London Lives, 1690-1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis


London Lives ( makes available, in a fully digitised and searchable form, a wide range of primary sources about eighteenth-century London, with a particular focus on plebeian Londoners. This resource includes over 240,000 manuscript and printed pages from eight London archives and is supplemented by fifteen datasets created by other projects. It provides access to historical records containing over 3.35 million name instances. Because place names in these sources were marked up, it is possible to map much of this data in Locating London's Past, but please note that not all data from London Lives is included on this website.

For more information about London Lives, see the site's About this Project page.


The choice of sources included in London Lives was largely determined by the research agenda behind the project, which was to demonstrate that the pressures created by plebeian users of criminal justice, poor relief, and other social services shaped the development of these institutions. Consequently, the resource has strong collections of records concerning poor relief and criminal justice. Also included are hospital and guild records. Although the project sought to include comprehensive archival collections, the nature of the documents or the sheer volume of available sources limited what could be included. Where it was not possible to include the records of all relevant archives, as with the large number of parishes and guilds, representative examples of complete archives with good record survival were chosen.

Beyond this, London Lives includes a number of externally created datasets which, although their focus is not always on plebeian Londoners, do include information on many of the Londoners who appear in the other records included on the site. These include tax and voting records, wills, fire insurance registers, and urban directories.

For a list of the records included in London Lives, see the site's browse pages. Comprehensive information about each document type included is provided on the site's document type background pages.

Geographical Information in London Lives

Temple Bar in the Strand, London, Thomas I. Malton. The Courtauld Institute of Art, D.1952.RW.4316. © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London. Temple Bar in the Strand, London, Thomas I. Malton. The Courtauld Institute of Art, D.1952.RW.4316. © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London..

In order to facilitate structured searching, the text was marked up (or tagged) in XML. Although the particular focus of the project was on names, also tagged were occupations, places, and dates. The markup, however, is neither comprehensive nor entirely accurate.

The markup was done by a combination of automated and manual processes. The former used a combination of dictionaries derived from the Old Bailey Proceedings, a sample of manually tagged data from the project, and natural language processing to identify names, occupations, places and dates. Manual checking was then carried out in order to eliminate false positives and add some markup missed by the automated process. Owing to the time-consuming nature of the manual process and the limited funding available, this procedure was not applied to all documents to the same level. Where accurate results are required, users are advised to consult the tagging level description for the particular documents they are interested in, in order to determine the extent of markup achieved.

All tagged place names in London Lives, which were highly variable in form, were then processed using the Geocoder to standardise them so that they could be mapped on this website.

Mapping London Lives

Twenty-two of the thirty-nine document types digitised especially for the London Lives project are mappable in Locating London's Past. Those omitted contain very little precise geographical information, do not provide it routinely, or are miscellaneous collections of documents. The document types from the main collection of documents which can be mapped are accessed via four search pages. There are separate search pages for the additional datasets.

To map data from London Lives, go to the Data search page and choose the appropriate form. You can then show all data or select a subset of the data according to criteria specified in the search boxes. In particular, you may wish to specify a specific document type.

There are separate search pages for Coroners' Inquests, Criminal Justice, Hospital and Guild Records, and Poor Relief.

Coroners' Inquests

These provide evidence about the locations of suspicious deaths. There are separate collections for the City of London, Westminster, and Middlesex, each of which covers different dates. For more information, see Coroners' Inquests into Suspicious Deaths.

Criminal Justice

Four types of records are included.

The Criminal Registers were first created in 1791, in response to the perception of rising crime rates in the late 1780s. They list prisoners held at Newgate Prison, many of whom were tried at the Old Bailey, and include information about the criminals' places of birth, many of which were outside London, as well as the locations of their trials. For more information, see Criminal Registers of Prisoners in Middlesex and the City.

The Minutes of the Bridewell Court of Governors record decisions taken with respect to petty criminals who had been apprehended in the City of London as well as other business. Not all locations in these documents, therefore, pertain to crime. For more information, see Minutes of the Court of Governors of Bridewell.

The Ordinary's Accounts, biographies of the convicts executed at Tyburn, provide information about the places of origin of convicts (many of which were outside the metropolis), and their haunts and residences in London. This information is not, however, provided in structured form, so different types of place information (birthplace, place of residence, crime location) are combined together in the same source. The results of any mapping exercise, therefore, need to be interpreted carefully. For more information, see Ordinary's Accounts: Biographies of Executed Convicts.

The Sessions Papers are files of documents relating to the work of Justices of the Peace which were kept by clerks of the peace. They include several different types of documents, relating to the prosecution of criminals, the administration of poor relief and the settlement laws, and other aspects of local government. There are separate series for the City of London, Middlesex, Westminster, and, from 1755, the Old Bailey, and with the exception of the latter (which only include criminal informations, depositions and examinations), the contents of the separate archives are broadly similar. For more information, see Sessions Papers: Justices' Working Documents. Because this document type includes so many different types of information, interpreting the mapped results can be difficult.

