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Timeline
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The Irish in London

1561
A London writer describes the Irish pedlars who sell their wares from door to door.
Pedlar and Dog. Stained glass decoration in window of Saint Mary's Lambeth
Pedlar and Dog. Stained glass decoration in window of Saint Mary's Lambeth
1562
An Irish nobleman comes to Queen Elizabeth's royal court with a bodyguard of fighting men in traditional Irish dress.
A depiction of Irish People from Spede's Map of Ireland, 1606
A depiction of Irish People from Spede's Map of Ireland, 1606
1566
More than a hundred Irish beggars are wandering the roads near London. They are refugees from a local conflict in Munster.
1569
Irish lords in the province of Munster rebel against English rule. The fighting continues until 1575. The English forces devastate the countryside, burning crops, killing cattle and even murdering whole families of farmers in order to cut off the supply of food to the rebels.
1572
A new law against beggars pays special attention to preventing poor Irish people from travelling to England and Wales.
1576
An Irish nobleman states that there are a large number of Irish workers living permanently in London.
Tradesmen of London
Tradesmen of London
1579
The Irish lords in Munster rebel again.
1580
The English army returns to using terror methods against the rebels.
1583
The countryside in Munster has been so devastated that nearly everyone still there has starved to death. Some of the inhabitants have fled to England as refugees. A number of Irish beggars are rounded up in London and imprisoned in Bridewell, while plans are made to send them back to Ireland.
Bridewell Palace
Bridewell Palace
1585
It is common to see whole families of Irish people, including children, begging in the streets.
Beggar and children
Beggar and children
1586
Over the next three years, the English government confiscates large areas of land in Munster and gives it to English colonists. Some of the people whose land is taken come to the royal court. They hope to bring their grievances to the attention of the Queen.
1587
A number of poor Irish refugees from Munster are rounded up in London and sent back.
London, 1560. Ships in the Thames
London, 1560.
Ships in the Thames
1592
The Irish rebel in Ulster.
1594
A proclamation orders that everyone born in Ireland must leave England at once, unless they belong to certain acceptable groups of people.
1595
A lot of Irishmen in London work as chimney sweepers, cleaning the soot out of people's chimneys. There are so many Irish sweeps, people are beginning to make jokes about it.
Chimney Sweep. A brush can be seen coming out of a chimney in the background.
Chimney Sweep. A brush can be seen coming out of a chimney in the background.
1598
Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, wins an important victory over the English at the Battle of Yellow Ford. A rebellion breaks out in Munster and the English colonists are all either murdered or driven out.
1599
Many Irish people in England are working as servants, often as gardeners or grooms.
Tudor Coaches. Irish men were often employed as grooms
Tudor Coaches. Irish men were often employed as grooms
Gardeners
Gardeners
1600
A new English general arrives in Ireland, Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy. His main strategy is to cut off supplies to the Irish armies by devastating the countryside. This has been done before, but not as ruthlessly and systematically as it is now.
1601
Spanish forces land at Kinsale to support the Irish rebels. Mountjoy lays siege to them. The Irish armies come to their relief and are broken at the battle of Kinsale.
1603
The Earl of Tyrone, the leader of the rebels, submits to Mountjoy. For the first time, the English control the whole of Ireland .
1605
A newly built district of cheap housing in Stepney is almost entirely rented out to poor Irish immigrants. Londoners start calling it 'Knockfergus'.


Irish workingmen are becoming familiar figures in the streets of London.


The English government are becoming concerned about the numbers of poor Irish people who have been arriving in England from France.


Also in London in the autumn of this year are several hundred Irish soldiers on their way to serve the King of Spain as mercenaries.
Section of Faithorne and Newcourt's map of London, showing the Knockfergus area east of the Tower of London, 1658
Section of Faithorne and Newcourt's map of London, showing the Knockfergus area east of the Tower of London, 1658
Costers and other working people on a London street
Costers and other working people on a London street
1606
Whole families of Irish peasant-farmers are begging on the streets of London. The government considers them an eyesore.
Beggars
Beggars
1608
Surveying and planning begins officially for a new English colonial venture in Ireland, the Plantation of Ulster.
1610
The first English and Scots settlers begin to arrive to colonise Ulster. The new arrivals are Protestants. The existing population of Ireland was nearly all Roman Catholic.
1615
Irishmen in England already have a reputation for celebrating St Patrick's Day (17 March).
A crowd of people c.1620
A crowd of people c.1620
1628
Between now and 1633 there is a row of bad harvests. In Ireland, the poor have nothing to eat.
1629
Many half-starved Irish people are begging in the streets of London.

