Livelihood, but grow rich: There ariseth an emulation among them to out-live and out-vye one another in Arts. This forceth them to be industrious, and by industry they grow rich.

4. The increasing of Buildings, and inlarging of Towns, preserveth the peace of a Nation; by rendring the People more easily governed. First it is the Builders interest of all sorts of men to preserve peace: Every man that buildeth an House, gives Security to the Government for his good behaviour. For War is the Builders ruin. 

The Countryman may expect to enjoy his Land again, though for a time it be laid wast; the Merchant may hide his Goods, or remove them; but when the Town is besieged, the Houses are fired, the place made desolate, and nothing is left to the Builder but ruins, the sad remembrance of his condition.

 Besides, all Cities are more inclined to Peace, than the Country; the Citizens Estates are in Trade, and in Goods; many of which grow useless in War, and lye in other Peoples  hands, and their Debters run away, and take Sanctuary under the Sword; And Citizens being usually rich, cannot endure the hardship of War.

Next, great Cities are more easily Governed, because they are under the eye of the Prince, as generally the Metropolis is; or else under some Governour, who by his rewards from the Crown, is engaged to be very watchful in preserving the Peace; so that if they should grow factious, they are more easily corrected. Thus the Ottoman Power governs his Conquest by destroying Villages and lesser Towns, and driving the People into Capital Cities, which by the presence of some Basha are governed. Thus the King of France in his late Conquests in Flanders and Alsatia, burnt some hundreds of Villages; but Luxembourg, Strasbourg, and other great Towns are preserved. And the bigger the City, the more advantageous to the Government; for from thence they are on a sudden the better supplied with Men and Ammunition, to suppress any Rebellion, or oppose a Foreign Enemy.

Lastly, New Buildings increase his Majesties Revenues, not only by the Chimney-Money, which makes it a growing Revenue; but by the Customs paid for the Materials to build and furnish the Houses. Besides they being the cause of the increase of the City, all the increase of the Revenues from the Excise and Customs (since the Cities increase) must be ascribed to them: which are a fourth part more than they were five and twenty years ago. And the Excise is not only increased in the City, but it is so in the Country; which must not be ascribed solely to the good Management, but chiefly to the natural increase of the People. For if there be a third part more People in the City than there were five and twenty years ago, there must be a proportionable increase in the Country to provide Food and Clothes for them.

 To conclude, It was upon these considerations, That by the building and inlarging of a City, the people are made great, rich, and easily governed: That those ancient and famous Governments, Thebes, Athens, Sparta, Carthage and Rome, began their Dominions, and inlarged them with their Cities; and of late the States of Holland have followed these Examples.

 The Citizens of Amsterdam have thrice flung down their Walls to inlarge it; so that from a little Fisher-Town within less than 200 years it is become the third or fourth City of Europe: and the rest of their Cities have followed their Pattern; and made Grafts and Streets at the charge of the Government; endeavouring to outvie one another by giving Priviledges to incourage the Builders and Inhabitants. And these States have found the effects of it; for by this means they have changed their Style from the Poor Distressed States, (as they wrote to Queen Elizabeth) to the High and Mighty States of the United Provinces.

 And if the City of London hath made such a Progress within this five and twenty years, as to have grown one third bigger, and become already the Metropolis of Europe, notwithstanding the Popular Error the Nation have been infected with, and the ill censures and discouragements the Builders have met with; had they been for this last hundred years encouraged by the Government, the City of London might probably have easily grown three times bigger than now it is.

 And if we consider what the natural effects of so great a City must have been; To be furnished with such large Provisions for War suitable to its greatness; Such a vast number of Ships; being situate on an Island and Navigable River; filled with innumerable Inhabitants, of such natural courage as the English are; and to be so easily transported on a sudden with all things necessary for War, it would long before this time have been a Terror to all Europe; and now would have had the opportunity, under the Government of such a Martial Prince as now reigns, to be made the Metropolis of the World; to have caused England's Monarch to be acknowledged Lord of all the Navigable Cities and Sea-port-Towns in the World; to have made an Universal Monarchy over the Seas, an Empire no less glorious, and of much more profit, than of the Land; and of larger extent, than either Caesar's or Alexander's. 


Stow. A Survey of London, 1598.

the first systematic survey of London (other than Domesday book, when London was a village), and exemplar of "topographic history" examining the history of every building or landmark in an area.

Also, in a later part of book presented here, it contains a beautiful brief etymological history of 'city' term/ideas and a mythical history of the emerging first city of the world.  

Plus, a passage defining the nature of cities that's become known to generations of planners and architects via its invocation at the start of Lewis Mumford's classic, often-anthologized [19xx] essay "What is a City?"

A classic description of cities given in Stow, A Survey of London, cited by Lewis Mumford in classic essay "What Is a City?" Architectural Record, 1937.

Published 1598, 2nd edition 1603. (original spelling: A Survay of London), considered the first systematic history of London.

The passage cited by Mumford (given in bold here) is in a section late in book, called "A Discourse of the names and first causes of the institution of Cities and peopled townes," given after the main 'chorography' or topological history of the city.

A Discourse of the names and first causes of the institution of Cities and peopled towns

And of the commodities that doe grow by the same: and namely of the City of London. Written by way of an Apology (or defence) against the opinion of some men, which think that the greatness of that City stands not with the profit and security of this Realm.

Cities and well peopled places be called Oppida, in Latin, either ab ope danda, or ab opibus, or ab opponendo se hostibus.

They are named also Civitates a coeundo, and urbes either of the word urbare, because the first inclosure of them was described with the draught of a plow, or else ab or be, for the round compass that they at the first had.

In the Greek a city is termed polis, either of the worde polys, multus, or of [poleuo], [poleuein]], id est, habitare, alere, gubernare.

In the Saxon (or old English) sometimes Tun, which we now call town, derived of the word Tynan, to enclose or tyne, as some yet speake. But for as much as that word was proper to every village, and enclosed dwelling, therefore our ancestors called their walled towns burh or birigh, and we now Bury and Borow, of the Greeke word pyplos (as I think) which signifies a Tower or a high building.

The walls of these towns had their name of vallum, because at the first they were but of that earth which was cast out of the trench or ditch wherewith they were environed.

But afterward, being made of matter more fite for defence, they were named a muniendo mænia. By the Etymology of these names, it may appeare that common Weales, Cities and towns, were at the first invented to the end that men might lead a civil life amongst themselves, and be saved harmeless against their enemies:

Plato says,

Ciuitates ab initio vtilitatis causa constitutæ sunt.
["From the outset states were established for the sake of utility"].

Aristotle, I. Politics, 2. says,

Civitas a natura profecta est: homo enim animal aptum est ad cœtus, et proinde civitatis origo ad viuendum, institutio ad bene viuendum refertur.
[roughly: "the city-state is a natural growth, because man is by nature a political animal; while it comes into existence for the sake of life, it exists for the good life"].

And Cicero, in the first book of  De inventione, in the beginning says:

Fuit quoddam tempus cum in agris homines passim bestiarum more vagabantur, &c., quo quidem tempore, quidam (magnus viz. vir et sapiens) dispersos homines in agris, & tectis siluestribus abditos, ratione quadam compulit in vnum locum, atque eos in vnamquamque rem induxit vtilem & honestam. Urbibus vero constitutis fidem colere, & iustitiam retinere discebant, et aliis parere sua voluntate consuescebant &c.

["For there was a time when men wandered at random over the fields, after the fashion of beasts...then a man,  a great and a wise man...collected men, who were previously dispersed over the fields and hidden in habitations in the woods into one place, and united them, and leading them on to every useful and honourable pursuit.  gradually, as they became more eager to listen to him on account of his wisdom and eloquence, made them gentle and civilized."]

The same man discoursed notably to the same effect, in his Oration pro Sestio, a little after the middle, showing that in the life of men dispersed, vis beareth all the sway: but in the civil life and society, ars is better maintained, &c.

This thing well saw King William the Conqueror, who in his lawes, fol. 125. said,

Burgi et Ciuitates fundatæ & edificatæ sunt, ad tuitionem gentium & populorum Regni, & idcirco obseruari debent cum omni libertate, integritate & ratione.

And his predecessors, King Ethelstane, and King Canutus in their laws, fol. 62, and 106. had commanded thus:

Oppida instaurentur, &c.

Seeing therefore that as Cicero, 2. De Officiis, says,

Proxime et secundum Deos, hominibus maxime vtiles esse possunt.  
["Next to the gods, and a close second to them, men can be most helpful to men"].

And that men are congregated into Cities and commonwealths, for honesty and utility's sake, these shortly be the commodities that do come by cities, commonalities, and corporations. First, men by this neareness of conversation are withdrawn from barbarous feritie and force to a certain mildness of manners and to humanity and justice: whereby they are contented to give and take right, to and from their equals and inferiors, and to hear and obey their heads and superiors. Also the doctrine of God is more fitly delivered, and the discipline thereof more aptly to be executed, in peopled towns then abroad, by reason of the facility of common and often assembling. And consequently, such inhabitants be better managed in order, and better instructed in wisdom: whereof it came to pass that at the first, they that excelled others this way, were called astuti of the Greek word [asty], which signifies a City, although the term be now declined to the worst part, and does betoken evil, even as Tyrannus, Sophista, and some such other originally good words are fallen: And hereof also good behaviour is yet called Urbanitas, because it is rather found in Cities, then elsewhere. In sum, by often hearing, men be better persuaded in religion, and for that they live in the eye of others, they be by example the more easily trained to justice, and by shamefastness restrained from injury.

And whereas commonwealths and kingdomes cannot have, next after God, any surer foundation, then the love and good will of one man towards another, that also is closely bred and maintained in Citties, where men by mutual society and companying together, do grow to alliances, commonalities and corporations.

The liberal sciences and learnings of all sortes, which bee lumina reipublicæ, doe flourish onely in peopled towns, without the which a realme is in no better case then a man that lacketh both his eyes.

Manual artes or Handy crafts, as they have for the most part beene invented in townes and citties, so they cannot any where else be eyther maintained or amended. The like is to bee sayde of Marchandize, under which name I comprehend all manner of buying, selling, bartering, exchaunging, communicating of thinges that men need to and fro. Wealth and riches, which are truely called subsidia belli, et ornamenta pacis, are increased chiefly in Townes and Citties both to the prince and people.

The necessity of the poore and needy is in such places both sooner to be espied, and hath meanes to be more charitably relieved.

The places themselves bee surer refuges in all extremities of forraine invasion, and the inhabitantes be a ready hand & strength of men with munition to oppresse intestine sedition.

Moreover, for as much as the force of the warres of our time consisteth chiefly in shot, all other souldiers being either horse men or footemen armed on lande, or Mariners at the sea, it seemeth to me that Citizens and Townesmen be as fit to be imploied in any of these seruices, that on horsebacke onely excepted, as the inhabitants that be drawne out of the countrey.

Furthermore, euen as these societies and assemblies of men in Cities and great Townes, are a continuall bridle against tyranny, which was the cause that Tarquin, Nero, Dionisius, and such others have alwayes sought to weaken them, So, being wel tempered, they are a strong forte and bulwarke not onely in the Aristocritie, but also in the lawfull kingdome or iust royalty.

At once the propagation of Religion, the execution of good policie, the exercise of Charity, and the defence of the countrey, is best performed by townes and Cities: and this civill life approcheth nearest to the shape of that misticall body whereof Christ is the head, and men be the members: whereupon both at the first, that man of God Moyses, in the commonwealth of the Israelites, and the Gouernours of all Countries in all ages sithence have continually maintayned the same. And to chaunge it were nothing else but to Metamorphose the world, and to make wilde beastes of reasonable men. To stand longer upon this it were, in re non dubia, vti oratione non necessaria: and therefore I will come to London.

The Singularities of the City of LONDON

Whatsoever is said of Cities generally, makes also for London specially: how these things are particularly for our purpose to be considered in it. The situation; the former estimation that it has had; the service that it has done; the present estate and government of it, and such benefits as do grow to the realm by the maintenance thereof.

This Realm has only three principal Rivers, whereon a royal City may well be situated: Trent in the North, Severne, in the Southwest and Thames in the South East: of the which Thames both for the straight course in length reaches furthest into the belly of the land, and for the breadth and stilnesse of the water is most navigable up and down the stream: by reason whereof London (standing almost in the middle of that course) is more commodiously served with provision of necessaries, then any town standing upon any of the other two rivers can be, and both also more easily communicate to the rest of the realm the commodities of her own intercourse and traffic.

This River opens indifferently upon France and Flanders, our mightiest neighbors, to whose doings we ought to have a bent eye, and special regard: and this City stands thereon in such convenient distance from the sea, as it is not only near enough for intelligence of the airs of those princes, and for the resistance of their attempts: but also sufficiently removed from the fear of any sudden dangers that may be offered by them: whereas for the Prince of this realm to dwell upon Trent, were to turn his back, or blind side to his most dangerous borderers: and for him to rest and dwell upon Severne, were to be shut up in a cumbersome corner: which open but upon Ireland only, a place of much less importance.

Neither could London be pitched so commodiously upon any other part of the same River of Thames, as where it now stands. For if it were removed more to the west, it should lose the benefit of the ebbing and flowing: and if it were seated more toward the East, it should be nearer to danger of the enemy, and further both from the good air, and from doing good to the inner parts of the Realm: Neither may I omit that no other place is so plentifully watered with springs, as London is.

And whereas (amongst other thinges) Corn and Cattle, Hay and fuel be of great necessity: of the which Cattle may be driven from afar, and corn may easily be transported. But Hay and Fuel (being of greater bulk and burden) must be had at hand: only London (by the benefit of this situation and river) may be sufficiently served therewith.

In which respect an Alderman of London reasonably (as I thought) affirmed, that although London received great nourishment by the residence of the Prince, the repair of the Parliament, and Courtss of iustice, yet it stood principally by the advantage of the situation upon the river: for when as on a time it was told him by a Courtier, that Queen Mary (in her displeasure against London) had appointed to remove with the Parliament and term to Oxford, this plain man demanded, whether she meant also to divert the River of Thames from London, or no? and when the Gentleman had answered no, then quoth the Alderman, by Gods grace we shall do well enough at London, whatsoever become of the Term and Parliament.

I myself being then a young scholar at Oxford did see great preparation made towards that Term and Parliament, and do well remember that the common opinion and voice was, that they were not holden there, because provision of Hay could not be made in all the Country to serve for ten whole days together, and yet is that quarter plentifully stored with Hay for the proportion of the shire itself.


Defoe. "An Essay on Projects" 1697.

An essay upon projects. Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731.

London: Printed by R.R. for Tho. Cockerill ..., 1697.

(Introduction, "The History of Projects," and "Of PROJECTORS" sections).


Necessity, which is allow'd to be the Mother of Invention, has so violently agitated the Wits of men this time, that it seems not at all improper, by way of distinction, to call it, The Projecting Age. For tho' in times of War and Publick Confusions, the like Humour of Invention has seem'd to stir; yet, without being partial to the present, it is, I think, no Injury to say, the past Ages have never come up to the degree of Projecting and Inventing, as it refers to Matters of Negoce, and Methods of Civil Polity, which we see this Age arriv'd to.

Nor is it a hard matter to assign probable Causes of the Perfection in this Modern Art. I am not of their melancholy Opinion, who ascribe it to the general Poverty of the Nation; since I believe 'tis easy to prove, the Nation it self, taking it as one General Stock, is not at all diminish'd or impoverish'd by this Long, this Chargeable War; but on the contrary, was never Richer, since it was inhabited.

Nor am I absolutely of the Opinion, that we are so happy as to be Wiser in this Age, than our Forefathers; tho' at the same time I must own, some parts of Knowledge in Science as well as Art, has received Improvements in this Age, altogether conceal'd from the former.

The Art of War, which I take to be the highest Perfection of Human Knowledge, is a sufficient Proof of what I say, especially in conducting Armies, and in offensive Engines; witness the new ways of Mines, Fougades, Entrenchments, Attacks, Elodgments, and a long Et Cetera of New Inventions which want Names, practised in Sieges and Encampments; witness the new sorts of Bombs and unheard-of Mortars, of Seven to Ten Ton Weight, with which our Fleets standing two or three Miles off at Sea, can imitate God Almighty himself, and rain Fire and Brimstone out of Heaven, as it were, upon Towns built on the firm Land; witness also our new-invented Child of Hell, the Machine, which carries Thunder, Lightning, and Earthquakes in its Bowels, and tears up the most impregnable Fortifications.

