Victorian London - Publications - Social
Investigation/Journalism - London Labour and the London Poor; 1851, 1861-2;
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF FRUIT AND
OF THE KINDS AND QUANTITY OF FRUIT AND
VEGETABLES SOLD IN THE STREETS.
There are two kinds
of fruit sold in the streets -"green fruit" and "dry fruit."
In commerce, all
fruit which is edible as it is taken from the tree or the ground, is known as
"green." A subdivision of this green fruit is into "fresh"
or "tender" fruit, which includes currants, gooseberries,
strawberries, and, indeed, all fruits that demand immediate consumption, in
contradistinction to such productions as nuts which may be kept without injury
for a season. All fruit which is "cured" is known as "dry"
fruit. In summer the costers vend "green fruit," and in the winter
months, or in the early spring, when the dearness or insufficiency of the supply
of green fruit renders it unsuited for their traffic, they resort, but not
extensively, to "dry fruit." It is principally, however, when an
abundant season, or the impossibility of keeping the dry fruit much longer, has
tended to reduce the price of it, that the costlier articles are to be found on
the costermonger's barrow.
Fruit is, for the
most part, displayed on barrows, by the street-dealers in it. Some who supply
the better sort of houses -more especially those in the suburbs -carry such
things as apples and plums, in elean round wickerbaskets, holding pecks or
"green" fruits of home produce are bought by the costermonger in the
markets. The foreign green fruit, as pine-apples, melons, grapes, chestnuts,
coker-nuts, Brazilnuts, hazel-nuts, and oranges, are purchased by them at the
public sales of the brokers, and of the Jews in Duke's-place. The more
intelligent and thrifty of the costers buy at the public sales on the principle
of association, as I have elsewhere described. Some costermongers expend as much
as 20l. at a time in such green fruit, or dry fruit, as is not
immediately perishable, at a public sale, or at a fruit-warehouse, and supply
the other costers.
costermongers seldom deal in oranges and chestnuts. If they sell walnuts, they
reserve these, they say, for their Sunday afternoon's pastime. The people who
carry oranges, chestnuts, or walnuts, or Spanish nuts about the town, are not
considered as costermongers, but are generally, though not always, classed, by
the regular men, with the watercress-women, the sprat-women, the winkle-dealers,
and such others, whom they consider beneath them. The orange season is called by
the costermonger the "Irishman's harvest." Indeed, the street trade in
oranges and nuts is almost entirely in the
hands of the Irish and their children; and of the children of
costermongers. The costers themselves would rather starve -and do starve now and
then -than condescend to it. The trade in coker-nuts is carried on greatly by
the Jews on Sundays, and by young men and boys who are not on other days
employed as street-sellers.
The usual kinds of
fruit the regular costers deal in are strawberries, raspberries (plain and
stalked), cherries, apricots, plums, green-gages, currants, apples, pears,
damsons, green and ripe gooseberries, and pine-apples. They also deal in
vegetables, such as turnips, greens, brocoli, carrots, onions, celery, rhubarb,
new potatoes, peas, beans (French and scarlet, broad and Windsor), asparagus,
vegetable marrow, seakale, spinach, lettuces, small salads, radishes, etc. Their
fruit and vegetables they usually buy at Coventgarden, Spitalfields, or the
Borough markets. Occasionally they buy some at Farringdon, but this they reckon
to be very little better than a "haggler's market," -a
"haggler" being, as I before explained, the middle-man who attends in
the fruit and vegetable-markets, and buys of the salesman to sell again to the
retail dealer or costermonger.
quantity of fruit and vegetables sold in the streets, by the London
costermongers. This, as I said, when treating of the street-trade in fish, can
only be arrived at by ascertaining the entire quantity sold wholesale at the
London markets, and then learning from the best authorities the proportion
retailed in the public thoroughfares, Fully to elucidate this matter, both as to
the extent of the metropolitan supply of vegetables and fruit,
("foreign" as well as "home-grown," and "green" as
well as "dry") and the relative quantity of each, vended through the
agency of the costermongers, I caused inquiries to be instituted at all the
principal markets and brokers (for not even the vaguest return on the subject
had, till then, been prepared), and received from all the gentlemen connected
therewith, every assistance and information, as I have here great pleasure in
To carry out my
present inquiry, I need not give returns of the articles not sold by the
costermongers, nor is it necessary for me to cite any but those dealt in by them
generally. Their exceptional sales, such as of mushrooms, cucumbers, &c.,
are not included here.
The following Table
shows the ordinary annual supply of home grown fruit (nearly all produced
within a radius of twelve miles from the Bank) to each of the London
proportions of the several kinds of fruit and vegetables sold by the
costermongers are here calculated for all the markets, from returns which
have been obtained from each market separately. To avoid unnecessary detail,
however, these several items are lumped together, and the aggregate proportion
The foregoing Table,
however, relates chiefly to "home grown" supplies. Concerning the
quantity of foreign fruit and vegetables imported into this country, the
proportion consumed in London, and the relative amount sold by the costers, I
have obtained the following returns: -
the Quantity or Measure of the undermentioned Foreign Green Fruits and
Vegetables sold Wholesale throughout the Year in London, with the
Proportion sold Retail in the Streets.
wholesale in London.
retail in the the streets.
Spanish Nuts [??:
Here, then, we have
the entire metropolitan supply of the principal vegetables and green fruit (both
home grown and foreign), as well as the relative quantity
"distributed" throughout London by the costermongers; it now but
remains for me, in order to complete the account, to do the same for "the
the Quantity of "Dry" Fruit sold wholesale in London throughout
the Year, with the proportion Sold retail in the Streets.
wholesale in London.
retail in the streets.
half per cent.
quarter per cent.
one per cent.
quarter per cent.
OF THE FRUIT AND VEGETABLE SEASON OF
season begins about June, and continues till about the middle of July. From the
middle to the end of July the costers "work" raspberries. During July
cherries are "in" as well as raspberries; but many costers prefer
working raspberries, because "they're a quicker sixpence." After the
cherries, they go to work upon plums, which they have about the end of August.
Apples and pears come in after the plums in the month of September, and the
apples last them all through the winter till the month of May. The pears last only till Christmas.
