Tour through the Eastern Counties of England, 1722

Tour through the Eastern Counties of England, 1722

Tour through the Eastern Counties of England, 1722

I began my travels where I purpose to end them, viz., at the City

of London, and therefore my account of the city itself will come

last, that is to say, at the latter end of my southern progress;

and as in the course of this journey I shall have many occasions to

call it a circuit, if not a circle, so I chose to give it the title

of circuits in the plural, because I do not pretend to have

travelled it all in one journey, but in many, and some of them many

times over; the better to inform myself of everything I could find

worth taking notice of.

I hope it will appear that I am not the less, but the more capable

of giving a full account of things, by how much the more

deliberation I have taken in the view of them, and by how much the

oftener I have had opportunity to see them.

I set out the 3rd of April, 1722, going first eastward, and took

what I think I may very honestly call a circuit in the very letter

of it; for I went down by the coast of the Thames through the

Marshes or Hundreds on the south side of the county of Essex, till

I came to Malden, Colchester, and Harwich, thence continuing on the

coast of Suffolk to Yarmouth; thence round by the edge of the sea,

on the north and west side of Norfolk, to Lynn, Wisbech, and the

Wash; thence back again, on the north side of Suffolk and Essex, to

the west, ending it in Middlesex, near the place where I began it,

reserving the middle or centre of the several counties to some

little excursions, which I made by themselves.

Passing Bow Bridge, where the county of Essex begins, the first

observation I made was, that all the villages which may be called

the neighbourhood of the city of London on this, as well as on the

other sides thereof, which I shall speak to in their order; I say,

all those villages are increased in buildings to a strange degree,

within the compass of about twenty or thirty years past at the


The village of Stratford, the first in this county from London, is

not only increased, but, I believe, more than doubled in that time;

every vacancy filled up with new houses, and two little towns or

hamlets, as they may be called, on the forest side of the town

entirely new, namely Maryland Point and the Gravel Pits, one facing

the road to Woodford and Epping, and the other facing the road to

Ilford; and as for the hither part, it is almost joined to Bow, in

spite of rivers, canals, marshy grounds, &c. Nor is this increase

of building the case only in this and all the other villages round

London; but the increase of the value and rent of the houses

formerly standing has, in that compass of years above-mentioned,

advanced to a very great degree, and I may venture to say at least

the fifth part; some think a third part, above what they were


This is indeed most visible, speaking of Stratford in Essex; but it

is the same thing in proportion in other villages adjacent,

especially on the forest side; as at Low Leyton, Leytonstone,

Walthamstow, Woodford, Wanstead, and the towns of West Ham,

Plaistow, Upton, etc. In all which places, or near them (as the

inhabitants say), above a thousand new foundations have been

erected, besides old houses repaired, all since the Revolution; and

this is not to be forgotten too, that this increase is, generally

speaking, of handsome, large houses, from 20 pounds a year to 60

pounds, very few under 20 pounds a year; being chiefly for the

habitations of the richest citizens, such as either are able to

keep two houses, one in the country and one in the city; or for

such citizens as being rich, and having left off trade, live

altogether in these neighbouring villages, for the pleasure and

health of the latter part of their days.

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Categories: Defoe, Daniel