But if I would search for a Cause, from whence it comes to pass that this Age swarms with such a multitude of Projectors more than usual; who besides the Innumerable Conceptions which dye in the bringing forth, and (like Abortions of the Brain) only come into the Air, and dissolve, do really every day produce new Contrivances, Engines, and Projects to get Money, never before thought of; if, I say, I would examine whence this comes to pass, it must be thus:

The Losses and Depredations which this War brought with it at first, were exceeding many, suffer'd chiefly by the Ill Conduct of Merchants themselves, who did not apprehend the Danger to be really what it was: For before our Admiralty could possibly settle Convoys, Cruisers, and Stations for Men of War all over the World, the French cover'd the Sea with their Privateers, and took an incredible number of our Ships. I have heard the Loss computed by those who pretended they were able to guess, at above Fifteen Millions of Pounds sterling, in Ships and Goods, in the first two or three Years of the War: A Sum, which if put into French, would make such a rumbling Sound of great Numbers, as would fright a weak Accomptant out of his belief, being no less than One hundred and Ninety Millions of Livres. The weight of this Loss fell chiefly on the Trading Part of the Nation; and amongst them, on the Merchants; and amongst them again upon the most refin'd Capacities, as the Insurers, &c. And an incredible number of the best Merchants in the Kingdom sunk under the Load; as may appear a little by a Bill which once pass'd the House of Commons, for the Relief of Merchant-Insurers, who had suffered by the War with France. If a great many fell, much greater were the number of those who felt a sensible Ebb of their Fortunes, and with difficulty bore up under the Loss of great part of their Estates. These, prompted by Necessity, rack their Wits for New Contrivances, New Inventions, New Trades, Stocks, Projects, and any thing to retrieve the desperate Credit of their Fortunes. That this is probable to be the Cause, will appear further thus; France, tho' I do not believe all the great Outcries we make of their Misery and Distress, if one half of which be true, they are certainly the best Subjects in the world; yet without question has felt its share of the Losses and Damages of the War; But the Poverty there falling chiefly on the Poorer sort of People, they have not been so fruitful in Inventions and Practices of this nature, their Genius being quite of another strain. As for the Gentry and more capable sort, the first thing a French man flies to in his distress, is the Army; and he seldom comes back from thence to Get an Estate by painful Industry, but either has his Brains knock'd out, or makes his Fortune there.

If Industry be in any Business rewarded with success, 'tis in the Merchandizing Part of the World, who indeed may more truly be said to live by their Wits than any people whatsoever. All Foreign Negoce, tho' to some 'tis a plain road by the help of Custom, yet it is in its beginning all Project, Contrivance, and Invention. Every new Voyage the Merchant contrives, is a Project; and Ships are sent from Port to Port, as Markets and Merchandizes differ, by the help of strange and Universal Intelligence; wherein some are so exquisite, so swift, and so exact, that a Merchant sitting at home in his Counting-house, at once converses with all Parts of the known World. This, and Travel, makes a True-bred Merchant the most Intelligent Man in the World, and consequently the most capable, when urg'd by Necessity, to Contrive New Ways to live. And from hence, I humbly conceive, may very properly be deriv'd the Projects, so much the Subject of the present Discourse. And to this sort of men 'tis easy to trace the Original of Banks, Stocks, Stockjobbing, Assurances, Friendly Societies, Lotteries, and the like.

To this may be added, the long annual Enquiry in the House of Commons for Ways and Means, which has been a particular movement to set all the Heads of the Nation at work; and I appeal, with submission, to the Gentlemen of that Honourable House, if the greatest part of all the Ways and Means, out of the common road of Land-Taxes, Polls, and the like, have not been handed to them from the Merchant, and in a great measure Paid by 'em too.

However I offer this but as an Essay at the Original of this prevaling Humour of the People; and as 'tis probable so, 'tis also possible to be otherwise; which I submit to future demonstration.

Of the several ways this Faculy of Projecting have exerted it self, and of the various Methods, as the Genius of the Authors has inclin'd, I have been a diligent Observer, and in most an unconcern'd Spectator; and, perhaps, have some advantage from thence more easily to discover the faux Pas of the Actors. If I have given an Essay towards any thing New, or made Discovery to advantage of any Contrivance now on foot, all Men are at the liberty to make use of the Improvement; if any Fraud is discover'd, as now practis'd, 'tis without any particular Reflection upon Parties or Persons.

Projects of the nature I Treat about, are doubtless in general of publick Advantage, as they tend to Improvement of Trade, and Employment of the Poor, and the Circulation

and Increase of the publick Stock of the Kingdom; but this is suppos'd of such as are built on the honest Basis of Ingenuity and Improvement; in which, tho' I'le allow the Author to aim primarily at his own Advantage, yet with the circumstances of Publick Benefit added.

Wherefore 'tis necessary to distinguish among the Projects of the present times, between the Honest and the Dishonest.

There are, and that too many, fair pretences of fine Discoveries, new Inventions, Engines, and I know not what, which being advanc'd in Notion, and talk'd up to great things to be perform'd when such and such Sums of Money shall be advanc'd, and such and such Engines are made, have rais'd the Fancies of Credulous People to such height, that meerly on the shadow of Expectation, they have form'd Companies, chose Committees, appointed Officers, Shares, and Books, rais'd great Stocks, and cri'd up an empty Notion to that degree, that People have been betray'd to part with their Money for Shares in a New-Nothing; and when the Inventors have carri'd on the Jest till they have Sold all their own Interest, they leave the Cloud to vanish of it self, and the poor Purchasers to Quarrel with one another, and go to Law about Settlements, Transferrings, and some Bone or other thrown among 'em by the Subtlety of the Author, to lay the blame of the Miscarriage upon themselves. Thus the Shares at first begin to fall by degrees, and happy is he that Sells in time; till like Brass Money it will go at last for nothing at all. So have I seen Shares

in Joint-Stocks, Patents, Engines, and Undertakings, blown up by the air of great Words, and the Name of some Man of Credit concerned, to 100 l. for a 500th. Part, or Share, some more, and at last dwindle away, till it has been Stock-Jobb'd down to 10, 12, 9, 8 l. a Share, and at last no Buyer; that is, in short, the fine new word for Nothing-worth, and many Families ruin'd by the Purchase. If I should name Linnen-Manufactures, Saltpeter-Works, Copper-Mines, Diving-Engines, Dipping, and the like, for instances of this, I shou'd, I believe, do no wrong to Truth, or to some Persons too visibly guilty.

I might go on upon this Subject to expose the Frauds and Tricks of Stock-Iobbers, Engineers, Patentees, Committees, with those Exchange-Mountebanks we very properly call Brokers; but I have not Gaul enough for such a work; but as a general rule of caution to those who wou'd not be Trick'd out of their Estates by such Pretenders to New Inventions, let them observe, That all such People who may be suspected of Design, have assuredly this in their Proposal, Your Money to the Author must go before the Experiment: And here I could give a very diverting History of a Patent-Monger, whose Cully was no body but my self; but I refer it to another occasion.

But this is no reason why Invention upon honest foundations, and to fair purposes, shou'd not be encourag'd; no, nor why the Author of any such fair Contrivances should not reap the harvest of his own Ingenuity; our Acts of Parliament for granting Patents to first Inventors for Fourteen years, is a sufficient acknowledgment of the due regard which ought to be had to such as find out any thing which may be of publick Advantage; new Discoveries in Trade, in Arts and Mysteries, of Manufacturing Goods, or Improvement of Land, are without question of as great benefit, as any Discoveries made in the Works of Nature by all the Academies and Royal Societies in the world.

There is, 'tis true, a great difference between New Inventions and Projects, between Improvement of Manufactures or Lands, which tend to the immediate Benefit of the Publick, and Imploying of the Poor; and Projects fram'd by subtle Heads, with a sort of a Deceptio Visus, and Legerdemain, to bring People to run needless and unusual hazards: I grant it, and give a due preference to the first, and yet Success has so sanctifi'd some of those other sorts of Projects, that 'twou'd be a kind of Blasphemy against Fortune to disallow 'em; witness Sir William Phips's Voyage to the Wreck; 'twas a mere Project, a Lottery of a Hundred thousand to One odds; a hazard, which if it had fail'd, every body wou'd have been asham'd to have own'd themselves concern'd in; a Voyage that wou'd have been as much ridicul'd as Don Quixot's Adventure upon the Windmill: Bless us! that Folks should go Three thousand Miles to Angle in the open Sea for Pieces of Eight! why, they wou'd have made Ballads of it, and the Merchants wou'd have said of every unlikely Adventure, 'Twas like Phips his Wreck-Voyage; but it had Success, and who reflects upon the Project?

Nothing's so partial as the Laws of Fate,

Erecting Blockheads to suppress the Great.

Sir Francis Drake the Spanish Plate-Fleet Won,

He had been a Pyrate if he had got none.

Sir Walter Rawleigh strove, but miss'd the Plate,

And therefore Di'd a Traytor to the State.

Endeavour bears a Value more or less,

Iust as 'tis recommended by Success:

The lucky Coxcomb ev'ry Man will prize,

And Prosp'rous Actions always pass for Wise.

However, this sort of Projects comes under no Reflection as to their Honesty, save that there is a kind of Honesty a Man owes to himself and to his Family, that prohibits him throwing away his Estate in impracticable, improbable Adventures; but still some hit even of the most unlikely, of which this was one, of Sir William Phips, who brought home a Cargo of Silver of near 200000 l. sterling, in Pieces of Eight, fish'd up out of the open Sea remote from any shore, from an old Spanish Ship which had been sunk above Forty Years.

THE History of Projects.

WHEN I speak of Writing a History of Projects, I do not mean either of the Introduction of, or Continuing necessary Inventions, or the Improvement of Arts and Sciences before known; but a short Account of Projects, and Projecting, as the Word is allow'd in the general Acceptation at this present time, and I need not go far back for the Original of the Practice.

Invention of Arts with Engines and Handycraft Instruments for their Improvement, requires a Chronology as far back as the Eldest Son of Adam, and has to this day afforded some new Discovery in every Age.

The Building of the Ark by Noah, so far as you will allow it a human Work, was the first Project I read of; and no question seem'd so ridiculous to the Graver Heads of that Wise, tho' Wicked Age, that poor Noah was sufficiently banter'd for it; and had he not been set on work by a very peculiar Direction from Heaven, the Good old Man would certainly have been laugh'd out of it, as a most senseless ridiculous Project.

The Building of Babel was a Right Project; for indeed the true definition of a Project, according to Modern Acceptation, is, as is said before, a vast Undertaking, too big to be manag'd, and therefore likely enough to come to nothing; and yet as great as they are, 'tis certainly true of 'em all, even as the Projectors propose; that according to the old tale, If so many Eggs are hatch'd, there will be so many Chickens, and those Chickens may lay so many Eggs more, and those Eggs produce so many Chickens more, and so on. Thus 'twas most certainly true, That if the People of the Old World cou'd have Built a House up to Heaven, they shou'd never be Drown'd again on Earth, and they only had forgot to Measure the Heighth, that is, as in other Projects, it only Miscarri'd, or else 'twou'd have Succeeded.

And yet when all's done, that very Building, and the incredible Heighth it was carri'd, is a Demonstration of the vast Knowledge of that Infant-Age of the World, who had no advantage of the Experiments or Invention of any before themselves.

Thus when our Fathers touch'd with Guilt,

That Huge Stupendious Stair-Case Built;

We Mock indeed the fruitless Enterprize,

For fruitless Actions seldom pass for Wise;

But were the Mighty Ruins left, they'd show,

To what Degree that Untaught Age did Know.

I believe a very diverting Account might be given of this, but I shall not attempt it. Some are apt to say with Solomon, No new thing happens under the Sun, but what is, has been; yet I make no question but some considerable Discovery has been made in these latter Ages, and Inventions of Human Original produc'd, which the World was ever without before, either in whole, or in part; and I refer only to two Cardinal Points, the use of the Load-stone at Sea, and the use of Gunpowder and Guns; both which, as to the Inventing-part, I believe the World owes as absolutely to those particular Ages, as it does the Working in Brass and Iron to Tubal Cain, or the Inventing of Musick to Iubal his Brother. As to Engines and Instruments for Handycraft-Men, this Age, I dare say, can show such as never were so much as thought of, much less imitated before; for I do not call that a real Invention which has something before done like it, I account that more properly an Improvement. For Handycraft Instruments, I know none owes more to true genuine Contrivance, without borrowing from any former use, than a Mechanick Engine contriv'd in our time, call'd, A Knitting Frame, which built with admirable Symetry, works really with a very happy Success, and may be observ'd by the Curious to have a more than ordinary Composition; for which I refer to the Engine it self, to be seen in every Stocking-Weaver's Garret.

I shall trace the Original of the Projecting Humour that now reigns, no farther back than the Year 1680. dating its Birth as a Monster then, tho' by times it had indeed something of life in the time of the late Civil War. I allow, no Age has been altogether without something of this nature; and some very happy Projects are left to us as a taste of their Success; as the Water-houses for supplying of the City of London with Water; and since that, the New-River, both very Considerable Undertakings, and Perfect Projects, adventur'd on the risque of Success. In the Reign of King Charles the First, infinite Projects were set on foot for Raising Money without a Parliament; Oppressing by Monopolies, and Privy Seals; but these are excluded our Scheme, as Irregularities; for thus the French are as fruitful in Projects as we; and these are rather Stratagems than Projects. After the Fire of London, the Contrivance of an Engine to Quench Fires, was a Project the Author was said to get well by, and we have found to be very useful. But about the Year 1680. began the Art and Mystery of Projecting to creep into the World. Prince Rupert, Uncle to King Charles the Second, gave great Encouragement to that part of it that respects Engines, and Mechanical Motions; and Bishop Wilkins added as much of the Theory to it, as writing a Book could do: The Prince has left us a Metal call'd by his Name; and the first Project upon that was, as I remember, Casting of Guns of that Metal, and boring them; done both by a peculiar Method of his own, and which died with him, to the great loss of the Undertaker, who to that purpose had, with no small Charge, erected a Water-Mill at Hackney-Marsh, known by the name of the Temple-Mill: Which Mill very happily perform'd all parts of the Work; and I have seen of those Guns on board the Royal Charles, a First-rate Ship, being of a Reddish Colour, different either from Brass or Copper. I have heard some Reasons of State assign'd, why that Project was not permitted to go forward; but I omit them, because I have no good Authority for it: After this, we saw a Floating Machine, to be wrought with Horses for the Towing of Great Ships both against Wind and Tide; and another for the raising of Ballast which, as unperforming Engines, had the honour of being Made, Expos'd, Tri'd, and laid by, before the Prince died.

If thus we introduce it into the World under the Conduct of that Prince; when he died, 'twas left a hopeless Brat, and had hardly any Hand to own it, till the Wreck-Voyage before-noted, perform'd so happily by Captain Phips, afterwards Sir William; whose strange Performance set a great many Heads on work to contrive something for themselves; he was immediately follow'd by my Lord Mordant, Sir Iohn Narborough, and others from several Parts, whose Success made 'em soon weary of the Work.

The Project of the Penny-Post, so well known, and still practis'd, I cannot omit; nor the Contriver Mr. Dockwra, who has had the honour to have the Injury done him in that Affair, repair'd in some measure by the publick Justice of the Parliament. And the Experiment proving it to be a Noble and Useful Design, the Author must be remembred, where-ever mention is made of that Affair, to his very great Reputation.

'Twas no question a great hardship for a man to be Master of so fine a Thought, that had both the Essential Ends of a Project in it, Publick Good, and Private Advantage; and that the Publick shou'd reap the benefit, and the Author be left out; the Injustice of which, no doubt, discourag'd many a Good Design: But since an Alteration in Publick Circumstances has recover'd the lost Attribute of Justice, the like is not to be fear'd. And Mr. Dockwra has had the satisfaction to see the former Injury disown'd, and an honourable Return made even by them who did not the Injury, in bare respect to his Ingenuity.