Currants they work about the latter end of July, or beginning of August.
costermonger's vegetable season, it may be said that he "works" greens
during the winter months, up to about March; from that time they are getting
"leathery," the leaves become foxy, I was told, and they eat tough
when boiled. The costers generally do not like dealing either in greens or
turnips, "they are such heavy luggage," they say. They would sooner
"work" green peas and new potatoes.
however, does the best at fruit; but this he cannot work -with the exception of
apples -for more than four months in the year. They lose but little from the
fruit spoiling. "If it doesn't fetch a good price, it must fetch a bad
one," they say; but they are never at a great loss by it. They find the
"ladies" their hardest or "scaliest" customers. Whatever
price they ask, they declare the "ladies" will try to save the market
or "gin" penny out of it, so that they may have "a glass of
something short" before they go home.
OF COVENT GARDEN MARKET.
On a Saturday -the
coster's business day -it is computed that as many as 2,000 donkey-barrows, and
upwards of 3,000 women with shallows and head-baskets visit this market during
the forenoon. About six o'clock in the morning is the best time for viewing the
wonderful restlessness of the place, for then not only is the "Garden"
itself all bustle and activity, but the buyers and sellers stream to and from it
in all directions, filling every street in the vicinity. From Long Acre to the
Strand on the one side, and from Bow-street to Bedford-street on the other, the
ground has been seized upon by the market-goers. As you glance down any one of
the neighbouring streets, the long rows of carts and donkeybarrows seem
interminable in the distance. They are of all kinds, from the greengrocer's
taxed cart to the coster's barrow -from the showy excursion-van to the rude
square donkeycart and bricklayer's truck. In every street they are ranged down
the middle and by the kerb-stones. Along each approach to the market, too,
nothing is to be seen, on all sides, but vegetables; the pavement is covered
with heaps of them waiting to be carted; the flagstones are stained green with
the leaves trodden under foot; sieves and sacks full of apples and potatoes, and
bandles of brocoli and rhubarb, are left unwatched upon almost every doorstep;
the steps of Covent Garden Theatre are covered with fruit and vegetables; the
road is blocked up with mountains of cabbages and turnips; and men and women
push past with their arms bowed out by the cauliflowers under them, or the red
tips of carrots pointing from their crammed aprons, or else their faces are red
with the weight of the loaded head-basket.
from their number and singularity, force you to stop and notice them. Every kind
of ingenuity has been exercised to construct harness for the costers' steeds; where a buckle is wanting,
tape or string make the fastening secure; traces are made of rope and old chain,
and an old sack or cotton handkerchief is folded up as a saddle-pad. Some few of
the barrows make a magnificent exception, and are gay with bright brass; while
one of the donkeys may be seen dressed in a suit of old plated carriage-harness,
decorated with coronets in all directions. At some one of the coster conveyances
stands the proprietor, arranging his goods, the dozing animal starting up from
its sleep each time a heavy basket is hoisted on the tray. Others, with their
green and white and red load neatly arranged, are ready for starting, but the
coster is finishing his breakfast at the coffeestall. On one barrow there may
occasionally be seen a solitary sieve of apples, with the horse of some
neighbouring cart helping himself to the pippins while the owner is away. The
men that take charge of the trucks, whilst the costers visit the market, walk
about, with their arms full of whips and sticks. At one corner a donkey has
slipped down, and lies on the stones covered with the cabbages and apples that
have fallen from the cart.
The market itself
presents a beautiful scene. In the clear morning air of an autumn day the whole
of the vast square is distinctly seen from one end to the other. The sky is red
and golden with the newly-risen sun, and the rays falling on the fresh and vivid
colours of the fruit and vegetables, brightens up the picture as with a coat of
varnish. There is no shouting, as at other markets, but a low murmuring hum is
heard, like the sound of the sea at a distance, and through each entrance to the
market the crowd sweeps by. Under the dark Piazza little bright dots of
gas-lights are seen burning in the shops; and in the paved square the people
pass and cross each other in all directions, hampers clash together, and
excepting the carters from the country, every one is on the move. Sometimes a
huge column of baskets is seen in the air, and walks away in a marvellously
steady manner, or a monster railway van, laden with sieves of fruit, and with
the driver perched up on his high seat, jolts heavily over the stones. Cabbages
are piled up into stacks as it were. Carts are heaped high with turnips, and
bunches of carrots like huge red fingers, are seen in all directions.
Flower-girls, with large bundles of violets under their arms, run past, leaving
a trail of perfume behind them. Wagons, with their shafts sticking up in the
air, are ranged before the salesmen's shops, the high green load railed in with
hurdles, and every here and there bunches of turnips are seen flying in the air
over the heads of the people. Groups of applewomen, with straw pads on their
crushed bonnets, and coarse shawls crossing their bosoms, sit on their porter's
knots, chatting in Irish, and smoking short pipes; every passer-by is hailed
with the cry of, "Want a baskit, yer honor?" The porter, trembling
under the piled-up hamper, trots along the street, with his teeth clenched and shirt wet with the weight, and staggering at every step he
Inside, the market
all is bustle and confusion. The people walk along with their eyes fixed on the
goods, and frowning with thought. Men in all costumes, from the coster in his
corduroy suit to the greengrocer in his blue apron, sweep past. A countryman, in
an old straw hat and dusty boots, occasionally draws down the anger of a woman
for walking about with his hands in the pockets of his smock-frock, and is
asked, "if that is the way to behave on a marketday?" Even the granite
pillars cannot stop the crowd, for it separates and rushes past them, like the
tide by a bridge pier. At every turn there is a fresh odour to sniff at; either
the bitter aromatic perfume of the herbalists' shops breaks upon you, or the
scent of oranges, then of apples, and then of onions is caught for an instant as
you move along. The brocoli tied up in square packets, the white heads tinged
slightly red, as it were, with the sunshine, -the sieves of crimson love-apples,
polished like china, -the bundles of white glossy leeks, their roots dangling
like fringe, -the celery, with its pinky stalks and bright green tops, - the
dark purple pickling-cabbages, -the scarlet carrots, -the white knobs of
turnips, -the bright yellow balls of oranges, and the rich brown coats of the
chesnuts -attract the eye on every side. Then there are the apple-merchants,
with their fruit of all colours, from the pale yellow green to the bright
crimson, and the baskets ranged in rows on the pavement before the little shops.