A royal proclamation orders all Irish beggars to leave the realm. No one is to give them anything in charity. Any beggars who are arrested must be punished and then sent back to Ireland , as the law requires.
1630
There is another royal proclamation. Householders must refrain from giving charity to Irish beggars, because it encourages them. Instead, they must arrest them, or arrange to have them arrested.

Poor Irish families are arriving by the shipload along the western coast of England.
London, 1560 - Ships in the Thames
London, 1560.
Ships in the Thames
1634
Yet another royal proclamation gives all beggars born in Ireland 40 days to leave the country. Otherwise they will be punished in accordance with the law.
1637
Large numbers of very poor people are settling in the parish of St Giles in the Fields.
Map Showing St Giles in The Fields
Map Showing St Giles in The Fields
1640
More Irish immigrants than usual are arriving in London and settling there.
1641
The Irish rebel in Ulster. Several thousand English and Scots settlers are murdered. A much larger number are driven from their homes and die of starvation and exposure. Very large numbers of refugee settlers from Ireland begin to arrive in England.
Scenes of fighting
Scenes of fighting
1642
Refugee Protestant settlers from Ireland are continuing to arrive in large numbers. The Civil Wars are beginning in Britain and Ireland. Refugees from Ireland will continue to flee to England throughout the 1640s and 1650s.
1698
George Farquhar, a young playwright, has recently come from Ireland. His first play, Love and a Bottle, is staged in London.
1713
The Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift describes St Patrick's Day in London.
Map of West End including St James' Park and Whitehall
Map of West End including St James' Park and Whitehall
1736
George Ward, an Irishman, is hanged at Tyburn for a burglary. When the surgeons' men come to take his corpse for dissection, a crowd of his Irish friends rescue his body and fight them off.


There are several days of violent rioting against the Irish in Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Whitechapel.
On The Way to Tyburn
On The Way to Tyburn

St Leonard's Shoreditch
St Leonard's Shoreditch
1740
The Irish actress Peg Woffington has her London debut at Covent Garden.
Interior of Covent Garden Theatre
Interior of Covent Garden Theatre
1747
John Rocque's detailed map of London gives the name Knockfergus to what is now a section of Cable Street, between Christian Street (not then built) and Cannon Street.
This is a section of a map of London published in 1747. Knockfergus and Rosemary Lane are clearly marked. Hog Lane has become Cable Street.
This is a section of a map of London published in 1747. Knockfergus and Rosemary Lane are clearly marked. Hog Lane has become Cable Street.
1751
The artist William Hogarth depicts a scene of life in St Giles in the Fields in his engraving 'Gin Lane'.


The writer Henry Fielding describes the cheap lodging houses of St Giles in the Fields and Bloomsbury . Most of the people who live in these houses are Irish./
Gin Lane by William Hogarth,1751
Gin Lane by William Hogarth,1751
1765
The London papers report the death of Mrs Farrell, an Irishwoman who had accumulated a small fortune by letting lodgings at twopence a head. Most of her customers were Irish labourers passing through London on their way to take part in the harvest or the Kent hop-picking.
Shared lodgings
Shared lodgings
1767
A Roman Catholic priest, John Baptist Maloney, is arrested for saying Mass in a house in Kent Street, Southwark. Under the laws against Catholics, he is sentenced to perpetual imprisonment, but after a time in jail, he is allowed to go into exile. Most of the Roman Catholics in Southwark belong to the well-established Irish community there.
1768
The coal-heavers, who unload the ships that bring coal to London, strike for better wages. Two-thirds of the coal-heavers are Irishmen. On St Patrick's Day the striking coal-heavers march through Wapping and Shadwell, each of them wearing a shamrock in his hat. Coal-heaving is back-breaking work. The Irish coal-heavers are renowned for their strength and toughness.
Coal ship being unloaded
Coal ship being unloaded
1769
In Spitalfields, a long-running dispute over the piece-rates paid to journeymen weavers comes to a head in riots and industrial sabotage. Irish weavers are involved on both sides of the struggle, as master-weavers and as journeymen (workmen).
Weaving Apprentices at Their Looms by Hogarth
Weaving Apprentices at Their Looms by Hogarth

Riots
Riots
1770
The Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith publishes his poem The Deserted Village.
1775
St Patrick's Day, a farce by the Irish dramatist, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, is performed at Covent Garden Theatre.
1780

Huge anti-Catholic riots, the Gordon riots, take place in London . Many Roman Catholic chapels are destroyed, as well as houses, shops, public houses and business premises owned or occupied by Catholics. A number of the people who are targeted are Irish.