A while before this, several People, under the Patronage of some great Persons, had engag'd in Planting of Foreign Collonies; as William Pen, the Lord Shaftsbury, Dr. Cox, and others, in Pensilvania, Carolina, East and West Iersey, and the like places; which I do not call Projects, because 'twas only prosecuting what had been formerly begun: But here began the forming of publick Joint-Stocks, which, together with the East-India, African, and Hudson's-Bay Companies, before establish'd, begot a New Trade, which we call by a new Name, Stock-Iobbing, which was at first only the simple Occasional Transferring of Interest and Shares from one to another, as Persons alienated their Estates; but by the Industry of the Exchange-Brokers, who got the business into their hands, it became a Trade; and one perhaps manag'd with the greatest Intriegue, Artifice, and Trick, that ever any thing that appear'd with a face of Honesty could be handl'd with; for while the Brokers held the Box, they made the whole Exchange the Gamesters, and rais'd and lower'd the Prices of Stocks as they pleas'd; and always had both Buyers and Sellers who stood ready innocently to commit their Money to the mercy of their Mercenary Tongues. This Upstart of a Trade having tasted the sweetness of Success which generally attends a Novel Proposal, introduces the Illigitimate wandring Object I speak of, as a proper Engine to find Work for the Brokers. Thus Stock-Jobbing nurs'd Projecting, and Projecting in return has very diligently pimp'd for its Foster-parent, till both are arriv'd to be Publick Grievances; and indeed are now almost grown scandalous.


MAN is the worst of all God's Creatures to shift for himself; no other Animal is ever starv'd to death; Nature without, has provided them both Food and Cloaths; and Nature within, has plac'd an Instinct that never fails to direct them to proper means for a supply; but Man must either Work or Starve, Slave or Dye; he has indeed Reason given him to direct him, and few who follow the Dictates of that Reason come to such unhappy Exigencies; but when by the Errors of a Man's Youth he has reduc'd himself to such a degree of Distress, as to be absolutely without Three things, Money, Friends, and Health, he Dies in a Ditch, or in some worse place, an Hospital. Ten thousand ways there are to bring a Man to this, and but very few to bring him out again.

Death is the universal Deliverer, and therefore some who want Courage to bear what they see before 'em, Hang themselves for fear; for certainly Self-destruction is the effect of Cowardice in the highest extream.

Others break the Bounds of Laws to satisfy that general Law of Nature, and turn open Thieves, House-breakers, Highway-men, Clippers, Coiners, &c. till they run the length of the Gallows, and get a Deliverance the nearest way at St. Tyburn.

Others being masters of more Cunning than their Neighbours, turn their Thoughts to Private Methods of Trick and Cheat, a Modern way of Thieveing, every jot as Criminal, and in some degree worse than the other, by which honest men are gull'd with fair pretences to part from their Money, and then left to take their Course with the Author, who sculks behind the curtain of a Protection, or in the Mint or Friars, and bids defiance as well to Honesty as the Law.

Others yet urg'd by the same necessity, turn their thoughts to Honest Invention, founded upon the Platform of Ingenuity and Integrity.

These two last sorts are those we call Projectors; and as there was always more Geese than Swans, the number of the latter are very inconsiderable in comparison of the former; and as the greater number denominates the less, the just Contempt we have of the former sort, bespatters the other, who like Cuckolds bear the reproach of other Peoples Crimes.

A meer Projector then is a Contemptible thing, driven by his own desperate Fortune to such a Streight, that he must be deliver'd by a Miracle, or Starve; and when he has beat his Brains for some such Miracle in vain, he finds no remedy but to paint up some Bauble or other, as Players make Puppets talk big, to show like a strange thing, and then cry it up for a New Invention, gets a Patent for it, divides it into Shares, and they must be Sold; ways and means are not wanting to Swell the new Whim to a vast Magnitude; Thousands, and Hundreds of thousands are the least of his discourse, and sometimes Millions; till the Ambition of some honest Coxcomb is wheedl'd to part with his Money for it, and then

—Nascitur ridiculus mus.

the Adventurer is left to carry on the Project, and the Projector laughs at him. The Diver shall walk at the bottom of the Thames; the Saltpeter-Maker shall Build Tom T—ds Pond into Houses; the Engineers Build Models and Windmills to draw Water, till Funds are rais'd to carry it on, by Men who have more Money than Brains, and then good night Patent and Invention; the Projector has done his business, and is gone.

But the Honest Projector is he, who having by fair and plain principles of Sense, Honesty, and Ingenuity, brought any Contrivance to a suitable Perfection, makes out what he pretends to, picks no body's pocket, puts his Project in Execution, and contents himself with the real Produce, as the profit of his Invention.

On Public Magnificence:

Gwynn's critique of speculative London

from Gwynn, John. (1766). London and Westminster improved. https://archive.org/details/b3041040x.

John Gwynn RA (1713 – 28 February 1786) was an self-taught English architect, civil engineer, and planner who became one of the founder members of the Royal Academy in 1768. He advocated greater control over planning in London, for which he produced detailed suggestions.


To which is prefixed,

A Discourse on Public Magnificence


Observations on the State of Arts and Artists in this Kingdom, wherein the Study of the Polite Arts is recommended as necessary to a liberal Education:

Concluded by Some Proposals relative to Places not laid down in the Plans.


— "like an entrance into a large city, after a distant prospect.  Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples, and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendor, grandeur, and magnificence ;  but, when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke." --Rambler.

L O N D O N:

Printed for the Author.

Sold by Mr. Dodfley, and at Mr. Dalton’s Print-'Warehouse in PallMall, Mr. Bathoe in the Strand, Mr. Davies in Russell-Street, Covent Garden, and by Mr. Longman in Paternoster-Row.





THE patronage of works which have a tendency towards advancing the happiness of mankind, naturally belongs to great Princes; and public good, in which publick elegance is comprised, has ever been the object of your Majesty’s regard.

In the following pages your Majesty, I flatter myself, will find that I have endeavoured at extensive and general usefulness. Knowing, therefore, your Majesty’s early attention to the polite arts, and more particular affection for the study of architecture, I was encouraged to hope that the work which I now presume to lay before your Majesty, might be thought not unworthy your Royal Favour 5 and that the protection which your Majesty always affords to those who mean well, may be extended to,


Your Majesty’s most dutiful subject, and most obedient and most humble servant,

John Gwynn.

IN the observations annexed to a small plan (reduced from that of Sir Christopher Wren’s for rebuilding the city of London after the fire in 1666) the author of the following work sufficiently intimated the necessity of a general plan of the whole capital, improved and divided into proper districts, the execution of which improvements he proposed should be put under the direction of fit and able persons, who should be empowered by authority, to regulate the scattered and confused appearance they make, to restore the ruinated parts to beauty, and fix the proper mode of new improvements; by which means not only the value of private property would be considerably increased, but these improvements become conducive to health as well as public convenience.

In consequence of this proposal, and soon after its publication, the author actually began a plan of such improvements as appeared to him beautiful, necessary and useful, but other avocations prevented his carrying it on at that time, and it has been a matter of surprise to him that no one has undertaken so useful a work in so long a time, especially as the rage of building has been carried to so great a height for several years pair, as to have increased this metropolis in an astonishing manner. For want of such publick direction, those very buildings which might have been easily rendered its greatest ornament, are a melancholy proof of the necessity there was of adopting a well regulated plan. The violent passion for building having continued to increase, and it appearing that no such plan was likely to be undertaken by any body else, the author resumed his original intention, and he flatters himself it will not even at this time be unserviceable or unacceptable to the publick. Fie has therefore published four plates of the principal part of his original design, and if they should meet with approbation his intention is to render it a compleat work, by extending his thoughts to every part of the whole city and suburbs.

After the unaccountable treatment the noble plan of Sir Chriftopher Wren met with from the interested views of ignorant, obstinate, designing men, (notwithstanding it had the sanction of the King and Parliament) who by rejecting it did an irreparable injury to the city of London, the author cannot hope to see a scheme so much inferior to that, adopted in the manner he could wifli; he doubts not but it will by many be treated as Utopian, a work of funererogation, and that the old cry of private property and the infringment on liberty wall be objected and urged with the greatest vehemence, in opposition to the good effects he proposes. In defence therefore of his design, and in order to obviate, as much as possible, every objection which may be made to it, the author declares and hopes that every thinking person will agree with him, that the future good arising from the major part of his proposal will greatly overbalance the present evil. For although people are often clamorous against the present expence, as if the money laid out for such purposes was totally sunk and annihilated, if they would but consider, it is only the changing of hands and circulating of much dead money, that, perhaps, was otherwise useless to its possessor, and may probably in time return to its original owner ; the inconvenience then becomes only temporary, and its application is a very considerable advantage to the public. It is very certain that no publick good ever was proposed to which interested individuals have not objected, but it certainly does not follow, that for this reason publick good is not to be attended to at all. We are not without instances of villages, nay whole towns, having been removed for the convenience and emolument of private persons; then why not adopt the improvements here laid down, (at lead such as are most necessary) wherein the good of the community is so essentially concerned? The fire of London was undoubtedly a most deplorable evil to the sufferers, and yet no body will deny, that (bad as the present state of the city is) it was productive of very great advantages. For the fame reason, the making rivers navigable and public roads convenient, are liable to equal objections; such works are certainly often injurious to individuals, but their utility is a public benefit, and posterity, as well as those who carry such improvements into execution, will reap considerable advantages from them; but for the further illustration of this proposition the reader is reserved to the following discourse on the utility and advantage of public magnificence; the reasons which are there given for the necessity of its being adopted, it is hoped will plead a sufficient excuse for the liberties which are taken with respect to private property.

The author is aware that it will appear upon the further inspection of his plan, that notwithstanding he has complained that the metropolis is already over built, he himself has laid down the plans of many more new buildings. To obviate this objection, the reader is desired to consider the many internal improvements which he has propoled ; and the necessity of providing dwellings for thole persons who would be obliged to remove in consequence of such considerable alterations; the greatest error that has been committed, is that of extending the metropolis to too great a length; nor can we fay where it will flop, if builders are fullered to proceed thus wildly without direction, as they have hitherto done; but if attention was paid to the widening rather than the lengthening the town, it would certainly render the whole more compact, be more convenient for the inhabitants in every advantage of situation, and consequently equally healthy and commodious.

In settling a plan of large streets for the dwellings of the rich, it will be found necessary to allot smaller spaces contiguous, for the habitations of useful and laborious people, whose dependance on their superiors requires such a distribution; and by adhering to this principal a political advantage will result to the nation; as this intercourse stimulates their industry, improves their morals by example, and prevents any particular part from being the habitation of the indigent alone, to the great detriment of private property.

The author naturally supposes that many of the propel cd improvements will be looked upon by some as extravagant and visionary, and therefore had better been totally suppressed; but to obviate, in some sort, the force of such objection, he begs leave to observe, that they are not laid down as positive improvements to be made at this time, but rather what ought to have been attended to by the original builders and proprietors of lands; and consequently, as a caution to all such as may have the conducting and directing future buildings; that regularity, convenience and propriety, may hereafter take place of unskillfulness and disorder.

It is not improbable that some persons will also think the federal schemes proposed are impracticable, or that they may be of little or no utility if put into execution ; in this case, the author, however partial he may be to his own designs, will be much obliged to any one who will point out his errors, or give the publick some more useful and practicable plans of his own, as he is firmly persuaded that a work of this kind is absolutely necessary, and cannot help thinking that it his own hints, or those of others upon the same subject, are not timely attended to, that publick negligence will unavoidably produce publick deformity, and publick deformity must certainly produce public disgrace.

Internal improvements should certainly be first attended to before so many new foundations are suffered to be laid ; as it is highly improper and prejudicial to go on building in one place, to the utter ruin of others; and this often without the least connection with what is already built.

In the present state of building, the finest part of the town (where only real improvement can be hoped,) is left to the mercy of capricious, ignorant persons, and the vast number of buildings, now carrying on, are only so many convincing proofs of the necessity of adopting the following, or some better hints, in order to convince the world that blundering is not the only characteristic of English builders.

One inconvenience deserves particular notice. Some freets that would naturally open into the country are flout up and darkened by houses built across them at the end next the fields. This ought to be avoided, as. well for the sake of convenience as of elegance, in the streets which shall be raised on the ground yet unoccupied, between the present buildings and the new road from Paddington to Islington, which in this work has always been considered as the great boundary or line for restraining and limiting the rage of building. A stop ought also to be put to the practice of erecting irregular groups of houses at the extremities of the town, an evil which if continued will make this metropolis more irregular if possible than it is. The Act of Parliament directs, that no building be erected for the future within fifty feet of the New-Road, but some people, in order to evade this judicious clause, have ingeniously contrived to build houses at that distance, but then to make themselves amends they take care to occupy the intermediate space, which was intended to disencumber the road, by a garden, the wall of which comes close upon it, and entirely defeats the original intention. This practice, and the mean appearance of the backs of the houses*, offices, and hovels, will in time render the approaches to the capital so many scenes of confusion and deformity, extremely unbecoming the

* An example of this absurdity evidently appears in that heap of buildings lately ere&ed from Oxford-Road to Hyde-Park Corner, whole back-fronts are seen from the Park.

character of a great and opulent city. Certainly the fronts of all buildings Should be as conspicuous as possible, and therefore the before-mentioned practice is absurd; on the contrary, if the environs were properly regulated by a judicious disposition, a most elegant line would be formed round the metropolis; and the adjacent fields compose a beautiful lawn, and make an agreeable finifii to the extream parts of the town.

Upon the whole, if among the number of improvements proposed, any one of them should be judged worthy of being put into execution, it will in some measure recompence the trouble and fatigue the author has undergone in the prosecution of this work ; and he will think himself sufficiently repaid in finding that he has not been labouring in vain, or given an erroneous opinion of what he thinks might or ought to have been done.

The fate of the arts and artists in this kingdom being in a great measure dependant upon public works of magnificence and elegance, it was judged not improper or foreign to the present design, to give some account of them. How the author has succeeded he cannot pretend to determine; he has carefully avoided giving offence by becoming particular, and as he has avoided bellowing personal encomiums, so he has likewise avoided personal censure; and as he entered into this part of the work with a good design, he hopes it will be a sufficient apology to say, that it was well intended.

The author concludes this preface with a grateful acknowledgment to those friends who have been publick-spirited enough to assist him in the prosecution of this work, without which it must have been much more imperfect than it is.


WHEN historians give us the life, progress and declension of any state, they generally relate its fall to have proceeded from some political error in government, or from luxury; a very vague and undetermined expression, which if it signifies excesses created by inordinate desires, simulated by riches, has been justly marked as the vice of a nation. But if in the place of it we substitute delicacy, we shall find it the great source of the liberal arts, and of every improvement not immediately necessary to life.

Thus it becomes a promoter of industry and ingenious labour, and finds employment for those superfluous hands that can be spared from agriculture, &c, and while the hand of affluence thus affords the means of subsistence to the ingenious artisan, it finds employment for itself, without which life would become a burden.

Suppose a colony of emigrants first settling in any climate, the calls of nature are few. Building huts, and tillage, are the first objects of their attention; and their cloathing the skins of beasts. These supply them with food, and defend them from the inclemencies of the seasons, until encreasing in numbers, and their improvements advancing equally, their lands produce more than they confume, and they are able to supply the wants of their neighbours. This introduces commerce and navigation. The demands for exportation stimulate the manufacturer, wealth arises, and artificial wants encrease, the rich inhabitants look out for the means of ease, pleasure and distinction ; these produce the polite arts, and the original formation of huts is now converted into architecture; painting and sculpture contribute to the decoration, and stamp that value on canvas and marble which is acknowledged by taste and discernment, and mark those necessary distinCtions between the palace and the cottage.

Publick magnificence may be considered as a political and moral advantage to every nation; politically, from the intercourse with foreigners expending vast sums on our curiosities and productions; morally, as it tends to promote industry, to stimulate invention and to excite emulation in the polite and liberal arts; for those industrious hands who find agriculture, &c. overstocked with labourers, naturally fall into those employments where they may expect more encouragement, in proportion, as more ingenuity is required.

We all know that the chief sources of wealth to many fallen states, are the remains of their ancient magnificence, and the constant confluence of foreigners to those places supply the deficiencies of manufactures or commerce.

The sums expended by foreigners may be considered as a laudable tax on their curiosity, whose ideas being excited by fame, can never be satisfied but by occular demonstration. And had we more ample means of gratifying that third: after novelty and amusement, numbers would continually flock over to our nation, as we continually do to theirs.