Round these the customers stand examining the stock, then whispering together
over their bargain, and counting their money. "Give you four shillings for
this here lot, master," says a coster, speaking for his three companions.
"Four and six is my price," answers the salesman. "Say four, and
it's a bargain," continues the man. "I said my price," returns
the dealer; "go and look round, and see if you can get 'em cheaper; if not,
come back. I only wants what's fair." The men, taking the salesman's
advice, move on. The walnut merchant, with the group of women before his shop,
peeling the fruit, their fingers stained deep brown, is busy with the Irish
purchasers. The onion stores, too, are surrounded by Hibernians, feeling and
pressing the gold-coloured roots, whose dry skins crackle as they are handled.
Cases of lemons in their white paper jackets, and blue grapes, just seen above
the sawdust are ranged about, and in some places the ground is slippery as ice
from the refuse leaves and walnut husks scattered over the pavement.
Against the railings
of St. Paul's Church are hung baskets and slippers for sale, and near the
public-house is a party of countrymen preparing their bunches of pretty coloured
grass - brown and glittering, as if it had been bronzed. Between the spikes of
the railing are piled up square cakes of green turf for larks; and at the pump,
boys, who probably have passed the previous night in the baskets about the
market, are washing, and the water dripping from their hair that hangs in points over
the face. The kerbstone is blocked up by a crowd of admiring lads, gathered
round the bird-catcher's green stand, and gazing at the larks beating their
breasts against their cages. The owner, whose boots are red with the soil of the
brick-field, shouts, as he looks carelessly around, "A cock linnet for
tuppence," and then hits at the youths who are poking through the bars at
the fluttering birds.
Under the Piazza the
costers purchase their flowers (in pots) which they exchange in the streets for
old clothes. Here is ranged a small garden of flower-pots, the musk and
mignonette smelling sweetly, and the scarlet geraniums, with a perfect glow of
coloured air about the flowers, standing out in rich contrast with the dark
green leaves of the evergreens behind them. "There's myrtles, and larels,
and boxes," says one of the men selling them, "and there's a harbora
witus, and lauristiners, and that bushy shrub with pink spots is health."
Men and women, selling different articles, walk about under the cover of the
colonnade. One has seedcake, another small-tooth and other combs, others old
caps, or pig's feet, and one hawker of knives, razors, and short hatchets, may
occasionally be seen driving a bargain with a countryman, who stands passing his
thumb over the blade to test its keenness. Between the pillars are the
coffee-stalls, with their large tin cans and piles of bread and butter, and
protected from the wind by paper screens and sheets thrown over clothes-horses;
inside these little parlours, as it were, sit the coffee-drinkers on chairs and
benches, some with a bunch of cabbages on their laps, blowing the steam from
their saucers, others, with their mouths full, munching away at their slices, as
if not a moment could be lost. One or two porters are there besides, seated on
their baskets, breakfasting with their knots on their heads.
As you walk away
from this busy scene, you meet in every street barrows and costers hurrying
home. The pump in the market is now surrounded by a cluster of chattering
wenches quarrelling over whose turn it is to water their drooping violets, and
on the steps of Covent Garden Theatre are seated the shoeless girls, tying up
the halfpenny and penny bundles.
OF "GREEN" FRUIT SELLING IN
The fruit selling of
the streets of London is of a distinct character from that of vegetable or fish
selling, inasmuch as fruit is for the most part a luxury, and the others are
There is no doubt
that the consumption of fruit supplies a fair criterion of the condition of the
working classes, but the costermongers, as a body of traders, are little
observant, so that it is not easy to derive from them much information
respecting the classes who are their customers, or as to how their custom is
influenced by the
circumstances of the times. One man, however, told me that during the last panic
he sold hardly anything beyond mere necessaries. Other street-sellers to whom I
spoke could not comprehend what a panic meant.
The most intelligent
costers whom I conversed with agreed that they now sold less fruit than ever to
working people, but perhaps more than ever to the dwellers in the smaller houses
in the suburbs, and to shopkeepers who were not in a large way of business. One
man sold baking apples, but not above a peck on an average weekly, to women whom
he knew to be the wives of working men, for he had heard them say, "Dear
me, I didn't think it had been so late, there's hardly time to get the dumplings
baked before my husband leaves work for his dinner." The course of my
inquiries has shown me -and many employers whom I have conversed with are of a
similar opinion -that the well-conducted and skilful artisan, who, in spite of
slop competition, continues to enjoy a fair rate of wages, usually makes a
prudent choice of a wife, who perhaps has been a servant in a respectable
family. Such a wife is probably "used to cooking," and will oft enough
make a pie or pudding to eke out the cold meat of the Monday's dinner, or
"for a treat for the children." With the mass of the working people,
however, it is otherwise. The wife perhaps has been reared to incessant toil
with her needle, and does not know how to make even a dumpling. Even if she
possess as much knowledge, she may have to labour as well as her husband, and if
their joint earnings enable them to have "the added pudding," there is
still the trouble of making it; and, after a weary week's work, rest is often a
greater enjoyment than a gratification of the palate. Thus something easily
prepared, and carried off to the oven, is preferred. The slop-workers of all
trades never, I believe, taste either fruit pie or pudding, unless a penny one
be bought at a shop or in the street; and even among mechanics who are used to
better diet, the pies and puddings, when wages are reduced, or work grows slack,
are the first things that are dispensed with. "When the money doesn't come
in, sir," one working-man said to me, "we mustn't think of puddings,
but of bread."
A costermonger, more
observant than the rest, told me that there were some classes to whom he had
rarely sold fruit, and whom he had seldom seen buy any. Among these he mentioned
sweeps, scavengers, dustmen, nightmen, gaspipe-layers, and sewer-men, who
preferred to any fruit, "something to bite in the mouth, such as a
penn'orth of gin." My informant believed that this abstinence from fruit
was common to all persons engaged in such offensive trades as fiddle-string
making, gut-dressing for whip-makers or sausage-makers, knackers, &c. He was
confident of it, as far as his own experience extended. It is, moreover, less
common for the women of the town, of the poorer sort, to expend pence in fruit
than in such things as whelks, shrimps, or winks, to say nothing of gin. Persons, whose
stomachs may be one week jaded to excess, and the next be deprived of a
sufficiency of proper food, seek for stimulants, or, as they term it,
meaning thereby those who deal principally in fruit in the season, are the more
intelligent costermongers. The calculation as to what a bushel of apples, for
instance, will make in half or quarter pecks, puzzles the more ignorant, and
they buy "second-hand," or of a middle-man, and consequently dearer.
