The Romans settled here in the first century AD, calling the place Londinium. The heart of London was London Bridge, the furthest point downstream at which a bridge could be built over the Thames. The Normans recognised the importance of London when William the Conqueror built the White Tower, the nucleus of the Tower of London.
By the 18th century London was the administrative, commercial and financial capital of the country. It was also Britain's centre of manufacturing. This included the silk trade, furniture-making, brewing, printing and machine tools. As London had no coal deposits and very little water power, the development of steam power meant that some manufacturers moved to other areas during the industrial revolution. In 1800 the capital city had two wet docks and a population of just under a million, making it the largest urban centre in the country.
The first railway built in London was the London & Greenwich Railway. Opened in 1836 the Greenwich to London Bridge service was built specifically for passenger traffic and was the first of the many inner suburban commuter systems. The railway was a great success and by March 1841 the locomotives on the line had made 170,000 journeys and had carried 6,800,000 passengers.
There was also a great need for a railway that linked London to the industrial centres of Britain. For example, by 1830, Birmingham was sending over one thousand tons of goods every week by canal to London. In 1833 the London & Birmingham Railway Company appointed Robert Stephenson as chief engineer of their proposed railway.
The London to Birmingham line took 20,000 men nearly five years to build. The total cost of building the railway was £5,500,000 (£50,000 a mile). The railway was opened in stages and finally completed on 17 September 1838. The line started at Birmingham's Curzon Street Station and finished at Euston Station in London. As the Grand Junction Railway had been finished in July 1837, the four major cities in England, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool were now linked together by rail.
In the 1840s London became the centre of the railway network with important railway stations being built at Kings Cross, Victoria and Waterloo. By 1861 over 11,000 were employed by the railways in London. The railways also stimulated the growth of the city and between 1841 and 1861 the population grew by 800,000 to 2,800,000 million.
The London County Council (LCC) was created in 1889 as a result of the 1888 Local Government Act. The LCC was the first metropolitan-wide form of general local government. Elections were held in January 1889 and the Progressive Party, won seventy of the 118 seats.