Today, when most think about the term London Fog, they think of the classy clothes and coats
business that goes by the very same name. Few people realize there actually was something
once upon a time called the London Fog. Sure, it went by other, less wondrous names too such
as Pea Soup Fog, City Fog, or simply… smog.
From the 1600s and onwards, ending only relatively recently in our modern era, London
became a climate experiment of just what awful things pollution can do to humans and the
places that we live in on a microcosm. The Victorian era was not all wonderful frilly dresses and
men in strange wigs, it was also an era of serious labor issues and yet to be known dangers of
the new world of industrial processes.
The London Fog would swoop down throughout the entire city, blanketing the winding streets in
a smog so thick that you could barely see to the other side of the street. This became known as
the London Peculiar in addition to likely more colorful names the natives had for it.
Where was the London Fog created though? And where did it go? If you go to London today,
this Pea Soup Fog is almost nowhere to be seen. So what exactly happened to it?
The London Fog pollution crisis stems from the burning and usage of sea coal in both industrial
factories which were just hitting their stride during the industrial revolution (which overlaps with
the Victorian era), and residential homes burning the coal for warmth and pumping all that
deadly smoke out of their collective chimneys. (Solar panels and other “clean” forms of energy wouldn’t be around
for a very long time yet…) The pollution would get trapped in London, and as more was added, the thicker it would
become, until the mix became so thick and noticeable there was nothing to be done save give it a name.
King Edward I of England even had advisors on the Pea Soup Fog situation that he sought
advice on what to do. After all, the London Fog was a national threat to his kingdom at the time.
The fog became so powerful, full of arsenic and other pollutants, that it would actually cause
respiratory problems for the people of London. For those who were elderly, sick or otherwise
biologically vulnerable, the London Fog hastened the speed of their illnesses or just killed them
outright from the people breathing in the toxic smog. (Needless to say there was simply not the medical supplies
that we have today, that might have help mitigate some of the damage that this phenomenon caused.)
One of King Edward’s advisors, John Evelyn, recommended as much as moving all the factories
out of London and in the Thames River area. He also suggested planting odiferous flowers to
cover up the stench.
Eventually, through various policies and government regulations, the Black Smog of Victorian
London was slowly defeated. It was a long and arduous process, and one that is still being
fought in many ways in our modern age. This can be seen in various environmental agencies
fighting on the behalf of earth minded people who want to see more restrictions rather than
loose laws on regulating pollution, industrial and residential waste.