The Irish street-sellers do not meddle much with fruit, excepting a few of the
very best class of them, and they "do well in it," I was told,
"they have such tongue."
The improvement in
the quality of the fruit and vegetables now in our markets, and consequently in
the necessaries and luxuries of the poorer classes, is very great. Prizes and
medals have been deservedly awarded to the skilled and persevering gardeners who
have increased the size and heightened the flavour of the pine-apple or the
strawberry -who have given a thinner rind to the peach, or a fuller gush of
juice to the apricot, -or who have enhanced alike the bloom, the weight, and the
size of the fruit of the vine, whether as regards the classic "bunch,"
or the individual grape. Still these are benefits confined mainly to the rich.
But there is another class of growers who have rendered greater services and
whose services have been comparatively unnoticed. I allude to those gardeners
who have improved or introduced our every day vegetables or fruit, such
as now form the cheapest and most grateful and healthy enjoyments of the humbler
portion of the community. I may instance the introduction of rhubarb, which was
comparatively unknown until Mr. Myatt, now of Deptford, cultivated it thirty
years ago. He then, for the first time, carried seven bundles of rhubarb into
the Borough market. Of these he could sell only three, and he took four back
with him. Mr. Myatt could not recollect the price he received for the first
rhubarb he ever sold in public, but he told me that the stalks were only about
half the substance of those he now produces. People laughed at him for offering
"physic pies," but he persevered, and I have shown what the sale of
rhubarb now is.
importation of foreign "pines" may be cited as another instance of the
increased luxuries of the poor. The trade in this commodity was unknown until
the year 1842. At that period Mr. James Wood and Messrs. Claypole and Son, of
Liverpool, imported them from the Bahamas, a portion being conveyed to Messrs.
Keeling and Hunt, of London. Since that period the trade has gradually increased
until, instead of 1000 pines being sent to Liverpool, and a portion of them
conveyed to London, as at first, 200,000 pines are now imported to London alone.
The fruit is brought over in "trees," stowed in numbers from ten to
thirty thousand, in galleries constructed fore and aft in the vessel, which is so extravagantly fragrant, that it has to be
ventilated to abate the odour. But for this importation, and but for the trade
having become a part of the costermonger's avocation, hundreds and thousands in
London would never have tasted a pine-apple. The quality of the fruit has, I am
informed, been greatly improved since its first introduction; the best
description of "pines" which Coventgarden can supply having been sent
out to graft, to increase the size and flavour of the Bahaman products, and this
chiefly for the regalement of the palates of the humbler classes of London. The
supply from the Bahamas is considered inexhaustible.
they were first introduced, were a rich harvest to the costermonger. They made
more money "working" these than any other article. The pines cost them
about 4d. each, one with the other, good and bad together, and were sold
by the costermonger at from 1s. to 1s. 6d. The public were
not aware then that the pines they sold were "salt-water touched," and
the people bought them as fast as they could be sold, not only by the whole one,
but at 1d. a slice, -for those who could not afford to give 1s.
for the novelty, had a slice as a taste for 1d. The costermongers used
then to have flags flying at the head of their barrows, and gentlefolk would
stop them in the streets; indeed, the sale for pines was chiefly among "the
gentry." The poorer people - sweeps, dustmen, cabmen -occasionally had
pennyworths, "just for the fun of the thing;" but gentlepeople, I was
told, used to buy a whole one to take home, so that all the family might have a
taste. One costermonger assured me that he had taken 22s. a day during
the rage for pines, when they first came up.
I have before stated
that when the season is in its height the costermonger prefers the vending of
fruit to the traffic in either fish or vegetables; those, however, who have
regular rounds and "a connection," must supply their customers with
vegetables, if not fish, as well as fruit, but the costers prefer to devote
themselves principally to fruit. I am unable, therefore, to draw a comparison
between what a coster realises in fruit, and what in fish, as the two seasons
are not contemporary. The fruit sale is, however, as I have shown in p. 54, the
costermongers with whom I conversed represented that the greater cheapness and
abundance of fruit had been anything but a benefit to them, nor did the majority
seem to know whether fruit was scarcer or more plentiful one year than another,
unless in remarkable instances. Of the way in which the introduction of foreign
fruit had influenced their trade, they knew nothing. If questioned on the
subject, the usual reply was, that things got worse, and people didn't buy so
much fruit as they did half-a-dozen years back, and so less was sold. That these
men hold such opinions must be accounted for mainly by the increase in their numbers, of which I have before spoken, and from their general ignorance.
The fruit of which
there is the readiest sale in the streets is one usually considered among the
least useful -cherries. Probably, the greater eagerness on the part of the
poorer classes to purchase this fruit arises from its being the first of the
fresh "green" kind which our gardens supply for street-sale after the
winter and the early spring. An intelligent costermonger suggested other
reasons. "Poor people," he said, "like a quantity of any
fruit, and no fruit is cheaper than cherries at 1d. a pound, at which I
have sold some hundreds of pounds' weight. I'm satisfied, sir, that if a cherry
could be grown that weighed a pound, and was of a finer flavour than ever was
known before, poor people would rather have a number of little ones, even if
they was less weight and inferior quality. Then boys buy, I think, more cherries
than other fruit; because, after they have eaten 'em, they can play at
From all I can
learn, the halfpenny-worth of fruit purchased most eagerly by a poor man, or by
a child to whom the possession of a halfpenny is a rarity, is cherries. I asked
a man "with a good connection," according to his own account, as to
who were his customers for cherries. He enumerated ladies and gentlemen;
working-people; wagoners and carters (who "slipped them quietly into their
pockets," he said); parlour-livers (so he called the occupants of
parlours); maid-servants; and soldiers. "Soldiers." I was told,
"are very fond of something for a change from their feed, which is about as
regular as a prison's."
