Victorian London - Markets - Brick Lane

see also Sclater Street - click here

        Nor is this great market the only scene of the sort in the neighbourhood on Sunday morning. Where Sclater Street crosses Brick Lane, near the Great Eastern Station, is the market of the fancy'. Here the streets are blocked with those - coming to buy, or sell, pigeons, canaries, rabbits, fowls, parrots, or guinea pigs, and with them or separately all the appurtenances of bird or pet keeping. Through this crowd the seller of shell-fish pushes his barrow; on the outskirts of it are move- able shooting galleries, and patent Aunt Sallies, while some man standing up in a dog-cart will dispose of racing tips in - sealed envelopes to the East End sportsman.
    Brick Lane should itself be seen on Saturday night, though it is in almost all its length a gay and crowded scene every evening of the week, unless persistent rain drives both buyers - and sellers to seek shelter. But this sight - the market street' - is not confined to Brick Lane, nor peculiar to Whitechapel, nor even to the East End. In every poor quarter of London it is to be met with - the flaring lights, the piles of cheap comestibles, and the urgent cries of the sellers. Everywhere, too, there is the same absolute indifference on the part of the buyer - to these cries. They seem to be accepted on both sides as - necessary, though entirely useless. Not infrequently the goods are sold by a sort of Dutch auction - then the prices named are usually double what the seller, and every bystander, knows to - be the market price of the street and day, Eightpence?' - Sevenpence?' Sixpence?' Fivepence?' - Say Fourpence?' - well, then, Threepence halfpenny?' A bystander, probably a woman, nods imperceptibly; the fish or whatever it is passes from the right hand of the seller on which it has been raised to view, on to the square of newspaper, resting in his left hand, is bundled up and quick as thought takes its place in the buyer's basket in exchange for the 3 d, which finds its place in the seller's apron or on the board beside the fish - and then begins again the same routine, Eightpence?' Sevenpence?' Sixpence' etc.

Charles Booth Life and Labour of the People in London, 1903