Let us consider the man of affluence, actuated by that beneficent spirit, the mere delight of doing good, and rendering himself acceptable to his Creator; he is furnished with the means, and by employing the ingenious and laborious artizans, adds to the necessity of labour, the desire of excellence: A villa rises, an estate is improved, and a manufacture established; these create the proper distinction between the Prince and the peasant, the merchant and the workman; these characterize the genius of a nation, mark the era of its excellence, raise it from obscurity to fame, and fix it as the standard of taste to latest posterity.

In speaking of the ignorance of early times it is natural to charge them with want of genius; but the natural qualities of every nation are alike. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who have made such a great progress in the sciences, were not actuated by supernatural causes, or any innate principles in their original formation ; the mind is a mere blank, but capable of receiving such impressions as custom, education, or any other relative cairfe shall make upon it. It increases in vigour, according to its sensibility of such application, and, by degrees, so far exalts its powers, that it seems to obtain new faculties in feeing, hearing and feeling those objects to which it is made familiarized; it perceives deseats and excellencies which the ignorant and unexperienced never apprehend. The man becomes eminent in his profession in proportion as his perception is more or less acute; and you easily distinguish the man of genius, or the inventor of original designs, from the servile copyist ; who, though he may pretend to be an ingenious man, can have no title to the praise of genius.

But to return. If we examine the remains of the Roman magnificence, we shall see their first intentions were to procure the conveniences of life and health of the inhabitants; these are visible to this day, in their aqueducts and subterraneous drains. Next to these considerations, was the honouring the gods by magnificent temples. Then arose cities, palaces and private buildings, which were adorned with every production of science.

The English are now what the Romans were of old, distinguished like them by power and opulence, and excelling all other nations in commerce and navigation. Our wisdom is respected, our laws are envied, and our dominions are spread over a large part of the globe.

Let us, therefore, no longer neglect to enjoy our superiority, let us employ our riches in the encouragement of ingenious labour, by promoting the advancement of grandeur and elegance..


Page 9, line 3,, for execution, read designs.

11, 14, for elegantly, read tolerably well.

62, in the note, line 40, for entertains and instead, read entertains inflead.

73, last line, for education, read education.

81, Number 14, read Gate-Street to be opened intoHolborn, and a new street to be made opposite to it into Red Lion Square, Drake-Street and Devonshire-street are widened, so that an uninterrupted communication will be formed from Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields to Queen’s Square, and so on to the New-Road ; an improvement which is much wanted in that part of the town.

-1:14, line 13, dele in.

N. B. The Lines tinged with red in the plan shew the proposed improvements, the dotted or faint Lines, the streets in their present state*

A discourse on Public Magnificence

IF the use and advantage of public magnificence is considered as a national concern, it will be found to be of the utmost consequence, in promoting the welfare of mankind, as that attention to it, which encouragement will produce, mud: necessarily stimulate the powers of invention and ingenuity, and of course, create employment for great numbers of artists, who, exclusive of the reward of their abilities, cannot fail of diriking out many things which will do honour to themselves and to their country. This consideration alone, is without doubt highly worthy of a commercial people j it is this which gives the preference to one country in comparison with another, and it is this which distinguishes the genius of a people, in the mod: driking manner. In the fame proportion as public magnificence increases, in the fame proportion will a love of elegance increase among all ranks and degrees of people, and that refinement of taste, which in a nobleman produces true magnificence and elegance, will in a mechanic produce at lead: cleanliness and decorum.

Publick magnificence and elegance has, by persons of narrow conceptions, been sometimes termed luxury, but this is an aflertion which they would have done well if they had explained ; if they mean that all artificial wants beyond the common jieceffaries of life are to be termed luxuries, it will then appear that the condition of mankind is no way superior to that of the brute creation ; bring reason into the scale and we {hall be reduced below them; the defire of knowledge is naturally implanted in mankind, and to suppose the great author of nature has given us defires and denied us the power of gratifying them, is to suppose he has made us the most miserable beings in the creation. Every rational man will allow that no natural appetite is to be totally extinguished, it is only to be directed by right reason. If the enjoyment of the elegancies of life neither hurts the mind, impairs the body, or does harm to individuals, it is no great matter what name the affedkition of such persons may happen to bestow upon what their understandings were never formed to comprehend but if a man of delicate fenfation in order to gratify his pafiions hurts either of these he certainly abufes the noble faculties nature has bestowed upon him. What therefore in regard to public magnificence is commonly called luxury, may be applied to the noblest purposes, the encouragement of ingenuity and industry and certainly in a trading kingdom the more ingenious and industrious the subordinate part of the inhabitants are made, the more advantages will accrue to the community. No man in his senses would surely argue for an equality among mankind, to destroy distinctions would be to destroy all order and decorum, and if what is falsely called luxury was annihilated, what of course must become of the multitudes whose subsistence entirely depend upon its evidence.

If publick magnificence, and a taste for the polite arts, was attended to and properly encouraged, of what prodigious service would it be to noblemen and gentlemen of fortune who travel. If they were accustomed to the frequent observation of grand and elegant objects at home, how differently would they appear in the eyes of foreigners. Instead of becoming aftonished and confounded at the grandeur and novelty of the several objects presented to their view, they would consider them with a tranquility which could not fail of convincing those about them, they were not strangers to magnificence, and that they were not otherwise afreded, than as the objects before them were well or ill executed, which would at once pronounce the goodness of their taste, and do honour to themselves and country.

In order to illustrate the foregoing observations on the utility of publick magnificence and elegance it may not be improper to consider the state of the city of London before the conflagration in 1666,when that great city, (which like most others had arisen from small beginnings) was totally inelegant, inconvenient, and unhealthy) of which latter misfortune many melancholy proofs are authenticated in history, and which without doubt proceeded from the narrowness of the streets and the unaccountable projection of the buildings, which confined the putrid air, and joined with other circumstances, such as the want of water, and the concurring consequence of the increase of filth, rendered the city scarce ever free from pestilential devaluation. The fire which consumed the greatest part of the city, dreadful as it was to the inhabitants at that time, was productive of consequences which made ample amends for the losses sustained by individuals; a new city arose on the ruins of the old, but, though more regular, open, convenient and healthful than the former, yet by no means answered to the charaders of magnificence or elegance, and it is ever to be lamented (such was the infatuation of those times) that the magnificent, elegant and useful plan of the great Sir Chriftopher Wren was totally disregarded and sacrificed to the mean, interested and selfish views of private property; views which did irreparable injury to the citizens themselves, and to the nation in general, for had that great architect’s plan been followed, what has often been asserted must have been the result, the metropolis of this kingdom

* This was certainly a fad, and as certainly contradicts all the accounts of the magnificence and elegance of the city of London, so pompously set forth by Stowe in his time, and Maitland and Seymour long since, who have all taken great pains to persuade their readers that this city exceeds in splendor every other in Europe.

would incontestably have been the most magnificent and elegant city in the universe, and of consequence must from the prodigious report of foreigners of distinction and taste, who would have visited it have become an inexhaustible fund of riches to this Nation. But as the deplorable blindness of that age has deprived us of so valuable an acquisition, it is become absolutely necessary that some efforts should be made to render the present plan in. Some degree answerable to the character of the richest and most powerful people in the world, but this*can only be done by considering every opportunity occasioned by fire, dilapidation, or any other accident, as well as of purchasing ruinous buildings, which are absolute nuisances and dangerous to the lives and Saseties of the people, as occasions to be improved for the use of the public. By this means streets might be opened, avenues widened, publick edifices made conspicuous, and passages to and from places of the greatest resort for public business rendered safe, commodious and elegant.

It has been thought by some that the Situation of the city of London is in many respects inferior in point of grandeur and affect to those of Rome, Paris and Constantinople, and that it is not to be viewed to any kind of advantage but from a very few places, but as it was never intended to consider this point critically the. ground plan has only been attended to in this work.

The plan of London in its present date will upon inflection appear, to very moderate judges, to be as injudicious a disposition as can possibly be conceived for a city of trade and commerce situated on the borders of so noble a river as the Thames; the wharfs and quays on its banks are despicable and inconvenient beyond conception, and it is utterly impossible that a worfe use could have been made of so beneficial as well as ornamental a part of this city. But allowing in this case that private property, the convenience of individuals, and above all the perplexing irregularity of the Buildings which disgrace its borders, were obstacles which are in fur mountable, and which mud remain without remedy, surely the case is widely different in respect to that part of the. town about Grosvenor Square and Mary-le-Bone. No such difficulties presented themselves in that quarter, and it is certain if a well regulated plan had been consulted, so noble a spot might have been made ornamental at lead, and indead of heaping absurdity upon absurdity have produced elegance and convenience in the room of reproach and contempt. Why so wretched an use has been made of so valuable and desirable an opportunity of displaying taste and elegance in this part of the town is a question that very probably would puzzle the builders themselves to anfvver.

The true reason then is, that this profusion of deformity has been obtruded upon the publick folely for want of a general well regulated limited plan, the execution of which should have . been enforced by commissioners appointed by authority, men of found judgment, taste and activity; had that happily been the case all the glaring absurdities which -are perpetually daring in the faces and infulting the understandings of persons of sense and taste, would never have had exidence. But private property and pitiful mean undertakings, fuited to the capacities of the projectors, have taken place of that regularity and elegance which a general plan would have produced, and nothing seems to have been considered but the interest of a few tasteless builders, who have entered into a combination with no other views than fleecing the public and of extending and didorting the town till they have rendered it compleatly ridiculous. But even in point of interest these very builders are deceiving themselves, for wherever any one or more of them have contrived a narrow dreet, lane or alley, though the houses may let well for the present, yet they may be assured that as the rage for building increases, whenever a more spacious avenue is built, those ill-contrived things will be deserted, and the inhabitants flock to places where they can breathe freely and better enjoy the conveniences of life.

If it has with any degree of truth been said that the plan of the city, as it now stands, is inconvenient, inelegant, and without the lead pretension to magnificence or grandeur, it may with equal truth and propriety be faid, that by far the greatest part of the additional buildings which have been erected within these last twenty years, in the places aforementioned, are not a jot behind hand with the city in point of deformity, with this additional aggravation, that the builders had it in their power to have made the city appear infinitely more despicable than it does, by opposing order and elegance to confusion and absurdity.

It is utterly impossible to determine any precise form in the plan of a great city, as so much will always depend upon the situation of the ground and the disposition of the river, where there is one, which, in a city of trade, will always direct the position of the principal parts; but then it ought always to be an established rule, that every possible advantage should be taken that the situation is capable of producing, for the preservation of health and the convenience of the inhabitants. It is to be wished, that the ground-plans of all great cities and towns were composed of right lines, and that the streets interfered each other at right angles, for except in cases of absolute necessity, acute angles ought for ever to be avoided, as they are not only disagreeable to the fight, but constantly wafte the ground and spoil the buildings; indeed, if it was practicable, a square or circular form should be preserved in all capital cities as belt adapted to grandeur and convenience; in the center of which in a spacious opening the King’s palace should be situated ; in which case he would be surrounded by his subjects, and the whole, if the expression may be allowed, would resemble a hive of bees. But unfortunately for the city and suburbs of London, right lines have hardly ever been considered, and it is entirely owing to this negleCt, that so much confusion has been introduced in the disposition of the streets. Such a vaft city as that of London ought to have had at least three capital streets which should have run through the whole, and at convenient distances been interfered by other capital streets at right angles, by which means all the inferior streets would have an easy and convenient communication with them, for want of such disposition and to avoid such horrid paflages as Watling Street and Thames Street in the city, all passengers, whose business calls them to London Bridge, though those streets are well situated, are forced into Cheapside in order to preserve their lives or limbs, which proves, incontestably, that a quiet and easy communication from place to place is of the utmost consequence to the inhabitants of a great commercial city.

Custom has hitherto blinded the inhabitants of London with respeCt to these notorious inconveniences, and the popular prejudice so deeply rooted in them, that London is in every respect the finest city in the world, prevents the majority from feeing and considering its defects, and consequently they quietly submit to be thrust more than half a mile out of the way, rather than call in question the undemanding of their forefathers. But how would the good people of London be struck, if a traveller, in describing a Hottentot crawl or city, should tell them, that this immense crawl, equally populous and rich, is nothing more than a confused heap, an irregular, slovenly, ill-digested composition, of all that is absurd and ungraceful that its principal avenues are narrow and crooked, that the greatest part of the crawl is composed of blind alleys and narrow unconnected passages, equally inconvenient and unwholesome, that some of its houses are buffered to project before the others, to the great annoyance of their neighbours, and that for want of a tolerably well-regulated plan, the indolence of its inhabitants has suffered one of the fined situations in the world to become a reproach to the whole nation, and after enumerating all these disgusting particulars, should conclude with saying, that he knew no city in Europe that could convey so good an idea of this Hottentot crawl as that of London.

In order to support and illustrate the foregoing disagreeable comparison, which to many may appear severe, partial and injurious, let any one who has a tolerable taste, and some idea of public magnificence, give himself the trouble of considering the date of the buildings, quays and wharfs on both sides the River Thames, from Chelsea to Blackwall on the one hand, and from Battersea to Greenwich on the other, and he will be immediately convinced that there is not one convenient, well-regulated spot (as the buildings thereon are at present disposed) either for business or elegance in that whole extent, and what is still more, that one half of the buildings on the banks of the river are in ruins, and the whole utterly lost to the publick, as well as extremely inconvenient to individuals. After he has considered the state of the banks of the river, he may continue his observations upon the interior parts of the town, and naturally turn his eyes upon those useful places to the trading part of the world, Wapping, Rotherhithe, and Southwark, all contiguous to the Thames, and all entirely destitute of that useful regularity, convenience and utility, so very desirable in commercial cities, and that too in places formed by nature for the execution of every thing of that kind. In this part of his observation he must necessarily be led to consider the Tower, Towerhill, and particularly the Customhouse, which last building being of the utmost consequence to the publick, he will find in point of grandeur, magnificence and convenience, to be the worst contrived heap of absurdity and inconvenience that could possibly be put together, in a place where room might have been found to display every advantage the nature of such a building indispensably required. The observer may from thence direct his view through wretched, miserably contrived avenues into Spitalfields, White-Chapel, Moorfields, and the adjacent parts, where he will find the most advantageous situations laid out in the most despicable manner, nor will he be much better satisfied When he comes to consider the buildings which are at this time carrying on, at, and about the Bank of England, where he will immediately discover that what was meant as an improvement, is made an awkward blemish to the city of London. When he has proceeded thus far in the city, it may not be amiss to consider the situation of St. Paul's, and other churches, the Monument, the companies Halls, and other public buildings, and if mean encumbrances are to be esteemed as ornamental and advantageous to fine buildings, he will find ample room for admiration. The observer may next take in ail those wretched parts which he will find on both sides the Fleet-Market, and afterwards view the only gate (except Temple-Bar) the citizens have left themselves to (hew that London was once a city ; this however unfortunately was the greatest nuisance of them all, and was undoubtedly left with a political view, as an apologetical specimen to posterity, for destroying all the rest. Indeed this seems to be the only strong hold the good citizens have left, and is the only place from which the bad ones cannot escape, if they have a mind to it.

Necessity will compel the observer to proceed into Smithfield, for the fake of breathing a freer air, and when he has considered a spot capable of the greatest advantages, but defiitute of any, he may plunge into the deplorable avenues of Fee-lane and other horrid passages in that neighbourhood, and after pursuing the most disagreeable labyrinth that can be conceived for a considerable time, emerge again upon Clerkenwell-Green, in which he will find the nnly good street, in that part of the town, surrounded by some of the very worst in it.

It will be no easy talk for the observer from Clerkenwell-Green to ascend Mutton-Lane, and proceed to Baldwin’s Gardens, a desolated spot, through the ruins of which, if he escapes without hurt, he may reach Gray’s-Inn-Lane, one of the principal avenues to this metropolis, which is despicable beyond conception: From thence he may hobble into Holborn, where the first object that presents itself to view is Middle-Row, a nuisance universally detested, and for that reason, and the narrow confederation of private property, suffered to remain a public disgrace to the finest street in London.