The currant, and the
fruit of the same useful genus, the gooseberry, are sold largely by the
costermongers. The price of the currants is 1d. or 2d. the
half-pint, 1d. being the more usual charge. Of red currants there is the
greatest supply, but the black "go off better." The humbler classes
buy a half-pint of the latter for a dumpling, and "they're reckoned,"
said my informant, "capital for a sore throat, either in jam or a
pudding." Gooseberries are also retailed by the half-pint, and are cheaper
than currants -perhaps ½d. the half-pint is the average street-price.
The working-classes do not use ripe gooseberries, as they do ripe currants, for
dumplings, but they are sold in greater quantities and may be said to
constitute, when first introduced, as other productions do afterwards, the
working-people's Sunday dessert. "Only you go on board a cheap steamer to
Greenwich, on a fine summer Sunday," observed a streetseller to me,
"and you'll see lots of young women with gooseberries in their
handkerchiefs in their laps. Servant-maids is very good customers for such
things as gooseberries, for they always has a penny to spare." The costers
sell green gooseberries for dumplings, and sometimes to the extent of a fourth
of the ripe fruit. The price of green gooseberries is generally ½d. a
pint dearer than the ripe.
descend to such a price as
places them at the costermonger's command, the whole fraternity is busily at
work, and as the sale can easily be carried on by women and children, the
coster's family take part in the sale, offering at the corners of streets the
fragrant pottle, with the crimson fruit just showing beneath the green leaves at
the top. Of all cries, too, perhaps that of "hoboys" is the most
agreeable. Strawberries, however, according to all accounts, are consumed least
of all fruits by the poor. "They like something more solid," I was
told, "something to bite at, and a penny pottle of strawberries is only
like a taste; what's more, too, the really good fruit never finds its way into
penny pottles." The coster's best customers are dwellers in the suburbs,
who purchase strawberries on a Sunday especially, for dessert, for they think
that they get them fresher in that way than by reserving them from the Saturday
night, and many are tempted by seeing or hearing them cried in the streets.
There is also a good Sunday sale about the steam-wharfs, to people going
"on the river," especially when young women and children are members
of a party, and likewise in the "clerk districts," as Camden-town and
Camberwell. Very few pottles, comparatively, are sold in public-houses;
"they don't go well down with the beer at all," I was told. The city
people are good customers for street strawberries, conveying them home. Good
strawberries are 2d. a pottle in the streets when the season is at its
height. Inferior are 1d. These are the most frequent prices. In
raspberries the coster does little, selling them only to such customers as use
them for the sake of jam or for pastry. The price is from 6d. to 1s.
6d. the pottle, 9d. being the average.
The great staple of
the street trade in green fruit is apples. These are first sold by the
travelling costers, by the measure, for pies, &c., and to the classes I have
described as the makers of pies. The apples, however, are soon vended in penny
or halfpenny-worths, and then they are bought by the poor who have a spare penny
for the regalement of their children or themselves, and they are eaten without
any preparation. Pears are sold to the same classes as are apples. The average
price of apples, as sold by the costermonger, is 4s. a bushel, and six a
penny. The sale in halfpenny and pennyworths is very great. Indeed the
costermongers sell about half the apples brought to the markets, and I was told
that for one pennyworth of apples bought in a shop forty were bought in the
street. Pears are 9d. a bushel, generally, dearer than apples, but,
numerically, they run more to the bushel.
The costers purchase
the French apples at the wharf, close to London-bridge, on the Southwark side.
They give 10s., 12s., 18s., or 20s. for a case
containing four bushels. They generally get from 9d. to 1s. profit
on a bushel of English, but on the French apples they make a clear profit of
from 1s. 3d. to 2s. a bushel, and would make more, but the
fruit sometimes "turns out damaged." This extra profit is owing to the
French giving better measure, their four bushels being about five market
bushels, as there is much straw packed up with the English apples, and none with
Plums and damsons
are less purchased by the humbler classes than apples, or than any other larger
sized fruit which is supplied abundantly. "If I've worked plums or
damsons," said an experienced costermonger, "and have told any woman
pricing them: `They don't look so ripe, but they're all the better for a pie,'
she's answered, `O, a plum pie's too fine for us, and what's more, it takes too
much sugar.' " They are sold principally for desserts, and in pennyworths,
at 1d. the half-pint for good, and ½d. for inferior. Green-gages
are 50 per cent. higher. Some costers sell a cheap lot of plums to the
eating-house keepers, and sell them more readily than they sell apples to the
pine-apples are, as regards the street sale, disposed of more in the city than
elsewhere. They are bought by clerks and warehousemen, who carry them to their
suburban homes. The slices at ½d. and 1d. are bought principally
by boys. The average price of a "good street pine" is 9d.
Peaches are an
occasional sale with the costermongers', and are disposed of to the same classes
as purchase strawberries and pines. The street sale of peaches is not
practicable if the price exceed 1d. a piece.
Of other fruits,
vended largely in the streets, I have spoken under their respective heads.
The returns before
cited as to the quantity of home-grown and foreign green fruit sold in London,
and the proportion disposed of by the costermongers give the following
results (in round numbers), as to the absolute quantity of the several kinds of
green fruit (oranges and nuts excepted) "distributed" throughout the
metropolis by the stree-sellers.
bushels of apples, (home-grown)
" apples, (foreign)
" pears, (home-grown)
" pears, (foreign)
lbs. of cherries, (home-grown)
" cherries, (foreign)
bushels of plums,
sieves of red currants,
" black currants,
" white currants,
pottles of strawberries,
bushels of hazel nuts,
lbs. of filberts,
OF THE ORANGE AND NUT MARKET.
In Houndsditch there
is a market supported principally by costermongers, who there purchase their
oranges, lemons, and nuts. This market is entirely in the hands of the Jews; and
although a few tradesmen may attend it to buy grapes, still it derives its chief
custom from the street-dealers who say they can make far better bargains with
the Israelites, (as they never refuse an offer,) than they can with the
Coventgarden salesmen, who generally cling to their prices. This market is known
by the name of "Duke's-place," although its proper title is St.
