Since medieval times, London has expanded from a walled city. The separate town of Westminster became significant with the building of Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey, an area that was home to the royal court and later parliament. The River Thames was a critical gateway for wool and agricultural exports, and London Bridge provided access from the city to Southwark in the south, which was outside the jurisdiction of City authorities. London was the Tudor centre for trade and government, yet the Reformation led to huge land ownership changes, forcing much overspill outside the old walls. It was a period of significant population growth, including country folk and migrant workers seeking a new life in this great commercial centre. The ‘working classes’ sought housing both to the east towards the newly built docks, and to the south in the easily accessible Southwark. To the west, civil servants, wealthy merchants and the educated elite moved along the river to be closer to the ever-more-powerful Westminster.
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