Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Street Entertainment - Punch and Judy

George Cruikshank (in 'Punch and Judy' by J.P.Collier) 1828

see also Henry Mayhew in Letters to the Morning Chronicle - click here

see also Punch on Tower Hill - click here

see also London : a Pilgrimage - click here    

see also James Greenwood in Toilers in London - click here

see also James Greenwood in Mysteries of Modern London - click here

    PUNCH may very well be considered one of our London characters. So well known is Punch, that the sight of the two men, one carrying the show and the other the drum and pipes, passing through the streets, is quite enough to draw after them a group of curious little folk, all on the tip-toe of excite­ment, wondering when and where the men will stop and pitch the show. Just a very little way down a by-turning in one of the principal streets, is a favourite spot for setting down the show.
    At such a spot there may often be seen a little crowd of children gathering almost before the show has been pitched, or the man has had time to get within the curtain. For, although he does not intend you shall know it, the showman is inside, hidden away from sight by the long green baize curtain that falls around. The little ones, watching the lively movements of the figures, and hearing the curious talk, and of course seeing no other man than the one outside who is busy with his drum and pipes, innocently imagine that the figures are speaking. There are some preparations to be made by the showman; so, while they are going on, the man with the drum suspended from his shoulders, and the row of pipes stuck just within the folds of his scarf, tries to swell the crowd by blowing a tune on the pipes, keeping up a rub-a-dub-dub accompaniment on the drum. There is not much music in the noise this musician is creating, but the well-known strains from the pipes soon draw the people around, anxiously awaiting the appearance of Punch, and curious to see his merry performances.
    People of all sorts gather round. Little ones in the care of bigger brothers and sisters are lifted up in their arms, or on their shoulders, so that they may see PUNCH. Shoeless, hatless, and perhaps homeless boys and girls, who spend most of their time roaming the streets, squeeze in to have one piece of merriment, and laugh at the comical figures. The errand boy at sight of Punch’s funny face forgets his business, and, putting his basket down, settles himself comfortably to have a spell of enjoyment. Nor does any one seem too old to watch the show. The old lady with her market-basket on her arm is as well pleased as any juvenile, and even the busy man of business must stop a moment on the outskirts of the crowd and enjoy the mirth of this merry exhibition.

Punch scents to have made his first appearance in England more than two hundred years ago; for we find that in 1666—7 an Italian puppet-player set up his booth at Charing Cross, and paid a small rental to the overseers of the parish of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields. If we look in their books under that date, we shall see four entries of various sums ‘received of Punchinello, ye Italian popet player, for his booth at Charing Cross.’ So that Master Punch is rather an old inhabitant in our midst, and we may look upon him as a rare relic of the rough fun of our forefathers.

Uncle Jonathan, Walks in and Around London, 1895 (3 ed.)

see also A.R.Bennett in London and Londoners - click here