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A do-it-yourself walk with the Godfather

Part 4: Canaletto's London

So it was that he decided to come to London in 1746. He stayed for just over 10 years- the first time he had travelled abroad. He arrived in the largest city in the world. London was then twice the size of Paris and was constantly changing. The population grew from just over 600,000 in 1700 to over 1 million by 1800. It was also a constant building site. St Paul’s Cathedral, which is such a feature of the Courtauld Canaletto Panorama, was finished in 1710, one of many new Churches. Just prior to Canaletto’s arrival Hanover Square, Grosvenor Square, St Martin’s in the Fields, New Bond Street and the new Mansion House had all appeared. During his stay and just after the Adelphi, Bedford Square and Oxford Street were added.

The English were proud of their capital City. Doctor Johnson famously said "Why Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Yet foreigners often had a different view. They complained that it was dirty, with garbage in the street and overhead water spouts, full of suffocating smoke, badly lit, with street full of ruts and holes, and noisy because of the iron rims of carriage wheels on the stones. They found Londoners thieving and riotous, and being foreigners they were spat at, stared at jostled and pushed.

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