He may proceed with some satisfaction until he arrives at Broad St. Giles’s, where, if he can bear to see a fine situation covered with ruinous buildings, and inhabited by the most deplorable objects that human nature can furnish, he may vifit the environs. From hence he may proceed along Oxford-Road, and striking into the town on which hand he pleases, meet with places which (considering the situation of the ground they stand upon, the expensiveness of the buildings erected, the meanness of the execution, and, above all, the wretched disposition of the whole for want of a well-regulated plan) deserve to be placed even below the meanest of those already mentioned, though almost all of them were erected within the memory of man.

He will not be better satisfied when he has reached Westminster, when he considers what might have been done, and how little has been done, when so fine an opportunity presented itself; certainly the building of the new bridge, and the power with which the commissioners were veiled, demanded much more, and had a general plan of improvements been duly considered, it is as certain that a very different use would have been made of so desirable a field for the exertion of tafie, elegance and magnificence. If he proceeds further than the new buildings, he will find only the fame desects repeated, wretched avenues, miserable buildings, and a continued display of absurdity and inconvenience.

From Westminster-Bridge he may easily, though not so agreeably as he might have reasonably hoped (owing to the injudicious formation of the road) conduct himself into St. George’s-Fields* the only spot now left about London, which has not yet fallen a sacrifice to the depraved taste of modern builders, here he may indulge himself with the contemplation of what advantageous things may yet be done for this hitherto neglected metropolis; the bridge now building at Black-Friars will undoubtedly be the means of entirely altering the face of that part of the city, and certainly it becomes necessary to take particular care of the execution of a plan, which, when once ill done, we cannot hope will hereafter be remedied.

It was judged unnecessary to conduct the observer to the palace of St. James’s, for that is an object of reproach to the kingdom in general, it is universally condemned, and the meanest subject who has seen it, laments that his Prince resides in a house so ill-becoming the flate and grandeur of the mod: powerful and respectable monarch in the universe; a Prince whose supreme happiness confifts in promoting the good and welfare of his subjects, who is himself a lover of the arts, and under whose happy auspices artists of every denomination of real merit and ingenuity can never doubt of obtaining patronage and encouragement in a manner adequate to their respective abilities. But bad as the palace of St. James’s really is in its present state, the pride of the people of England ought to exert itself in such a manner that nothing derogatory to the Majesty of the King, or to the glory of the kingdom, should be buffered to take place with regard to it. No mean, despicable attempt to cover deformity by patch-work, which might aptly be compared to the miserable artifice of a battered prostitute, who endeavours by paint to hide the effects of debauchery, or conceal the desedfs of nature; no, the palace of the Sovereign of these kingdoms ought not to be permitted even to be the fecond in the world, and if it cannot be the first, it is to be wished that it may remain in its present state until this nation shall have acquired more taste, and have attained more spirit to put that taste in execution.

The Queen’s palace is upon the whole elegantly designed, and the situation extremely good, but it is to be wished it was disencumbered by the removal of several of the surrounding buildings, especially those which hinder the view into the Green-Park, and deform the whole palace: these, and some others on the opposite side ought to be taken away, but if these are not suitable to the palace, the mean houses now eredling, called Queen’s-Row, near the garden-wall, are intolerable nuisances, and it is great pity they could not have been prevented, as they must be offensive to the palace and gardens upon many accounts. The Chelsea water-engine is also very inconveniently situated, as the smoke from it mud; unavoidably be poured into the palace whenever the wind blows from that quarter, and the smoke from the above-mentioned hovels must also in a great measure affect it in the same manner. The brick kilns and hospitals are likewise intolerable nuisances which should be removed ; the removal of the statues by the former poke {for was improper, and the house was deprived of a very great ornament, as they broke the strait line upon the top of the building, and produced a noble effect; nor was the removal of the fountain at the fame time more judicious, as it contributed to spoil the whole design.

From what has, with the strictest regard to truth, been said of the city and suburbs of Westminster, there cannot remain the lead; doubt but that their date, with regard to magnificence, elegance and convenience, is very despicable, consequently the necessity of rendering them otherwise is become a matter of serious concern to persons in power, and is a demonstration that some kind of general plan Should be formed for their improvement. In the cities of Paris, Edinburgh, Rotterdam and other places, the government takes cognizance of all public buildings both useful and ornamental, and where any thing absurd or improper is proposed to be done the legislature reasonably prevents the intrusion of deformity in their capital, which would undoubtedly find its way if the whim and caprice of their builders was suffered to go on without this check.

In the city of Rome, when any great design was conceived and determined to be put in execution, whether it was to decorate the church of St. Peter, or to erect a Statue or fountain, the finest artist in that city was always sure to be preferred and employed; in order to this it was usual to give notice that such an undertaking was in agitation, and the assistance of the artists required, in consequence of this notice, designs and models were immediately furnished, and the superintendants of those works constantly preferred such as appeared to have the greatest degree of merit: This conduct produced emulation, and gave rise to such performances as have deservedly merited the approbation of the mod; consummate judges, and done honour to the artists and their employers.

Happy would it have been for this great city, if authority had by a timely interposition prevented many of those intolerable nuisances and deformities already complained of. It is certain that a good regular plan is lcfs expensive than a bad irregular one. Had authority interposed, we Should very probably have had the pleasure of feeing buildings erected with more convenient room, and at the fame time occupying less ground; we Should have been utter Strangers to the terminating of tolerable good streets with flables and dunghills; nor Should we have seen the fronts of one pile of buildings opposed to the backs of another, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest errors that can be committed, for in that case one side of the Street must be encumbered with a melancholy dangerous dead wall, for which there is not any other remedy than that of making dwarf walls with with iron rails, a method which occasions an unnecessary expence, and when done becomes inconvenient and ungraceful.

Had a general plan been observed in the new buildings about Mary-le-Bone and the adjacent parts, so many despicable little chapels would never have been suffered, when there is so manifest a want of noble objects in that quarter; had the parish church of Mary-le-Bone been rebuilt in a magnificent manner and well placed, it would have answered the purposes both of a commodious place for public w r orihip to the numerous families in that parish, and at the fame time in the view of the town from the adjacent country, would have broken the line of the new buildings, which as they at present Hand give no better idea to the spectator than that of a plain brick wall of prodigious length. In proof of the consequence of objects of this kind, let it be supposed that the cupola of St. Paul’s was taken away, and it would then be found that the lofs of that noble ornament would immediately reduce the appearance of the city to a level with that of any other populous city in the kingdom.

In many parts of the new buildings another very great absurdity has been pradised, which is that of erecting single brick edifices with stone fronts of a regular design, the sides and backs of which being entirely exposed prevent nothing but absurdity and contradiction, a motley composition of stone and brick walls perforated with holes in order to admit light. In the city of Bath, the fronts of the houses which compose the celebrated circus there, are built of sione of the three Greek orders, three quarter columns in couplets with their proper entablatures, and the doors and windows in charader; and so far when finished will be the most elegant firudure in the kingdom, though rather too small but how is the spectator offended when he comes to view the back part of this very circus, which is entirely exposed, and finds that it has no kind of connection with the front and exhibits only a heap of confused irregular buildings.

[ * This could have been removed by building an outer circle, forming a double row of houses, or a square, which would have answered the fame purpose. An ingenious gentleman proposed some years ago to the citizens of Bath, a scherne for improving and beautifying that city, and though it met with the syeatefl approbation from people of taste in general, and in particular from a nobleman who was possessed of very great property there, yet from the ignorant prejudices of the majority of the citizens, this useful scheme was suffered to be thrown aside, and though they are now building in that city at a prodigious rate, no regard is paid to a general plan which is also the case in several other places in this kingdom.]

As the mention of Bath has led us into a digression, it may not be improper to observe that in this age of mistaken refinement there is not in the kingdom one city, town or village wherein any regularity is observed, or attempt made towards magnificence or elegance, except the city of Bath. And the word is, that immense sums have been for many years past laid out in several places, which for want of taste in those who had the direction of the buildings, are perhaps much the worse for their being erected at all. Whenever any buildings either in a city, town or village go to decay the proprietor (if able) should be obliged to rebuild in a regular uniform manner. The villages about London in particular, such as Chelsea, Kensington, Knightfbridge, Paddington, Iflington, &c. should be subject to a law of this kind ; they are all capable of vast improvements, and might very easily be made delightful spots, worthy the neighbourhood of so rich and opulent a city as London : But as magnificence and elegance are so little attended to in the capital itself, it can hardly be expected they should be found in its adjacencies.

The two universities of Oxford and Cambridge, are striking examples of what might be done. If a little attention had been given to propriety, elegance and regularity, if after the foundation of the first college in either of those places, the next succeeding ones had been erected from time to time with a view to this great end, what noble places would these great feminaries have been, what a variety of elegant uniform buildings, what grand and regular streets and squares would have been formed, and how totally different would their appearance have been at present ? But no such principle having ever been attended to, these places which ought to have been at least as elegant as any in the kingdom, are with respect to order and decorum the most confused scenes that can be imagined.

Before this discourse is concluded, it becomes necessary to return to the city, and mention the great want of spacious elegant streets there. This has been done before in a general way, in speaking of those dangerous inconvenient avenues Watling-street and Thames-street; were these properly opened, what an alteration would be produced in respect to grandeur and utility, how easy, fafe and commodious would the conveyance of goods and merchandize be rendered by it, and what a fine opportunity would thereby be given to erect dwelling houses for the wealthy merchants, who for want of such conveniences are thrust out of the ’way of their business, and obliged to live in a part of the town entirely unsuitable to their interests in every respect; the body of merchants certainly are and ought to be, to the inferior citizens, what the body of the nobility are to the whole; the merchants are the opulent people of the city, and the greatest part of its inhabitants are entirely dependant upon them, indeed their dependance is mutual, for which reason it is plain their residence ought to be in the city, and consequently some effectual method should be pursued in order to accommodate them properly, and prevent as much as possible their mixing among persons of quality, whose manner of living and pursuits are totally unsuitable to men of business.

Two or three centuries ago indeed several of the principal of the nobility resided within the walls of the city, and undoubtedly the grandeur of those buildings must have added much to the appearance the city then made, but since that time the different mode of living has produced prodigious changes, and it is to be viflied, as people of quality with great propriety withdrew themselves from the city, that the citizens with equal propriety would withdraw themselves to a situation where they would meet with more respect, and at the same time attend their business but this can never be done unless some effectual step is taken by the city to provide the merchants with streets suitable to the affluence of that respectable body of people, who are without doubt the most useful and beneficial part of the community.

From what has been already advanced in pursuing this discourse, it appears there is abundant room for improving and embellishing several parts of the city and suburbs of London; but, as individuals, we are extremely expensive, as a people mean and pitiful; the principal intention of the Author is to advise (what has by every thinking person been long vilified) that proper bounds may be set to that fury which seems to pofifess the fraternity of builders, and to prevent them from extending the town in the enormous manner they have done and dill continue to do, and this it is presumed can be no other way accomplished than by a plan of limitation, beyond which they should be prohibited from building under severe penalties; since if they are permitted to proceed at their accustomed rate, we may expect to find that the neighbouring hills of Hampstead and Highgate, will soon become considerable parts of the suburbs of London; and when the limbs extend themselves too far, and grow out of proportion to the body which is to nourish and sustain them, it may very rationally be supposed, that a consumption will be the consequence: And indeed if the expression may be allowed, many parts of the body are already reduced to skin and bone ; by means therefore of a proper limitation this terrible event may be prevented, and if these quacks in building can be called in and made any way serviceable towards restoring and repairing the decayed parts of the body, they may then be allowed / to plead their having done some Service, and possibly make atonement for the wretched operations they have already performed upon its mangled limbs.

To give any probable reason why such a prodigious encrease of building has been encouraged in this metropolis, may perhaps be esteemed no part of the Author’s business, but whether it proceeds from the migration of foreigners, or from so many convenient roads being made from all parts of the kingdom, whether it be owing to our own people’s deserting their native homes and quitting their innocent country retreats for the sake of tasting the pleasures of this great city*, whether the profits

[ * Perhaps it might not be disadvantageous to the kingdom in general if the royal residence was not confined solely to London, if the court was occasionally held in different places it might in Time measure prevent many from coming to this city, who have no business to visit it at all, for it is possible that too many people may be brought to London, and thereby in time depopulate the country, as well as greatly enhance the price of provisions and every other necessary of life.]

of a successful war has enabled some to keep houses who were formerly contented with lodgings; whether it is owing to the arrival of others, who, having acquired fortunes in the plantations, come to spend them here; or to the monopolizing of farms, that is, making one large farm out of three or four small ones, and thereby compelling the farmers who are turned out of them to seek their bread in this metropolis, are all considerations well worth enquiring into; as it is certain that notwithstanding the amazing encrease of buildings, houses are still procured with difficulty, and the rents of most are perpetually encreasing, but these are questions which it is hoped some more able persons will think it worth their while to answer. There is the greatest probability that in time the prodigious encrease of buildings mud give relief to the tenants, as it will be impossible for them all to be inhabited, and at the fame time that the landlords of old houses would continue to raise their rents, there is one circumstance which is pleasant enough, and is now carrying on with great success by the landlords in those streets which are at this time new paving, which is, that although the expence of paving and lighting the streets in the manner prescribed by the adt fall's entirely upon the tenant, yet the landlords, taking advantage of a benefit they never intended or have in the lead contributed to, fail not where-ever they are not prevented by a lease, to raise their rents in the most arbitrary manner.

It becomes necessary in this place to take particular notice of the very elegant, useful and necessary improvement of the city of Wesminster, and its liberties, by the present method of paving and enlightening it; an improvement which every one who is doomed to walk feels in the most sensible manner, to say that the streets are thereby rendered safe and commodious would be saying too little, it may without exaggeration be asserted, that they are not only made fafe and commodious, but elegant and magnificent; this can be no where pointed out with so much propriety as in the Strand, which from being dark, dirty and inconvenient, is become splendid, elegant, and in respect of what it was before, magnificent upon the whole, there never was in any age or country a public scheme adopted which reflects more glory upon a government, or does greater honour to the person who originally proposed and supported it; indeed it is to be wished that when this improvement was concerted it had been carried a little further, by removing all kinds of business which from their nature are offensive or dangerous, such as public markets, into detached places.

The intolerable practice of holding a market for the sale of live cattle in the center of the metropolis has been loudly and justly complained of for many years past, but no redress has yet been given, nor indeed any attention paid to the repeated remonstrances made against a nuisance at once extremely dangerous as well as inelegant and inconvenient, the almofl total inattention of the generality of mankind to every thing which does not immediately concern their own intereff, has hitherto prevented the citizens of London from taking cognizance of a nuisance which it is undoubtedly both their interefi: and duty to remove ; the fame inattention, or something worse, has likewise prevented them from considering that with regard to this very circumstance their fore-fathers were much wiser than their descendants, for they may please to recoiled:, that when London was a city, that is, had a regular wail and gates, this very market was obliged to be kept in Smithfield, or Smith’s field, a field without the walls, near enough to the center of the metropolis to render it convenient, but at the fame time properly situated to prevent those inconveniences which at this time are so justly complained of; at the same time we find that the slaughter-houses were situated in and about Butcher-Hall-Lane, between Newgate and Alderfgate, and probably no where else; which situation from its vicinity to Smithfield, was extremely proper, and prevented the cattle from being driven through the streets of the city; but as in succeeding times the fuburbs began to be extended in a prodigious degree, Smithfield became not only surrounded with houses but with streets also, and at length by the demolition of the city wall and gates, is become much too nearly situated in the heart of the metropolis, a circumstance which was manifestly never intended by our forefathers. It is a great pity therefore that in regard to the lives and safeties of the people, as well as of elegance and decorum, this market is not removed to some convenient spot near the Islington road; either between that road and the suburbs, or at the back part of Iflington; this market might be formed into a regular and spacious square, surrounded with flaughter-houses and other necessary buildings adapted to the several purposes of this kind of business, and the whole might be so contrived as not to be offensive even in point of appearance; in such a place the beads might be fold and killed by the purchasers, and afterwards removed to the several markets; but if any very material objection should be made to the removal of this market, it may be worth considering whether it would not be practicable to erect flaugher-houses in the neighbourhood of Smithfield, somewhere about Chick-Lane or some such ruinous part, which places would by this means be rendered valuable to the owners, and in order to prevent the mischiefs before complained of, a method should be considered to flop *all the avenues into Smithfield during the hours of holding the market, (except that which led immediately to the slaughter-houses) and the cattle, after they were purchased, should be driven directly thither, and either killed the fame day, or if proper places were built for their reception, be kept there as long as convenience would require; by this means the great mischief arising from driving the cattle through the streets would be prevented, accidents of this kind are chiefly owing to the separating of these animals from each other, to which they have a natural aversion ; when one of them is parted from the herd he always endeavours to recover his situation, but being prevented and finding himself alone, which he is accustomed to be, he runs wildly about, and as his terrors are too often encreased by the cruelty of the drivers and pursuits of the rabble, becomes outrageous, and at length from the natural principle of self-defence often does irreparable mischief.