James's-place. The nearest road to it is through Duke's-street, and the two
titles have been so confounded that at length the mistake has grown into a
Duke's-place -as the
costers call it -is a large square yard, with the iron gates of a synagogue in
one corner, a dead wall forming one entire side of the court, and a gas-lamp on
a circular pavement in the centre. The place looks as if it were devoted to
money-making - for it is quiet and dirty. Not a gilt letter is to be seen over a
doorway; there is no display of gaudy colour, or sheets of plate-glass, such as
we see in a crowded thoroughfare when a customer is to be caught by show. As if
the merchants knew their trade was certain, they are content to let the London
smoke do their painter's work. On looking at the shops in this quarter, the idea
forces itself upon one that they are in the last stage of dilapidation. Never
did property in Chancery look more ruinous. Each dwelling seems as though a fire
had raged in it, for not a shop in the market has a window to it; and, beyond
the few sacks of nuts exposed for sale, they are empty, the walls within being
blackened with dirt, and the paint without blistered in the sun, while the
door-posts are worn round with the shoulders of the customers, and black as if
charred. A few sickly hens wander about, turning over the heaps of dried leaves
that the oranges have been sent over in, or roost the time away on the shafts
and wheels of the nearest truck. Excepting on certain days, there is little or
no business stirring, so that many of the shops have one or two shutters up, as
if a death had taken place, and the yard is quiet as an inn of court. At a
little distance the warehouses, with their low ceilings, open fronts, and black
sides, seem like dark holes or coal-stores; and, but for the mahogany backs of
chairs showing at the first floors, you would scarcely believe the houses to be
inhabited, much more to be elegantly furnished as they are. One of the
drawing-rooms that I entered here was warm and red with morocco leather, Spanish
mahogany, and curtains and Turkey carpets; while the ormolu chandelier and the
gilt frames of the looking-glass and pictures twinkled at every point in the
The householders in
Duke's-place are all of the Jewish persuasion, and among the costers a saying has sprung up about it. When a man has been out of work for some
time, he is said to be "Cursed, like a pig in Duke's-place."
Almost every shop
has a Scripture name over it, and even the public-houses are of the Hebrew
faith, their signs appealing to the followers of those trades which most abound
with Jews. There is the "Jeweller's Arms," patronised greatly of a
Sunday morning, when the Israelite jewellers attend to exchange their trinkets
and barter amongst themselves. Very often the counter before "the bar"
here may be seen covered with golden ornaments, and sparkling with precious
stones, amounting in value to thousands of pounds. The landlord of this house of
call is licensed to manufacture tobacco and cigars. There is also the
"Fishmongers' Arms," the resort of the vendors of fried soles; here,
in the evening, a concert takes place, the performers and audience being Jews.
The landlord of this house too is licensed to manufacture tobacco and cigars.
Entering one of these houses I found a bill announcing a "Bible to be
raffled for, the property of -." And, lastly, there is "Benjamin's
Coffee-house," open to old clothesmen; and here, again, the proprietor is a
licensed tobacco-manufacturer. These facts are mentioned to show the untiring
energy of the Jew when anything is to be gained, and to give an instance of the
curious manner in which this people support each other.
Some of the nut and
orange shops in Duke's-place it would be impossible to describe. At one sat an
old woman, with jetblack hair and a wrinkled face, nursing an infant, and
watching over a few matted baskets of nuts ranged on a kind of carpenter's bench
placed upon the pavement. The interior of the house was as empty as if it had
been to let, excepting a few bits of harness hanging against the wall, and an
old salt-box nailed near the gas-lamp, in which sat a hen, "hatching,"
as I was told. At another was an excessively stout Israelite mother, with crisp
negro's hair and long gold earrings, rolling her child on the table used for
sorting the nuts. Here the black walls had been chalked over with scores, and
every corner was filled up with sacks and orangecases. Before one warehouse a
family of six, from the father to the infant, were busy washing walnuts in a
huge tub with a trap in the side, and around them were ranged measures of the
wet fruit. The Jewish women are known to make the fondest parents; and in
Duke's-place there certainly was no lack of fondlings. Inside almost every
parlour a child was either being nursed or romped with, and some little things
were being tossed nearly to the ceiling, and caught, screaming with enjoyment,
in the jewelled hands of the delighted mother. At other shops might be seen a
circle of three or four women -some old as if grandmothers, grouped admiringly
round a hook-nosed infant, tickling it and poking their fingers at it in a
frenzy of affection.
The counters of
these shops are generally placed
in the open streets like stalls, and the shop itself is used as a store to keep
the stock in. On these counters are ranged the large matting baskets, some piled
up with dark-brown polished chestnuts -shining like a racer's neck -others
filled with wedge-shaped Brazil-nuts, and rough hairy cocoa-nuts. There are
heaps, too, of newly-washed walnuts, a few showing their white crumpled kernels
as a sample of their excellence. Before every doorway are long potbellied boxes
of oranges, with the yellow fruit just peeping between the laths on top, and
lemons -yet green -are ranged about in their paper jackets to ripen in the air.
In front of one
store the paving-stones were soft with the sawdust emptied from the grapecases,
and the floor of the shop itself was whitened with the dry powder. Here stood a
man in a long tasselled smoking-cap, puffing with his bellows at the blue
bunches on a tray, and about him were the boxes with the paper lids thrown back,
and the round sea-green berries just rising above the sawdust as if floating in
it. Close by, was a group of darkeyed women bending over an orange-case, picking
out the rotten from the good fruit, while a sallow-complexioned girl was busy
with her knife scooping out the damaged parts, until, what with sawdust and
orange-peel, the air smelt like the pit of a circus.
Nothing could be
seen in this strange place that did not, in some way or another, appertain to
Jewish customs. A woman, with a heavy gold chain round her neck, went past,
carrying an old green velvet bonnet covered with feathers, and a fur tippet,
that she had either recently purchased or was about to sell. Another woman,
whose features showed her to be a Gentile, was hurrying toward the slop-shop in
the Minories with a richly quilted satin-lined coat done up in her shawl, and
the market-basket by her side, as if the money due for the work were to be spent
directly for housekeeping.
At the corner of
Duke's-street was a stall kept by a Jew, who sold things that are eaten only by
the Hebrews. Here in a yellow piedish were pieces of stewed apples floating in a
thick puce-coloured sauce.
