1357 | London

Cradle of Filth

If you smell something, say something.

The king to the mayor and sheriffs of our city of London, greeting.

Considering that the streets and lanes and other places in the city and the suburbs thereof, in the times of our forefathers and our own, were wont to be cleaned from dung, laystalls, and other filth and were wont heretofore to be protected from the corruption arising therefrom, from which no little honor did accrue unto the said city and those dwelling therein, and whereas now, when passing along the water of Thames, we have beheld dung and laystalls and other filth accumulated in divers places and have also perceived the fumes and other abominable stenches arising therefrom; from the corruption of which, if tolerated, great peril as well to the persons dwelling within the said city, as to the nobles and others passing along the said river, will, it is feared, ensue unless, indeed, some fitting remedy be speedily provided for the same. We, wishing to take due precaution against such perils and to preserve the honor and decency of the city, do command that you cause as well the banks of the said river as the streets and lanes of the city and the suburbs thereof to be cleaned without delay, and the same when cleaned so to be kept; and in the city and the suburbs thereof public proclamation to be made, and it on our behalf strictly forbidden that anyone shall, on pain of heavy forfeiture unto us, place or cause to be placed dung or other filth to be accumulated in the same. And if any persons, after proclamation and prohibition so made, you shall find doing to the contrary hereof, you are to cause them so to be chastised and punished that such penalty and chastisement may cause fear and dread unto others perpetrating the like. And this, as you would preserve yourself safe and would avoid our heavy indignation, you are in nowise to omit.

About This Text

From the Letter Books of the City of London. A set of folio volumes containing proceedings, ordinances, and other city business records from the early years of the reign of Edward I to near the end of the reign of James II, this collection derives its name from the alphabetical characters inscribed on the volumes’ spines. Another ordinance, from 1345, describes how brewers and malt makers were depleting a conduit’s potable water “to the common loss of the whole community.” A fine was imposed of four pennies and the loss of the tankard or tine used to carry the water.