Another expedient for preventing the dangers arising from the practice of driving cattle through the metropolis, would he to have a market some where near the Borough of Southwark, to which the cattle from Kent, Surry and the other counties, might be brought for sale, and this to be contrived in the fame manner as that mentioned at or near Islington, both these markets might be immediately under the inspection and regulation of the Lord Mayor and citizens of London, and if even a third and fourth were thought necessary to be held in the east and West ends of the town, for the convenience of the publick, they might be regulated in the fame manner; but the nuisance complained of should by no means be any longer tolerated, nor is it apprehended this very desirable event can be any other way accomplished than by the methods above-mentioned. If such a scheme was to be put in execution, the removal of the market would give a fine opportunity to the city of London for converting Smithfield into a noble regular square, which might be applied either for the purpose of trade or else as dwellings for merchants and people of opulence, as should be found most convenient.

It would have been also advantageous for the publick if for the convenience of watering the streets, water-cocks had been placed at certain distances, which should communicate from the pipes and paths under the pavement through the kirb, the fame thing might be practiced in the New-Road, which forms the grand line of limitation j as cess-pools are found to be very offensive and inconvenient, it is a great pity that more attention is not given to making publick drains or common-fewers, which should always be made large enough for a man to walk upright, and at proper distances trap-doors should be contrived of sufficient strength, in order to cleanse them without breaking up the pavement, which is the common inconvenient method now practiced.

From what has been already urged, it must be allowed that publick works of real magnificence, taste, elegance and utility, in a commercial city, are of the utmost consequence; they are not only of real use in point of splendor and convenience, but as necessary to the community as health and cloathing to the human body, they are the great sources of invention and of ingenious employments, and are a means of stamping real value upon materials of every kind. It is entirely owing to the encouragement of works of this sort that the kingdom of France has obtained a superiority over the rest of the world in the polite arts, and it is by the encouragement of these alone that this nation, to the full as ingenious as the French, can ever hope to make a figure in the arts equal to what they now make in arms.

Upon the whole, the Author submits his work entirely to the candour of the public, that publick for whose use and benefit it was solely undertaken, and from whom the nature of the work will not permit him to expect any other reward than a timely and serious consideration of its utility. His chief aim has been solely directed to enforce an attention to public improvements, in order that every communication may be rendered equally convenient, that property may be made more valuable, and that by an elegant disposition of the whole it may become a matter of indifference in what quarter of the town one would choose to reside ; to conclude, thus much he will venture to assert, that if the whole or any part of his proposed alterations are put into execution, he does not believe any one would wish to see the old forms restored.

Projectible urbanism: the rise of  of terraced housing in 17th century London, its global spread and present rebirth

The square and the townhouse

the London square

Lineage:  from the Uffizi walkway, Florence ("first planned urban street"), it has been argued (where was that from, Summerson Georgian London? check)

Place des Vosges, Paris (originally Place Royale; built by Henri IV 1605 to 1612), called the first planned square in France, and a key precedent observed by Inigo Jones and other continent-touring English notables and architects.

speculative 'facadism' -- aristocratic owner/developer has the square and all the facing facades built at once to design, leaving homes behind them to be built by various parties/owners to suit.  

mixed-use: designed with arcades all around, which become a major and successful "popup retail" area.

class-mixing:  homes behind the facade can be and are different sizes and cost and tenures.

Covent Garden lands, formerly those of the Convent associated with Westminster Abbey, after Henry VIII's  Dissolution of the Monasteries were granted in 1552 by the King Edward VI to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford.

Inigo Jones, surveyor to the King, is hired in 1630 by the 4th Earl to design a public square surrounded by housing on part of the estate, with one side semi-open to Bedford House's gardens.

Covent Garden becomes the first London square, using many aspects of Place des Vosges, and establishes many of the key patterns for later London squares.  Major icon of English urbanism, to this day.

'Projecting' - speculation, invention, creation, also fraud, fiction. Defoe, an energetic projector in many fields himself, proposes it as the reigning spirit and icon of the age.

Terrace housing's birth & spread

Terrace / row housing history

Where does it come from, why/how does it become so widespread and characteristic in Britain, and from there radiate out such global influence (e.g. in the U.S., other Anglo nations, especially).

One a basic formal level, this is a fairly universal and intuitive practice: build adjoining homes with common facade or roof or other structure; or at least, aligned; whether they're built at the same time or not.

Many cultures have employed row-house & long-house forms since prehistoric and ancient times. Often it makes sense to share walls, structurally and to save materials and space, and to conserve or protect from heat.

Even popup and informal housing may use row-house form for greater density and economy of building.  E.g, row-house shacks shown in Bonus Army camps in Washington, D.C., 1932

Early forms in Britain:  aligned cottage walkways, almshouses. & just, housing built along a narrow road and/or by one owner/builder where common setback and house form makes sense.  ("ribbon development").

Dutch town-homes, including mercantile canal houses of Amsterdam.

Classicism - Ingo Jones - in mid-17thC the classicist Renaissance spreads influence to England, as increasing numbers travel on continent. A broad aesthetic/formal shift to controlled, symmetrical, columnate. Repetition, imperial order, large-scale public form-making -- model and motifs of ancient Rome.  As town-planning paradigm, is adopted by Renaissance & Baroque Popes and monarchs.

Place de Vosges, Paris, innovates a public/private integration, where exterior form expresses (and in this case, is built by) a single power, but many and varying private parties build within or behind it. This prefigures 20th century concepts of superstructure plus changing infill housings, e.g. the Metabolist movement in Japan, or in Holland/US, Habraken's structure + infill models.

The composition of grand forms from repeated cells or bays can be taken further, to flexible modularization where the 'cells' aren't necessarily unified structures or built at the same time, and there isn't necessarily a larger symmetry.  If still done with even facade lines etc, a liquid classicism -- for a new Rome.

The animated film Magic Wand (1972,  dir. by Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg) posted (in excerpt?) by Soviet Cartoons OoC @SovietOoC:

Based on real essays by schoolchildren about what would society be like if they had a magic wand. This kid wanted an infinite commie bloc

illustrates brilliantly ideas and appeal of terraced housing. It shows individual buildings/houses assembling into a row, then being unified in height and then graced with a lovely river flowing across the top, turning into a joyously ongoing flow of building and motion (river - street).


Post-Great Fire, building code advances helped to standardize housing form.  It catalyzed possibilities and big economies of scale to allow much larger-scale coordinated building, or building operations.  

On the speculative estate projects of 17thC London, flexible modularization became explored as a practical and aesthetic solution for the problem of squares or blocks being built part at a time, with changing plans and changing fortunes behind the projects. Cities, estates, squares, and striving aristocratic/mercantile families might help "save face" across shifting circumstances by using formal ordering that yet could be built and adapted flexibly, without one King or Emperor in charge.

The row house turns out to be a surprisingly cross-class-appealing and -functioning housing form. Over centuries, popular with and adaptable to widely different incomes and contexts, from richest in London (even and even more so today; now a main center for global plutocracy) to the poorest worker rowhousing. All the way down to one-over-one, back-to-back terraces which were, along with 19thC tenements, perhaps the trough of housing quality/experience in the UK.

The row house seems to particularly align to cultural and practical inclinations of the Dutch and British (& more northern & western European nations) people and institutions.  Combines a) urban, collective practicality of being fairly dense with b) many aspects of a detached house:

Today, urbanist advocacy often focuses on "apartments", e.g. representing rezoning as ending "apartment bans".  But 'apartment' typically means multi-unit building, rental. This framing tends to sideline or exclude rowhouse/townhouse form [and cluster housing, one of my particular interests]. It suggests indifference to whether ownership/rental, or who likely to own buildings -- apartment buildings are increasingly likely to be owned by distant, institutional investors. But do all housing units matter [equally]?

Understanding Early Terrace Housing

19 July, 2011 by Mike Paterson
London Historians' Blog - Random musings about London's history

Uniform terraced town houses emerged in London immediately after the Great Fire. The government recognised both the urgency of regeneration for the thousands of now-homeless families, but also the requirement that this activity needed to be strictly regulated to eliminate the factors which contributed to the Fire in the first place. The Rebuilding Act of 1667 laid down the rules for domestic accommodation. Depending on the area and type of street, houses were specified as being of the First Sort (two storeys plus basement and garret), the Second Sort (three storeys plus basement and garret) and the Third Sort (four storeys plus basement and garret).

Projectors such as Nicholas Barbon and others set to work. Terraced housing proliferated through the late Stuart and Georgian periods, all complying with the Act. There are many of these rows of houses in London today, very fine examples to be found in Spitalfields and the Temple district (both areas untouched by the Fire), but elsewhere too. A good one is the Benjamin Franklin House in Charing Cross, recently covered.

This house of the Third Sort in Buckingham Street by Nicholas Barbon was brand new when Samuel Pepys lived in it between 1679 and 1688.

[note from David Burnell:

"The 1630s extant row of terraced houses at Newington Green Hackney and the now lost Great Queen Street development off Lincolns Inn Fields suggests that the prototype of the standard regulated London house design was in existence long before the Great Fire? Therefore the form of what became the ubiquitous Georgian terrace was evolving before the imposition of building regulations, (other than the ineffective ordinances of James ! in relation to the use of brick.)

Elizabeth McKellar argues in The Making of Modern London that we tend to overlook the contribution of the houses built before the fire and in the restoration period in developing the plan and aesthetic of the typical London terrace house."

City of Bath: speculative grandeur

expanding on this thread/discussion -- with former President of RIBA, Ben Derbyshire IPPRIBA... RIBA whose HQ is just up the street from Cavendish Square discussed in thread -- and research foray on the unlikely and underappreciated history of Bath speculative public magnificence.

It was apt, I noted, for a Guardian story on the UK government enabling bottom-up development -- reforms developed by John Myers of London YIMBY and YIMBY Alliance -- to be illustrated with a photograph of King's Circus (original, and brilliantly appropriate, name) in Bath.

The Circus in Bath was built by architect & pioneer of speculative building John Wood (Elder), who was born & created his projects just outside Bath city walls, in what became the spectacular and iconic, now World Cultural Heritage site, urban exemplar of new Bath.

In between those two life phases, however, he spent formative career- and fortune-building years in London, happening to find himself, through a west county aristocratic connection, a drafter and general hand in one of the major speculative estate developments of the early 18thC -- the Cavendish lands.

(above: early Cavendish Square and estate planning. The countryside is still retreating around there, ca 1720).


(above: design for Chandos House on Cavendish Square, for Wood's patron the Duke of Chandos -- a then-ascendant, arriviste newly-titled noble, rich from provisioning the new colonial-miliary-industrial complex of the day, eager to culture-wash his riches).

This Druid- and Roman-history besotted, dreamy provincial was soon deep in the thick of that interplay of aristocratic adaptation, colonial/capitalist East India Company arriviste wealth (sort of the tech-boom wealth of the era), and shrewd builders and designers seeking to make the most of it, in central West End London.

[Richardson & Guillery, 2016]

This possibly rather soiling experience of Commerce and Credit helped, unexpectedly, to transmute Wood's dreams of a new Druidical/Roman Camelot rising in Bath into concrete grasp of the new, enabling and base methods being invented in London land development. Letting him turn those dreams into grand form outside old Bath over the following 50 years.

When in [New] Rome, Wood learned to do as the new Romans, to build the pre/post Roman, prehistoric/modern Druid Rome of which he'd long dreamed.

Back in Bath, first Wood oversaw the design & rebuilding of one of UK's oldest almshouses, St John’s Hospital founded in 1174. St John's is unusual because partly City-run after 1572, it offered then and still today lodging for bath visitors of various classes -- so you might call it proto-, among earliest ever forms of, UK social/Council housing.   https://thebathmagazine.co.uk/the-history-of-st-johns-foundation/.

[Tim - sometime should try that thesis with twitter pal John Boughton @municipaldreams, author of Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing, perhaps if he concedes on this it might make it into next preface / edition of book].

But Wood's grander plans "were consistently hampered by the [city] Corporation, churchmen, landowners & moneymen" so he speculatively develops New City outside city walls: joins Palladian vision à la Covent Garden, Place des Vosges' facade-1st model, Roman & Druid interests.  

[in a way wildly inventive syncretism and method, though later to suffer the indignity of being blandly extolled by latter-day travel-show Barbarian invader and Bath enthusiast Rick Steves as "Georgian architecture, the British form of Classicism"].

The [King's] Circus, Bath's design & column order was based by John Wood (Elder) on the Colosseum, Rome -- turned inside out, call it the Populosseum? -- and given diameter of Stonehenge because Wood believed Bath was the ancient centre of the Druids.

Through this imaginative transmutation, and speculative development, John Wood crucially formed the classic terrace-housing form, and in Bath created among the most world-famous and celebrated exempla of it. Also, perhaps the greatest exemplar of terraced housing as ideal building-block for urbane and grand urbanism; of inspired planning, and of dense, mixed-tenure & (possibly/eventually) mixed-class housing, inspired by ideas of mingling & uniting classes in ordered public space.  
baths, just like the ancient Romans. Build grandeur, and civic aspiration, around what the people want and do every day, like shopping and bathing and watching bloody gladiatorial combat).

The city of Bath has long been an exemplum of class-mixing, and perhaps class mobility, partly related to the housing and building forms pioneered by John Wood and son.

[from Twitter thread]:
Finding yourself in a beautiful house, or a shotgun shack ... it happens to the gentry also, often revealing the benefit & reality of being more part of the continent, part of the main; and perhaps, of being adaptably intermingled in a city, and row/town-housing vs palace, manor, or villa Island. (as in Jame Austen's
Persuasion, the Elliots downsizing to Bath, because "In Bath you may be important at comparatively little expense.")

Wood imaginative invention is done as an ancient-history wingnut, occultist, social climber, & outright schemer, as Su mi mmerson expertly & entertainingly (& appreciatively) portrays in his 1949 essay,  "An Architect's imagination: John Wood's Bath." In all, a great speculator, or 'projector' in Defoe's usage, and defining spirit of the times -- in a way, the better version of, and redeemed successor to, Nicholas Barbon.

Richardson, Harriet & Peter Guillery
1 (2016). "Speculative Development and the Origins and History of East India Company Settlement in Cavendish Square and Harley Street." The London Journal, 41:2, 128-149, DOI link: https://doi.org/ 10.1080/03058034.2016.1184509.

1both of Bartlett School, University of London, and the Bartlett-hosted Survey of London.

apartment blocks

philanthropic housing

municipal / public housing

'infill' middle housing today.

new terraced / row housing models

Note another major tie-in this has to today, at especially to Berkeley / San Francisco, is it discusses and connects with examples of the earliest municipal / public housing.

-> opportunity perhaps to engage with Berkeley Councilmember Terry Taplin, and other legislators and people advocating & interested in these proposals.

See:  #SocialHousingBerkeley.

Parts of this chapter might be written for, or or used for, articles/posts engaging the California and Berkeley legislative efforts.

Other paths, 1800-present

Nearby Barbon's speculative rowhouse developments, coincidentally there are [or were] a number of landmark housing sites that are exempla of contrasting approaches.  These include private philanthropic and public charitable housing; in a sense the first council housing in UK; and

Let's take a quick tour (with pictures!) of these housing paths not or later taken:

Philanthropic / social housing

Parnell House, almost the earliest, and now the earliest surviving, housing from the 19thC philanthropic housing movement, housing in London,, was built in 1850 by the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes (SICLC); right at the dawn of social housing movement in the UK.  The land, owned by the Duke of Bedford, was leased for 99 years. In 1965, the  Peabody Trust, the earliest and now among largest of the UK's housing associations (i.e non-profits), took over the former SICLC and all of its remaining London properties.