One man that I spoke
to told me that he considered his Sunday morning's work a very bad one if he did
not sell his five or six hundred bushels of nuts of different kinds. He had
taken 150l. that day of the street-sellers, and usually sold his 100l.
worth of goods in a morning. Many others did the same as himself. Here I met
with every attention, and was furnished with some valuable statistical
information concerning the street-trade.
OF ORANGE AND LEMON SELLING IN THE
Of foreign fruits,
the oranges and nuts supply by far the greater staple for the street trade, and,
therefore, demand a brief, but still a fuller, notice than other articles.
Oranges were first
sold in the streets at the close of Elizabeth's reign. So rapidly had the trade increased, that four
years after her death, or in 1607, Ben Jonson classes "orange-wives,"
for noisiness, with "fish-wives." These women at first carried the
oranges in baskets on their heads; barrows were afterwards used; and now trays
are usually slung to the shoulders.
Oranges are brought
to this country in cases or boxes, containing from 500 to 900 oranges. From
official tables, it appears that between 250,000,000 and 300,000,000 of oranges
and lemons are now yearly shipped to England. They are sold wholesale,
principally at public sales, in lots of eight boxes, the price at such sales
varying greatly, according to the supply and the quality. The supply continues
to arrive from October to August.
Oranges are bought
by the retailers in Duke'splace and in Covent-Garden; but the costermongers
nearly all resort to Duke's-place, and the shopkeepers to Covent-Garden. They
are sold in baskets of 200 or 300; they are also disposed of by the hundred, a
half-hundred being the smallest quantity sold in Duke's-place. These hundreds,
however, number 110, containing 10 double "hands," a single hand being
5 oranges. The price in December was 2s. 6d., 3s. 6d.,
and 4s. the hundred. They are rarely lower than 4s. about
Christmas, as there is then a better demand for them. The damaged oranges are
known as "specks," and the purchaser runs the risk of specks forming a
portion of the contents of a basket, as he is not allowed to empty it for the
examination of the fruit: but some salesmen agree to change the specks. A month
after Christmas, oranges are generally cheaper, and become dearer again about
May, when there is a great demand for the supply of the fairs and races.
Oranges are sold by
all classes connected with the fruit, flower, or vegetable trade of the streets.
The majority of the street-sellers are, however, women and children, and the
great part of these are Irish. It has been computed that, when oranges are
"at their best" (generally about Easter), there are 4,000 persons,
including stallkeepers, selling oranges in the metropolis and its suburbs; while
there are generally 3,000 out of this number "working" oranges -that
is, hawking them from street to street: of these, 300 attend at the doors of the
theatres, saloons, &c. Many of those "working" the theatres
confine their trade to oranges, while the other dealers rarely do so, but unite
with them the sale of nuts of some kind. Those who sell only oranges, or only
nuts, are mostly children, and of the poorest class. The smallness of the sum
required to provide a stock of oranges (a half-hundred being 15d. or 18d.),
enables the poor, who cannot raise "stock-money" sufficient to
purchase anything else, to trade upon a few oranges.
The regular costers
rarely buy oranges until the spring, except, perhaps, for Sunday afternoon sale
-though this, as I said before, they mostly object to. In the spring, however,
they stock their barrows with oranges. One man told me that, four or five years back, he had sold in
a day 2,000 oranges that he picked up as a bargain. They did not cost him half a
farthing each; he said he "cleared 2l. by the spec." At the
same period he could earn 5s. or 6s. on a Sunday afternoon by the
sale of oranges in the street; but now he could not earn 2s.
A poor Irishwoman,
neither squalid in appearance nor ragged in dress, though looking pinched and
wretched, gave me the subjoined account; when I saw her, resting with her basket
of oranges near Coldbath-fields prison, she told me she almost wished she was
inside of it, but for the "childer." Her history was one common to her
"I was brought
over here, sir, when I was a girl, but my father and mother died two or three
years after. I was in service then, and very good service I continued in as a
maid-of-allwork, and very kind people I met; yes, indeed, though I was Irish and
a Catholic, and they was English Protistants. I saved a little money there, and
got married. My husband's a labourer; and when he's in full worruk he can earn
12s. or 14s. a week, for he's a good hand and a harrud-worruking
man, and we do middlin' thin. He's out of worruk now, and I'm forced to thry and
sill a few oranges to keep a bit of life in us, and my husband minds the
childer. Bad as I do, I can do 1d. or 2d. a day profit betther
than him, poor man! for he's tall and big, and people thinks, if he goes round
with a few oranges, it's just from idleniss; and the Lorrud above knows he'll
always worruk whin he can. He goes sometimes whin I'm harrud tired. One of us
must stay with the childer, for the youngist is not three and the ildest not
five. We don't live, we starruve. We git a few 'taties, and sometimes a plaice.
Today I've not taken 3d. as yit, sir, and it's past three. Oh, no, indeed
and indeed, thin, I dont make 9d. a day. We live accordingly, for there's
1s. 3d. a week for rint. I have very little harrut to go into the
public-houses to sill oranges, for they begins flying out about the Pope and
Cardinal Wiseman, as if I had anything to do with it. And that's another reason
why I like my husband to stay at home, and me to go out, because he's a hasty
man, and might get into throuble. I don't know what will become of us, if times
On calling upon this
poor woman on the following day, I found her and her children absent. The
husband had got employment at some distance, and she had gone to see if she
could not obtain a room 3d. a week cheaper, and lodge near the place of
According to the
Board of Trade returns, there are nearly two hundred millions of oranges
annually imported into this country. About one-third of these are sold wholesale
in London, and one-fourth of the latter quantity disposed of retail in the
streets. The returns I have procured, touching the London sale, prove that no
less than 15,500,000 are sold yearly by the street-sellers. The retail price of
these may be said to be, upon an average, 5s. per 110, and this would give us
about 35,000l. for the gross sum of money laid out every year, in the
streets, in the matter of oranges alone.
lemon-trade is now insignificant, lemons having become a more important article
of commerce since the law required foreignbound ships to be provided with
lemon-juice. The street-sale is chiefly in the hands of the Jews and the Irish.
It does not, however. call for special notice here.
OF NUT SELLING IN THE STREETS.