Because the Old Bailey Proceedings are included in Locating London's Past through the separate Old Bailey Proceedings database, they are not included here.

Hospital and Guild Records

The Bridewell Apprenticeship Registers, kept from 1784, record apprentices who were trained at Bridewell, including the name and residence of their parents. For more information, see Register of Bridewell Apprentices.

The Minute Books of the Carpenters' Company Court of Assistants record a number of different types of business, including the appointment of Company officers; decisions concerning apprenticeships and admittance to the freedom and livery of the Company; distribution of charity to company members; the receipt of dues; and the administration of the Company's portfolio of properties. Many of the place names mentioned are the places of origin of apprentices bound to members of the Company, but the results of any mapping exercise need to be interpreted carefully. For more information, see Carpenters' Company Minute Books.

Poor Relief

Several types of poor relief records can be mapped. These come from two parishes, St Botolph Aldgate, a large parish straddling the eastern boundary of the City of London and Middlesex, and St Clement Danes, a large Westminster parish located just outside the western boundary of the City of London, and from Bridewell Hospital in the City of London.

Lists of those in receipt of relief, with some information about places of residence, are found in Lists of Paupers Receiving Parish Relief for both parishes, and the Registers of Fortnightly/Monthly Parish Pensioners in 1733 for St Clement Danes.

Lists of workhouse inmates are found in the List of Inmates of St Clement Danes Workhouse in 1785 and the Register of Paupers Admitted to the St Botolph's Workhouse. Both contain information about places of residence.

Records of Settlement, Vagrancy and Bastardy Examinations are available for both parishes. These include evidence about paupers' current and previous places of residence, and their parishes of settlement. More information about illegitimacy cases can be found in the List of Securities for the Maintenance of Bastard Children for St Clement Danes, which include the places of residence of those who provided financial guarantees that fathers would support their illegitimate children.

Finally, information about pauper apprentices, including their places of origin or residence, can be found in the Register of Bridewell Apprentices and the St Clement's Apprenticeship Indentures and Registers.

Mapping the Additional Datasets

These datasets, all of which contain significant place name evidence, were created for other projects. As explained on the London Lives webpages, to interpret these data you need to familiarise yourself with the relevant project's methodology. The copyright in this material remains with the original projects.

Fire Insurance Policy Registers 1777-1786

Includes 162,973 records detailing the contents of fire insurance policies taken out between 1777 and 1786 with the Sun and Royal Exchange insurance companies. The database includes policy holders' occupations and addresses as well as the sum insured.

The Four Shillings in the Pound Tax 1693-94

This Aid or Assessment was collected in order to finance the wars fought by King William between 1689 and 1697, and mapping the amount of taxes paid provides a measure of the distribution of wealth in London. The database incorporates all the surviving returns for 1694, supplemented by the 1693 returns where necessary (and in a small number of cases by returns from between 1694 and 1698). Entries normally include the taxpayer's occupation and location (parish and street or liberty) as well as the amount of tax levied on both personal goods and the notional rental value of any property held.

The London and Westminster Directory, 1774

This dataset includes the contents of Kent’s London Directory for the Year 1774. There are 5,548 entries, reproducing the original entries in the directory, listing the names, addresses and occupations of a selection of major householders in London and Westminster. As with all eighteenth-century urban directories, this published work included only a selection of the more prosperous inhabitants. The dataset includes information about the householder's gender and occupation (categorised by economic sector).

Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills

This dataset includes abstracted details drawn from the registers of wills proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury between the 1st of January 1680 and the 31st of December 1819. They are available for searching by name, occupation, parish and keyword.

St Botolph Aldgate Parish Registers, 1681-1709

These record baptisms, marriages and burials, together with to varying degrees evidence of the names of family relations, occupations, and places of residence. The database has 146,646 entries. It is not a transcription of the original parish register, but instead presents a structured reordering of the information provided in each entry in the register. Each entry concerns a single individual, whether as the subject of an event (baptism, marriage, death) or as a person related to the subject of an event (a parent, child, or spouse). Place name information, about the originating residence of the person baptised or the residence of the person married or died, is sometimes included.

The Westminster Historical Database: Poll Books and Rate Books

This database includes abstracted details of the contents of both poll books and rate books for Westminster for the period between 1749 and 1820. It comprises 143,840 records, reflecting either the voting behaviour or taxable rental income from property for individual householders in each of twelve years. Each set of records is searched separately. Entries include information about the occupation, street address, and parish of each individual.

For Further Information...

...go to the London Lives website, which includes extensive historical background information and help texts.

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