Restoration & 18th-Century Studies in English at Western
UC Western Tower


London ca. 1676

The London Liberties

Although the city walls provided a more "concrete" symbol of the bounds of the City, the reach of the Guildhall — and the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London — extended beyond the walls, to the limits of the city "Liberties" that represented the political and legal limits of the power of city goverment. The bounds of the "Liberties" were, roughly, the Tower of London to the east, and the Temple Bar, on Fleet Street, to the west. Beyond these Liberties was Westminster, and the suburbs that would, in fact, soon be swallowed up by the prodigious growth of the city during the next century.



The bounds of the Liberties — the area between the London Wall, and the administrative limits of the City — came, in fact, to be notorious as some of London's seediest areas, or "rookeries" (as they were known). Here, beyond the relative prosperity of London within the Walls, poverty and crime were high. Not surprisingly, these areas were among the worst hit by the plague in 1665. Equally unfortunately, they were also, for the most part, spared by the Great Fire, with the result that they were not rebuilt, and continued to represent some of the most squalid areas to scar London.

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Last updated: April 25, 2002