Gordon Riots
Gordon Riots
1791
The Catholic Relief Act removes many of the legal restrictions that Roman Catholics in England have to live under, including restrictions on public worship.
1792
A Roman Catholic Chapel is built in Soho Square and dedicated to St Patrick. It is intended to provide a place of worship for Irish people living in slum accommodation in nearby St. Giles in the Fields.


One of the worst districts in St Giles has already begun to be referred to as the 'Rookery', the name under which it will continue to be notorious during the nineteenth century.
Rookery, St Giles
St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Soho Square

Riots
Rookery, St Giles
1794
Daniel O'Connell, a member of a wealthy Catholic Irish family, arrives to study law at Lincoln 's Inn . He comes in contact with radical ideas and becomes a supporter of religious tolerance and democracy.
Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln's Inn
1798

The United Irishmen, a radical society, organises a major uprising in Ireland against English rule. It is unsuccessful. Many of the United Irishmen take refuge in Scotland and England , where they help to spread radical ideas among the Irish people living in these countries.

Paddington Canal is being built. A large number of Irish navvies are living in huts on wasteland west of the Edgeware Road , just south of Paddington Basin . All over London , wherever any building work is taking place, such temporary colonies spring up for a while.

Paddington Canal
Paddington Canal
1800
The Act of Union is passed, abolishing the Irish Parliament. From now on there will be seats for Irish MPs in the House of Commons.
1807
The English Orange Institution is founded, with lodges in many cities, including London. It is modelled on the Orange Institution that was founded by Irish Protestants at the end of the eighteenth century as an expression of Protestant solidarity and to uphold Protestant rule.
1815
The end of the French Wars marks the end of a time of relative prosperity for the Irish farming communities. Emigration from Ireland begins to increase steadily, with both Protestant and Catholic Irish people leaving to seek a better life. At this date, most of these emigrants are leaving to settle in Britain.
1816
There is a government investigation into conditions in the Rookery, the notorious slum district of St Giles.
Street Scene from Rookery
Street Scene from Rookery
1821
This year sees the beginning of fast, cheap steamship crossings from Cork to Bristol and southern England.
1823
Daniel O'Connell founds the Catholic Association to campaign for the removal of legal restrictions on Roman Catholics.
1827
Restrictions on emigration overseas are lifted in order to encourage Irish emigrants to settle in America or Australia rather than Britain.
1828
Daniel O'Connell is elected MP for County Clare, but as a Roman Catholic, is not allowed to take up his seat.
1829
To avoid the risk of an Irish uprising over O'Connell's exclusion from Parliament, the Catholic Emancipation Act is passed. From now on Roman Catholics will be able to sit as MPs in the House of Commons, and to occupy most (but not all) public offices. One of the sights of Covent Garden around this date are the Irishwomen who act as porters in the fruit and vegetable market, carrying enormous baskets on their heads. They are stronger than most men.
Covent Garden
Covent Garden
1830
Daniel O'Connell is elected as MP for Kerry. He is active in the campaign to extend the vote to all male citizens. He also campaigns for the abolition of slavery and the granting of full civil and political rights to Jews.
1832
Feargus O'Connor, a Protestant Irish nationalist, is elected to the House of Commons as MP for Cork. SM0505 The Labourer, edited by Feargus O'Connor James Bronterre O'Brien, an Irish-born lawyer, takes over as editor of the radical daily paper The Poor Man's Guardian. The paper,which is published in London, supports trade union rights and the extension of the vote to ordinary working men.
The Labourer, edited by Feargus O'Connor
The Labourer, edited by Feargus O'Connor
1834
John Cleave a former seaman who has worked on The Poor Man's Guardian, sets up his own radical paper, Cleave's Weekly Police Gazette, to campaign for political reform.
1836
Cleave joins with several other radical activists to found the London Working Men's Association, which aims to campaign within the law for political and social equality. Among its members are James Bronterre O'Brien and Feargus O'Connor.
1838

A new Poor Law is imposed on Ireland. It is supposed to limit migration to Britain by encouraging poor people to stay in Ireland. It will have no effect. The next decade will see a huge influx of Irish immigrants to Britain.

Comment on the new Poor Law.
Comment on the new Poor Law.
1839
The first Chartist convention meets in London. A number of Irishmen are very active in the movement, including John Cleave, James Bronterre O'Brien and Feargus O'Connor.
Chartist March, 1848
Chartist March, 1848
1841

The Census of England and Wales finds 74,000 Irish-born immigrants resident in London : 3.9% of the total population of the city, or roughly one in every twenty-five Londoners.

Palm Sunday, White's Row, 1844
Palm Sunday, White's Row, 1844
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