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London dirty and rowdy, says 1605 tourist

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Written by editor

Tourists have been complaining that London is rowdy, dirty and has disgusting food for at least 400 years, according to recent research.

Tourists have been complaining that London is rowdy, dirty and has disgusting food for at least 400 years, according to recent research.

In 1605 Spanish noblewoman Luisa de Carvajal stayed in the capital and wrote back to friends complaining of the discomforts of her visit.

Her letters, which reveal how little certain aspects have changed, have just been translated into English by Dr Glyn Redworth, a senior lecturer in history at Manchester University.

The Spaniard wrote: “At times they grind me down with the noise that comes through the wall where I sleep. All you hear is the sound of meat being roasted and others cooking, eating, playing and drinking. On Fridays it gets worse.”

English cooking did not whet her appetite, she complained.

“The food looks good, but has no smell and almost no taste and is not very nourishing,” she wrote.

“You can’t keep it, even in winter, for four whole days without it going off.”

Our shopkeepers also had a canny habit of packaging their goods to make the biggest buck, she said: “Since they sell things in pieces and not by weight, you are obliged to buy more than you need for a small household. They get around this by roasting things and keeping them as cold meats or by putting them in pastry.”

She also complained that at least 25 thieves were hanged at the gallows in London every month – “even though some are children of 10 or 11” – and that hygiene was lacking.

Carvajal was a Roman Catholic firebrand who came to England to promote the faith at a time Catholics faced persecution under King James I of England.

Her letters are to be included in a new book published by Oxford University Press, entitled The She-Apostle: The Extraordinary Life and Death of Luisa de Carvajal.