Mary Baker, 1870s

"...taking tea at Copenhagen House..."

Mary Baker (an imaginary character) visited this place to get
away from the unpleasant smells and smoke of London.

Show transcript

Ah, isn’t it lovely to get out of the city into open space? Tell me, don’t you feel better when you’re breathing fresh air in the countryside?

I’m Mary, and I used to walk here with my husband, William, back in the time of King George III, just after the war in America… around the 1780s.

This was still all fields back then, although the City of London was just a walk away and already stretching out northwards along the roads. William said London was like a great smoky, noisy dragon sitting between here and the river and looking to gobble everything up. And the city was growing, thanks to all the money and trade pouring in from our colonies . Why, it must have been getting towards a million people by then.

But you can’t just pack a million people into an old city and hope for the best.

Believe me, walk down a main road on a hot summer’s day, past the horse dung piling up in the roadway and flies buzzing round meat hanging outside the butchers’ shops… The stink coming out of the gutters!! Grimy with rubbish and the contents of people’s chamberpots… Phew!

So if the weather was nice, William and I walked west through Aldersgate and up Maiden Lane into the country. We liked to come here, to Copenhagen House, where you could take tea, watch people playing fives, or skittles, and get some fresh air.

Everyone liked Copenhagen Fields! So many of the people living in London had come from elsewhere. For them, escaping the city into the open fields helped them find some peace.

I know it’s all changed in your time, with parks, clean air and cleaner streets. But for me, Copenhagen Fields was one thing made London bearable.

I hope you enjoy this place as much as I did. Do visit me again if you are passing…I’m always walking here.