Parnell House was designed by seminal early social-housing architect
Henry Roberts, a remarkable upstart who'd become known by winning an architecture contest in his early 20s, and in 1835 become architect to Sailors House, a landmark proto-"social housing" facility for shored sailors. Parnell House's design was widely influential upon other social housing, including his own Model Housing for Families [check name] sponsored by Prince Albert at the 1851 Great Exhibition.

Some of the earlier ever private social housing was built up the street from Barbon's Red Lion Square, the Foundling Hospital (and housing complex), after a proposal by Daniel Defoe.

Municipal / public housing

City of London Corporation Houses on Farringdon Road (1865), could be considered the first ever Council housing in the UK. Disputable because they weren't built inside the City of London's own district, or for its own citizens, but as part of recompense for displacement caused by City of London-financed road construction.

Farringdon Road Buildings, built by Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrial Poor in mid-1870s opposite Corporation Buildings (now demolished). A massive and famous, early private social housing building, described in George Gissing's The Nether World (1889) and pictured in Lewis Mumford's The Culture of Cities,1938, p.212..  

Suburban/villa housing

John Nash's Park Village (East, and West) just to the north at Regent's Park [...], sometimes considered the progenitor of Anglo-US style "house in the park" atomized suburban development style.

Terraced housing today

Amsterdam's east docklands

O'Sullivan, Feargus (2020). "Why Amsterdam’s Canal Houses Have Endured for 300 Years" ["A different kind of wealth distribution in 17th-century Amsterdam paved the way for its quintessential home design"]. Bloomberg CityLab, January 15, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-15/the-history-of-amsterdam-s-canal-houses.

[Ben Rogers's daughter, it emerges, is a history undergraduate currently writing a thesis about Nicholas Barbon].

Amsterdam deliberately and successfully revived canal house form, in redeveloping eastern docklands (#OostelijkHavengebied): Handelskade quays and KNSM, Cruquiuseiland, Borneo, Sporenburg islands. It's awesome, a pilgrimage site for housers http://dynamiccities.org/amsterdam-row-houses - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Docklands.


in "middle housing" / SF zoning reform

Today, urbanist advocacy often focuses on "apartments", e.g. representing rezoning as ending "apartment bans".  But 'apartment' typically means multi-unit building, rental. This framing tends to sideline or exclude rowhouse/townhouse form [and cluster housing, one of my particular interests]. It suggests indifference to whether ownership/rental, or who likely to own buildings -- apartment buildings are increasingly likely to be owned by distant, institutional investors. But do all housing units matter?

I like the idea of connecting with Emily Hamilton, I and incorporating feedback &/or material from her. There's a compelling opportunity for this book to tie into and build on the advocacy dimensions Emily raised in her July 29 article "Want More Housing? Ending Single-Family Zoning Won’t Do It" -- and Nolan Gray's paper on Houston’s 1998 Subdivision Reform.  I've been mulling how these might be fit together, and currently in book draft am trying on the idea of an end section

Hamilton, Emily (2020). "Want More Housing? Ending Single-Family Zoning Won’t Do It." ["To add more affordable “missing middle” homes, cities need to change parking requirements and limits on building and lot size, too."]. Bloomberg CityLab, July 29, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-29/to-add-housing-zoning-code-reform-is-just-a-start.

Gray MN, Millsap AA. "Subdividing the Unzoned City: An Analysis of the Causes and Effects of Houston’s 1998 Subdivision Reform." Journal of Planning Education and Research. July 2020. DOI link: https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X20935156.

As related threads in that, I followed with interest Toni Atkins' SB 1120 lot subdivision bill, R.I.P. for these year, and also have been debating similar with the housing policy head at Oregon's land-use agency DLCD, suggesting that it was authorized by 2019 OR #HB2001 "middle housing" bill, overlooked in the subsequent rulemaking but could be readdressed.

Portland, helpfully, has an unusual, sort of natural experiment going showing strong demand for and positive outcomes from such smaller/split lots, with the Historically Narrow Lots / Lot Confirmation program whereby some areas of standard 50'x100' lots can be easily split back to the 2x 25'x100' lots they were originally recorded as before being combined. The high popularity of the Lot Confirmation process and housing built with it is a good testimony to people liking small-lot fee-simple housing options.



Chris Elmendorf at UC Davis has some interesting ideas about addressing perceived downsides of lot division, e.g. setting it up to facilitate later re-assembly. E.g., in allowing lot division, a municipality or state might express say in the property title some kind of facilitation for later lot assembly.

Creative and steadily re-relevant variations on an old and good theme, that's the story of town/row housing!

Appendix (possibly):  notable/surviving Barbon buildings:

Essex Street mini-estate (former site of Essex House, on the Strand).  including that weird water-gate thing that's now free-standing.

No. 4, St James Square - now the Naval and Miliary Club. https://theinandout.co.uk/web/pages/a-clubhouse-history

Red Lion Square (square layout; most or all of the original buildings have been replaced).

Samuel Pepys House

Benjamin Franklin's London house.


Barbon, Nicholas. "A Discourse Shewing the Great Advantages that New-buildings and the Enlarging of Towns and Cities do Bring to a Nation (1678). (basically an earlier version of "An Apology for the Builder."  First edition: https://books.google.com/books?id=NiG6jlzVIpYC&pg=PP7.

Bemis, Albert Farwell, and John Burchard. (1933). The Evolving House: Volume I A History Of The Home. Cambridge: The Technology Press, MIT. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.156469/.
[for discussion and images of row-housing forms from many different building cultures ancient, indigenous, to modern].

Booth, Philip (1980). "Speculative Housing and the Land Market in London 1660-1730: Four Case Studies." The Town Planning Review, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Oct., 1980), pp. 379-398. in /Readings

Clemoes, Charlie. "Houses as Money: The Georgian Townhouse in London." Failed Architecture, 27 November 2014. https://failedarchitecture.com/georgian-townhouse/.

Defoe, Daniel (1707). An Essay on Projects.

Defoe, Daniel. (1724). A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain.

[note: according to Fishman in Bourgeois Utopias, the view of London which Defoe narrates in A Tour was from near Clapham Common, which would soon become the home base of the "Clapham Sect" aka 'Saints' reformers, who among other things were formational in the development of the modern anti-urban ideology and practices of suburbanism].

Forrest, Adam (2016) "How London might have looked: five masterplans after the great fire of 1666." (discussing an exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects: "Creation from Catastrophe – How Architecture Rebuilds Communities." Also part of the Guardian Cities series, "Unbuilt Cities"). The Guardian, 25 Jan 2016.

Foyle, Jonathan (2019). "A secret history of the townhouse: Uniform terraces are among the best designs to accommodate the needs of urban families." Financial Times, 14 February 2019. https://www.ft.com/content/0a6c56c8-1010-11e9-b2f2-f4c566a4fc5f.

Gray MN, Millsap AA. "Subdividing the Unzoned City: An Analysis of the Causes and Effects of Houston’s 1998 Subdivision Reform." Journal of Planning Education and Research. July 2020. DOI link: https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X20935156.

Gwynn, John. (1766). London and Westminster improved. https://archive.org/details/b3041040x.

Hamilton, Emily (2020). "Want More Housing? Ending Single-Family Zoning Won’t Do It." ["To add more affordable “missing middle” homes, cities need to change parking requirements and limits on building and lot size, too."]. Bloomberg CityLab, July 29, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-15/the-history-of-amsterdam-s-canal-houses.

Hogan, Mark. "A Brief History of Evil Developers in Movies." CityLab, December 23, 2017.

Hollis, Leo (2008). The Phoenix: St. Paul's Cathedral And The Men Who Made Modern London. https://books.google.com/books?id=new3AgAAQBAJ.

Jenkins, Simon (1975). Landlords to London: The Story of a Capital and Its Growth. https://books.google.com/books?id=UWR4w9apCHoC.

McCulloch, J. R., editor. A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Economical Tracts. 1859, https://books.google.com/books?id=Nn2DDwAAQBAJ.

McKellar, Elizabeth (1999). The Birth of Modern London: The Development and Design of the City 1660-1720. Manchester University Press, 1999.  [partly available at Google Books: https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Birth_of_Modern_London/knRh5EOwaOEC].
[print available at PSU Millar library].

Muthesius, Stefan. The English Terraced House. Yale University Press, 1982. [Tim has print copy].

North, Roger. Notes of Me (1890).
    North's observations on Nicholas Barbon in this memoir are a key source of information about Barbon's practices and reputation in his time. It was written probably 1693-98, 1st published in 1890 in
The lives of the Right Hon. Francis North, baron Guilford; the Hon. Sir Dudley North; and the Hon. and Rev. Dr. John North: together with the Autobiography of the Author, edited by Augustus Jessop, published by George Bell & Sons, London: https://archive.org/details/livesofrighthonf03nortuoft/.
    In 2000 University of Toronto Press published a complete version as
Notes of Me: The Autobiography of Roger North, based on the surviving manuscripts in the British Library. From that edition: "North was an English writer, lawyer, and polymath. In this autobiography, he wanders the intellectual, political, and cultural fields of Restoration England, mapping the state of his country and the state of his selfhood." https://www.google.com/books/edition/Notes_of_Me/_-CgUze1TRwC.

Olsen, Donald. (1964, 1982). Town Planning in London: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Yale University Press, 1964; 2nd edition, 1982).  [Tim has page scans of 1964 edition available at Internet Archive, may order copy of 1982 edition].

Paterson, Mike (2011). "Understanding Early Terrace Housing." London Historians' Blog, 19 July, 2011. https://londonhistorians.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/understanding-early-terrace-housing/.

Retford, Kate, and Susanna Avery-Quash (2019). The Georgian London Town House: Building, Collecting and Display. London: Bloomsbury.

Schoenauer, Norbert Shoenauer. 6,000 Years of Housing (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2000). [for discussions of row housing forms in global dwelling history.   -- Tim has copy].

Stewart, John. (1771). Critical Observations on the Buildings and Improvements of London.  https://archive.org/details/b31875154/.

Stewart, Rachel. (2009). The Town House in Georgian London. Yale University Press, 2009.

Stow, John. A Survey of London (original spelling: A Survay of London), 1598, revised 1603. 
source A: https://books.google.com/books?id=kJ0NAAAAIAAJ.
source B: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A13053.0001.001/1:87?rgn=div1;vid=27673.

Summerson, John. Georgian London. (1945, 1962, 1969, 1978, 1988). https://archive.org/details/georgianlondon0000summ/.

Wikipedia (En). "Nicholas Barbon." Accessed 23 April, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Barbon.

Textual Notes

An Apology for the Builder

Text source: Text Creation Partnership, University of Michigan Library,
License: CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

Text re-edited by Tim McCormick, 2020, to remove line breaks judged non-semantic, and remove word-break indicators, from TCP text version. Visually collated against reprint in J. R. McCulloch, A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Economical Tracts, 1859. https://books.google.com/books?id=Nn2DDwAAQBAJ&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&lpg=PP1&dq=%22An%20apology%20for%20the%20builder%22&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=%22An%20apology%20for%20the%20builder%22&f=false

A Survay of London, 1598

Text from Text Creation Partnership, University of Michigan:  https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A13053.0001.001/1:87?rgn=div1;vid=27673;view=fulltext

1908 Oxford Clarendon Press reprint of 1603 edition:

Text re-edited, corrected, reformatted (e.g. removing line-breaks judged non-semantic) from TCP edition, visually collated to 1908 Oxford Clarendon Press reprint of 1603 edition; and spelling modernized, translations of Latin quotations provided: by Tim McCormick 2020.

An Essay on Projects

1697 1st edition: digitized by Google Books:

Text version from TCP:

Pantianos Classics edition of 1887 edition (modernized English) with introduction by Henry Morley. https://www.amazon.com/Essay-Upon-Projects-Daniel-Defoe/dp/1543102484/.

Project Notes

April 2, 2021

Feb 19, 2021 - Fri

call - Sonja Tim

added section about building of modern Bath
now World Heritage Site and global exemplum of beautiful terraced housing. The work of architect John Woods (the Elder) creating modern Bath is, hugely celebrated, popular, and landmarked. How it came out of the same speculative estate developments pioneered by Barbon, and absorbed by Woods in his early career working on Cavendish estate/square in West End, is a much less known, but imo illuminating and capitalist heart-warming story.
Woods is sort of the later, good Barbon, also a total Projector and kook, but with revered outcome, creating perhaps the ultimate exemplum of terraced housing as urbane and beautiful urban form.

I've also substantially fleshed out the closing chapter "The promise of terraced housing today, and other paths taken since 1800". As discussed previously, there is loads bubbling in policy/current debates that ties directly into this:

Kid's love terraces! 
I'm considering working into the book that
Soviet cartoon "Magic Wand" (1972, dir. by Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg) posted by @SovietOoC:

Based on real essays by schoolchildren about what would society be like if they had a magic wand. This kid wanted an infinite commie bloc

because it brilliantly illustrates ideas and appeal of terraced housing. It shows individual buildings/houses assembling into a row, then being unified in height and then graced with a lovely river flowing across the top, turning into a joyously ongoing flow of building and motion (river - street).


Feb 12, 2020

call - Sonja / Tim

substantial new sections written this week.

including: Introduction - City of Bath, Notes on the related texts

new portions and editing of the closing / afterword chapter:

"The promise of terraced housing today, and other paths taken since 1800"

Note another major tie-in this has to today, at especially to Berkeley / San Francisco, is it discusses and connects with examples of the earliest municipal / public housing.

-> opportunity perhaps to engage with Berkeley Councilmember Terry Taplin, and other legislators and people advocating & interested in these proposals.

See:  #SocialHousingBerkeley.

Parts of this chapter might be written for, or or used for, articles/posts engaging the California and Berkeley legislative efforts.

Feb 5, 2020

call - Sonja / Tim

Discussed how town/rowhouse building, and lot-division facilitation to make it much more possible, has recently become a leading discussion among planners / housing advocates. Nolan Gray, GGW and others writing on Houston lot-size-minimum reform; in California with the lot-division bill proposed last year; and most particularly in Oregon.

Tim was just on call with "Build Small Coalition" of advocates, officials, builders

Tim - noted reasons for inclusion of Gwynn's "On Public Magnificence":
1. brings book up to 'book' size.
2. Gwnn is a close observer but also imaginative reformer/imaginer of London, who surveys essentially the London that Barbon & peers built, and finds it really lacking, ramshackle, unorderly -- a clear critique of speculative models a la Barbon, and also contrast to typical long -term and present opinion about Georgian London, West Ends urban fabric & townhousing, etc.
3. "On Public Magnificence" could be seen as almost the founding document of urban planning in the UK. Gwynn became a lead founder of the Royal Academy, very influential in building institutions of cultural authority which came to include town planning organizations and departments. Indicatively, Gwynn bundled this essay to publish it, with what is essentially the first thorough survey of English arts across all forms.
    Because of this context, influence, and the distinct + probing view of London 75 years after Barbon, we think this is a valuable complement to Barbon and something of potential independent interest to various people e.g. in planning field and UK.


Dec 26, 2020

1. [tm]: I've incorporated into doc 2 proposed additional text,

a) the portrait of Nicholas Barbon from memoir of Roger North, an eminent barrister at the Temple.

b) "A Discourse on Public Magnificence," by John Gwynn, 1766, published as part of his London and Westminster Improved.

Much of this is a detailed and insightful critique of London speculative development, particularly in the West End, over the preceding century since the Great Fire.

Also, this seems to me a case of a semi-lost seminal text. It and the author were famous in their time, and are subsequently referred to by almost any history of London building/planning. It could be seen as almost singularly foundational to the field of urban planning as it arose in London. But it is available only in online scanned version of the 1766 edition, with archaic spelling and formatting making it difficult for modern readers to use.  

Therefore, as with "An Essay of Projects", I speculate that it's not only interesting and relevant relating to Barbon, but in a modernized and print edition may independently be interesting and worth buying to whole other audiences, e.g. in planning, planning history, London history.

2. [tm] in last few months one development is I've had a number of interesting twitter chats or threads relating Barbon or terraced housing to contemporary issues.

[various - cites needed]:  on single-unit vs multi-unit building in contemporary housing reform discussions.
Nolan Gray, Emily Hamilton, in CityLab etc have written about lot division (e.g. Houston success case) and the ongoing preferences for and adaptability of ownership, single-unit-per-lot housing.

