VICTORIAN LONDON WAS a city on a scale such as the world had never seen before. In 1801, with just under a million people, London was close behind Edo, then the world's largest city. 1 By 1851, with slightly over two million people, it was comfortably ahead of its rivals; and in 1901 there were over six million Londoners— nearly twice as many as in New York, which ran second. By now a quarter of London's population lived beyond the county boundaries in places like West Ham, Tottenham or Willesden, which had their own independent local government, but were in all other respects no more than suburbs of the great city. The characteristic habitat of the Londoner was a terrace of two- or three-storey houses, with a family living on each floor, and a yard or small garden at the back. The prevalence of low-rise living meant that in proportion to its huge population, London spread even further than did cities of tenement dwellers, such as Berlin or New York. And as it grew, London had inevitably engulfed towns, like Woolwich, Greenwich and Croydon, as well as numerous villages and hamlets.
Victorian London had three focal points, each representing a different aspect of the city's economy and a different section of its population: the City of London, the City of Westminster and the river Thames. The City of London, the historic nucleus from which all else had grown, had a population of only twenty-six thousand at the end of the nineteenth century. But its banks, offices, law courts and newspapers provided employment for several hundred thousand people. Every