Dec 26: response to Ben Rogers, founding director of the Centre for London, and Feargus O'Sullivan, Citylab's European correspondent, after an article by O'Sullivan on Amsterdam canal housing:

Dec 22: response to
Molly Brady @mollyxbrady
Assistant Prof, Harvard Law School, writing on the development of property institutions, land use, private law, and eminent domain.
On disease as rationale for zoning / housing regulation, and applying Kant's "crooked timber" / straight trees allegory to housing forms.

Dec 15, with Chris Elmendorf, UC Davis law professor, also Ethan Stuckmeyer, Senior Planner of Housing Programs at the State of Oregon's Department of Land Conservation and Development, on lot division and row housing in "single family housing" reform:

Aug 14: response to Ben Derbyshire IPPRIB @ben_derbyshire
Immediate Past President @RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects). Discussing history of Bath, England's speculative public magnificence.
Commissioner, @HistoricEngland

July 28 - with architect friend Morgan Pintarich, on family form and architecture:

July 30 call, Tim/Sonja

ISBN assignment

  done via Bowker - https://www.myidentifiers.com/identify-protect-your-book/isbn/buy-isbn.

Print on Demand - Ingram

Page Count: (can be any multiple of 2, between 18 and 1050).

Wide range of [page] sizes is available, and prices aren't affected much by it (i.e. range of sizes are printed on same size paper, just trimmed different amounts.

Example price calculation:

500 copies,        B&W body, 4 x 7 " (178x102 mm) mass-market paperback size

64 pages, perfect-bound on Creme paper w/Matte cover, color printed        

Usually prints in 22 business days.        $ 1.95        $ 975.0


Total:  $1,120.89         incl Commercial Ground shipping.

$1,598.18        for 64 pages, 500 copies:         ($3.25/book

$2,236.38        for 64 pages, 1000 copies:         ($2.24/book)

$3,190.95        for 128 pages, 1000 copies:   ($3.19/book)

$1,640.05        for 128 pages, 500 copies, 5 x 8" size (trade paper).

$3,194.81        for 128 pages, 1000 copies, 5" x 8"

$8,215.65        Hardbound, 218pp, 1000 copies, 5" x 8"

- The pricing is almost linear with quantity, except for slight effect of s/h.

- Larger format (5x8" trade paper) is nearly same price as 4 x 7".

- cover is always color printed.

- hardbound is > 2x the price.

I was pleasantly surprised by the cost calculation:

total cost, with shipping, $1,120 - $3,194 for 500-1000 copies, 4 x 7" or 5 x 8" size, color cover standard, .

Off the top of my head, I imagine doing a 128-page book 5 x 8", costs us $3.19 - $3.50/book, delivered. Selling for $10, + $2 s/h media rate or $3 1st class.  $6.50 gross profit per book.

June 18

May 3

Forward draft by Sonja Trauss.

Word count:

Short excerpt

Long excerpt


Apology for the Builder




Survey of London


(Tim selection)


(Entire "A Discourse of the names and first causes..")

“100s of pages”

Essay on Projects

1887 Introduction


Defoe patron dedication


Main text

(Author’s intro,
1st 2 sections)


Visuals? Maps, diagrams

Word counts

An Apology for the Builder
   7588 words

A Survey of London (John Stow)

An Essay on Projects

for this edition - Tim's suggestion:

  1. Forward, 1-2000 words
  2. Introduction - 2-3000 words
  3. An Apology for the Builder - 7600 words
  4. A Survey of London - long excerpt: 2000 words
  5. An Essay on Projects, section - 4500 words
  6. TOTAL - 19,000 words


May 1

video call, Tim McCormick and Vincent Woo, 5-5:30pm.
Sonja didn't show, we went ahead without her.

Vincent has a version of the "Apology" laid out in Vellum book app.

Vincent asked what sources Tim had for text.

Tim:  TCP / UMichigan transcription, + Google Books version of reprint in J. R. McCulloch, A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Economical Tracts, 1859.  Google Prints view may not have all of it.

Sonja has been working on an introduction. Vincent shared copy to Tim. Sonja's Introduction draft (GDoc, restricted access).

Discussed approach of having a joint or several front-matter essays, e.g. a Preface and an Introduction.  Perhaps Tim might contribute more of a historical context discussing Barbon in relation to other writers like John Stow and Daniel Defoe, and the history of speculative and terrace building.

Discussed whether/how to include supplementary works such as Stow "A Survey of London" excerpt and all/excerpt of Defoe's "An Essay on Projects". Could be just referred to in an introduction, or excerpted within an introduction, or also presented as separate sections, or not at all.

Tim: having supplemental work may be helpful for making the edition more substantial ie value for the money, and perhaps for attracting other buyers, e.g. interested in having a convenient edition of Defoe's essay.  (Defoe's first published work, but not that easily available in print it seems).

Pricing:  discussed, should this be "at cost", or the most we could get for it, etc?
Vincent suggests around $10 would be good price.

Tim: I'd like to make money on this if possible, in the spirit of Nicholas Barbon himself.  [note: I, and we, are working on this speculatively, i.e. "on spec" as said in building/design trades.  The question of why we would do this, or even think to, bears upon understanding Barbon and his times].

Can imagine selling hundreds to thousands of copies if produced and marketed well.

Visuals: Tim notes that he's been collecting some, including views of London before and after Great Fire. Recounts that one such view in particularly, 1749 panoramic by S. & N. Buck, is very familiar and meaningful to him because it was hanging in entryways of his parents' houses in London & US for much of his life. Also, his grandparents on mother's side came to London pre-WWII from rural Ireland, with little education or money; grandfather and most of his relatives worked in building trades, among the few areas in which they were allowed and able to work. Rebuilding after WWII helped them thrive, as his mother was growing up - became homeowners, sent children to college.

Next steps:
Vincent to talk to Sonja.

Tim keep working on an introduction / historical context essay.

Tim share visuals research with Vincent.


YIMBY Press Happy Hour - Apology For Builder book

Friday, May 1⋅5:00 – 6:00pm

Conference:  whereby.com/tmccormick


Sonja Trauss

Vincent Woo

Description:Happy Hour! & checkin re YIMBY Press book project - edition of An Apology for the Builder (1685).

Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/i/status/1251717923694981121

1st iteration of book, and project notes: in a Google Doc, reachable by  

bit.ly/apologyforthebuilder or apologyforthebuilder.housing.wiki.

Tim's task:

"a sales one pager." "a marketing plan - ads, ad copy. It seems simple, ad copy isn’t a lot of writing but ... can you take a stab at it?"

-> more info needed about goals, budget, market, etc, what done on previous book(s) to use or copy or not.

Tim will try to discuss more with Vincent and/or Sonya before meeting, via Twitter or maybe email. Vincent: follow @tmccormick so I can  DM you.

Research Notes

Barbon's post-Great Fire operations described in Hollis (2008). The Phoenix: St. Paul's Cathedral And The Men Who Made Modern London.

Barbon discussed in Landlords to London: The Story of a Capital and Its Growth (Simon Jenkins, 1975).

Nice contemporaneous description of cites given in Stow, A Survey of London (1598), cited by Lewis Mumford in 'What Is a City?" Architectural Record, 1937.

Barbon is quoted at the start of Marx's Capital to illustrate the idea of pure commodity, i.e. exchange value:

"But the exchange of commodities is evidently an act characterised by a total abstraction from use value. Then one use value is just as good as another, provided only it be present in sufficient quantity. Or, as old Barbon says,

“one sort of wares are as good as another, if the values be equal. There is no difference or distinction in things of equal value ... An hundred pounds’ worth of lead or iron, is of as great value as one hundred pounds’ worth of silver or gold.”[8]

As use values, commodities are, above all, of different qualities, but as exchange values they are merely different quantities, and consequently do not contain an atom of use value."

Red Lion Square

one of Nicholas Barbon's major developments. Going strong 350 years later!

(above: Red Lion Square ca.1800)

A history 1650-1750 from Redlionsquare.uk


A history from London Gardens Trust


Red Lion Square was laid out between 1698 and 1700 by Dr Nicholas Barbon (1637-1699), and was named after the nearby Red Lion Inn in Holborn. Barbon was one of the major developers in the early history of London squares, who pursued profits ruthlessly and dishonestly. He routinely ignored the law and often demolished buildings and built new houses without the permission of the owners. He forced through the development of Red Lion Square in his usual style, facing down fierce opposition from the lawyers of Gray's Inn, which led on one occasion to a physical fight between Barbon's men and the lawyers.

Most of the buildings around the square were replaced in the 19th and 20th centuries, but numbers 14 to 17 are houses originally built by Nicholas Barbon around 1686, which were re-fronted in the 19th century.

Number 17, where you are standing, was briefly the residence of poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), who founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of painting. Five years later, he recommended the rooms to his friends William Morris (1834-1896) and Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), despite their dampness and decrepitude. It was here that Morris first tried his hand at furniture and textile design, producing the first of the medieval-style furnishings which gave rise to the Arts and Crafts movement. Burne-Jones too began to paint the quasi-medieval subjects for which he later became famous.

In 1861 Morris, Burne-Jones and Rossetti set up a design business together at No. 8 Red Lion Square, to produce high- quality furniture and fittings using traditional craft methods. Their housekeeper, known as 'Red Lion Mary', did much of the sewing and tapestry, and also contributed to some of Morris's designs.


Unrealized plans for rebuilding City of London

Red Lion Square occupies former fields near Gray's Inn, so one of the various developments by Barbon and others that in post-Great Fire London, filled in the area between City of London and City of Westminster.  

What didn't happen, and which we might imagine the alternative influences it they had, is Sir Christopher Wren's and others' plans for rebuilding the City of London. In Wren and some other plans, winding mediaeval thoroughfares would have been replaced by grand, radial boulevards. For example, from Customs House to Royal Exchange, and from Exchange to St Pauls:

Wren's and other unrealized post-Great Fire plans are discussed in "How London might have looked: five masterplans after the great fire of 1666." (discussing an exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects: "Creation from Catastrophe – How Architecture Rebuilds Communities."  The Guardian, 25 Jan 2016 [Forrest 2016]:

“'I think Wren’s is the most practical and interesting of all the plans,' says Charles Hind, RIBA’s chief curator. 'But personally I’m glad his scheme didn’t get built. I think it would have still been essentially un-English to masterplan on that scale. I rather like the higgledy-piggledy, piecemeal nature of London’s development over the centuries.'"

"Charles II admired Wren’s design, and made him one of six commissioners appointed to oversee rebuilding work. But unlike in Lisbon, where the Portuguese king ordered a completely new city after the earthquake of 1755, Charles would not get the chance to give Wren a blank canvas. Property owners soon asserted their rights and began building again on plots along the lines of the previous medieval street pattern."

"Jes Fernie, curator of the Riba exhibition, agrees that if the Wren plan had come to pass, London might have become something akin to 19th-century Paris, when Georges-Eugene Haussmann’s vast redevelopment cleared the poor from the centre of the city.

“'I imagine that if Wren’s plan had been approved, there would have been an element of social cleansing,' she says. “It could have resulted in a more coherent, less confusing city, but I suppose a lot of people would have struggled to afford to live in grand townhouses along the boulevards.'"

"Richard Newcourt’s eerily repetitive plan featured rigid rows of church squares within rectangular plots – a scheme that would influence the lay-out of Philadelphia in the 1680s.

(above: Richard Newcourt's plan for rebuilding City of London, 1666).

“'What’s so strange and lovely about that particular plan is that it’s so anti-capitalist, in a way,' says Fernie. 'All of the others recognise London as a trading entity, based around trading centres. But this plan only outlines for churches, as if to say, "all we need is God".'"

Design / Typography notes

Book dimensions

5.5 x 8.5" is how, so far, I've been mocking this up in Google Docs

Fell types  

Right: Specimen of Fell type English roman, quoting Cicero's First Oration against Catiline.

[from Wikipedia]:
"From mid-16th century until the end of the 17th, interference with printing by the British Crown thwarted the development of
type founding in England—most type used by 17th-century English printers was of Dutch origin.

"In the 1660s, after the English Civil Wars and the Restoration, the Bishop of Oxford
Doctor John Fell became determined to firmly establish an Oxford University Press, which had existed only sporadically before then. He decided to purchase punches & matrices from Holland c. 1670–1672 for use by the Oxford University Press, establish a central printing plant (in the cellar of the new Sheldonian Theatre designed by Christopher Wren) and also hire two experienced Dutch typefounders, Harman Harmanz and Peter de Walpergen, to work in Oxford for the Press.

"The so-named Fell types, presumed to be the work of Dutch punchcutter Dirck Voskens [some sources say Peter de Walpergen -tm], mark a noticeable jump from previous designs [compare e.g. Garamond], with considerably shorter extenders, higher stroke contrast, narrowing of round letters, and flattened serifs on the baseline and descenders. The design retained a retrogressive old-style irregularity, smooth modeling from vertical to horizontal, and angled stressing of rounds (except a vertically stressed o).

"Fell capitals were condensed, even-width, with wide flattened serifs; all characteristics of the definitive modern romans of the late 18th century. Fell italic types were distinguished by high contrast matching the Fell romans; wider ovals; a split-branching stroke from the stems of m n r and u; and long, flat serifs—prefiguring modern. They repeated the non-uniform slant of French models, and the capitals included swash J and Q forms."

Note: not only did Fell Types have notable irregularity in their own design, but the often relatively crude presses of the time and wearing-out of type also introduced a lot of irregularity in alignment/position, compared to modern machine- or computer-set type. Digital recreations of the Fell Types, such as from Hoefler Text Foundry, have tended to include a high degree of irregularity and even simulated degradation, to replicate these qualities of that era's printing.  -tm.

Igino Marini - The Fell Types.


"marketing plan - ads, ad copy" 1 page

"An Apology for the Builder," written by Barbon in 1685, is the manifesto of post-Great Fire London's polymath pioneer of speculative mass building, terrace housing, fire insurance, and debt financing.  Trained as a doctor, legendary as early Georgian London's most prolific builder, Barbon became famous as a leading theorist & exponent of market structures, well before Adam Smith; even being cited by Marx in the first paragraph of Capital for his lucid explanation of commodities and exchange value.

YIMBY Press's new edition of Barbon's Apology restores this landmark essay for the 21st Century housing activist, political activist, citizen, reader-of-news, person with opinions, person who desires to have correct opinions [how do we make this seem the most widely interesting?] . Controversies over housing - whether to build it, where to build it - are not novel to our time, but in fact have been raging almost entirely unchanged since the dawn of capitalism in the English speaking world.

This new edition contains a forward by housing activist Sonja Trauss [explaining what’s going on in the essay] and drawing parallels to modern controversies. In addition, long with the Apology, this edition presents fascinating contemporaneous discussions of the city as perceived before and after Great Fire, and the emergence of 'projectors' or inventor/speculators: from leading chroniclers such as John Stow (A Survey of London, 1598) and Daniel Defoe ("An Essay on Projects", 1707).  

Barbon's not-entirely-heroic role in the invention of modern market housing development, and England's world-influential model of mass terrace housing, is examined  via observations of contemporaries such as Samuel Pepys and architectural historians like John Summerson.

Old / backgrounded materials

While public / social housing is often tthough of as non-speculative, there are various ways it may have, or arguably is helped by having, speculative components. It means tying or sharing success outcomes to the organizations that plan and run the project. If that's not done, certain systematic problems can be predicted. More generally, complex long-term endeavours like housing development need careful consideration of what dynamics, incentives, and adaptability are built into them, and how well they might be predicted to create sustainable successful outcomes.


mixed-income redevelopment, e.g. Hope VI or Choice Neighborhoods Initiative or UK council regeneration schemes. If the project requires attracting & retaining higher-income residents, this is ongoing incentive to manage the project well, maintain it, etc. (although it must be kept in balance, also, lest the incentives arise to focus mainly on serving these better-of residents, as has been accused of many HOPE VI & regeneration programs).

in the 1968 HUD Act's landmark Section 236 program, supporting private development of affordable rental housing, developers had a payoff only after 25 years. This created strong incentive to create a thriving housing project to have a high valuation at that time. A lot has to be done right to get to that 25 years later!

[1] Nicholas Barbon: “A Discourse Concerning Coining the New Money Lighter. In Answer to Mr. Locke’s Considerations, &c.”, London, 1696, pp. 53 and 7.

[2] As reviewed by Mark Hogan in "A Brief History of Evil Developers in Movies." CityLab, December 23, 2017.