The sellers of
foreign hazel nuts are principally women and children, but the stall-keepers,
and oftentimes the costermongers, sell them with other "goods." The
consumption of them is immense, the annual export from Tarragona being little
short of 8,000 tons. They are to be found in every poor shop in London, as well
as in the large towns; they are generally to be seen on every street-stall, in
every country village, at every fair, and on every race-ground. The supply is
from Gijon and Tarragona. The Gijon nuts are the "Spanish," or
"fresh" nuts. They are sold at public sales, in barrels of three
bushels each, the price being from 35s. to 40s. The nuts from
Tarragona, whence comes the great supply, are known as "Barcelonas,"
and they are kiln-dried before they are shipped. Hence the Barcelonas will
"keep," and the Spanish will not. The Spanish are coloured with the
fumes of sulphur, by the Jews in Duke's-place.
It is somewhat
remarkable that nuts supply employment to a number of girls in Spain, and then
yield the means of a scanty subsistence to a number of girls (with or without
parents) in England.
The prattle and the
laughter (according to Inglis) of the Spanish girls who sort, find no parallel
however among the London girls who sell the nuts. The appearance of the latter
is often wretched. In the winter months they may be seen as if stupified with
cold, and with the listlessness, not to say apathy, of those whose diet is poor
in quantity and insufficient in amount.
costermongers buy nuts (as hazel nuts are always called) at the public sales
-only those whose dealings are of a wholesale character, and they are anything
but regular attendants at the sales. The street-sellers derive nearly the whole
of their supply from Duke's-place. The principal times of business are Friday
afternoons and Sunday mornings. Those who have "capital" buy on the
Friday, when they say they can make 10s. go as far as 12s. on the
Sunday. The "Barcelonas" are from 4½d. to 6d. a quart
to the street-sellers. The cob-nuts, which are the large size, used by the
pastrycooks for mottos, &c., are 2d. and 2½d. the quart, but
they are generally destitute of a kernel. A quart contains from 100 to 180 nuts,
according to the size. The costermongers buy somewhat largely when nuts are 3d.
the quart; they then,
and not unfrequently, stock their barrows with nuts entirely, but 2s. a
day is reckoned excellent earnings at this trade. "It's the worst living of
all, sir," I was told, "on nuts." The sale in the streets is at
the fruitstalls, in the public-houses, on board the steamers, and at the theatre
doors. They are sold by the same class as the oranges, and a stock may be
procured for a smaller sum even than is required for oranges. By the outlay of 1s.
many an Irishwoman can send out her two or three children with nuts, reserving
some for herself. Seven-eighths of the nuts imported are sold, I am assured, in
the open air.
Some of the
costermongers who are to be found in Battersea-fields, and who attend the fairs
and races, get through 5s. worth of nuts in a day, but only
exceptionally. These men have a sort of portable shooting-gallery. The customer
fires a kind of rifle, loaded with a dart, and according to the number marked on
the centre, or on the encircling rings of a board which forms the head of the
stall, and which may be struck by the dart, is the number of nuts payable by the
stall-keeper for the halfpenny "fire."
The Brazil nuts,
which are now sold largely in the streets at twelve to sixteen a penny, were not
known in this country as an article of commerce before 1824. They are sold by
the peck -2s. being the ordinary price -in Duke's-place.
Coker-nuts -as they
are now generally called, and indeed "entered" as such at the
Customhouse, and so written by Mr. Mc Culloch, to distinguish them from cocoa,
or the berries of the cacāo, used for chocolate, etc. -are brought from the
West Indies, both British and Spanish, and Brazil. They are used as dunnage in
the sugar ships, being interposed between the hogsheads, to steady them and
prevent their being flung about. The cokernut was introduced into England in
1690. They are sold at public sales and otherwise, and bring from 10s. to
14s. per 100. Coker-nuts are now used at fairs to "top" the
rarely speculate in cokernuts now, as the boys will not buy them unless cut, and
it is almost impossible to tell how the coker-nut will "open." The
interior is sold in halfpenny-worths and penny-worths. These nuts are often
"worked with a drum." There may be now forty coker-nut men in the
street trade, but not one in ten confines himself to the article.
A large proportion
of the dry or ripe walnuts sold in the streets is from Bordeaux. They are sold
at public sales, in barrels of three bushels each, realising 21s. to 25s.
a barrel. They are retailed at from eight to twenty a penny, and are sold by all
classes of street-traders.
A little girl, who
looked stunted and wretched, and who did not know her age (which might be
eleven), told me she was sent out by her mother with six halfpenny-worth of
nuts, and she must carry back 6d. or she would be beat. She had no
father, and could neither read nor write.
Her mother was an Englishwoman, she believed, and sold oranges.
She had heard of God; he was "Our Father who art in heaven." She'd
heard that said. She did not know the Lord's Prayer; had never heard of it; did
not know who the Lord was; perhaps the Lord Mayor, but she had never been before
him. She went into public-houses with her nuts, but did not know whether she was
ever insulted or not; she did not know what insulted was, but she was never
badly used. She often went into taprooms with her nuts, just to warm herself. A
man once gave her some hot beer, which made her ill. Her mother was kind enough
to her, and never beat her but for not taking home 6d. She had a younger
brother that did as she did. She had bread and potatoes to eat, and sometimes
tea, and sometimes herrings. Her mother didn't get tipsy (at first she did not
know what was meant by tipsy) above once a week.
OF ROASTED CHESTNUTS AND APPLES.
How long the
street-trade in roasted chestnuts has been carried on I find no means of
ascertaining precisely, but it is unquestionably one of the oldest of the public
traffics. Before potato-cans were introduced, the sale of roasted chestnuts was
far greater than it is now.
It is difficult to
compute the number of roasted chestnut-sellers at present in the streets. It is
probable that they outnumber 1,000, for I noticed that on a cold day almost
every street fruit-seller, man or woman, had roasted chestnuts for sale.
chestnuts are roasted in the streets, in a huge iron apparatus, made expresly
for the purpose, and capable of cooking perhaps a bushel at a time -but these
are to be found solely at the street-markets.
The ordinary street
apparatus for roasting chestnuts is simple. A round pan, with a few holes
punched in it, costing 3d. or 4d. in a marine-store shop, has
burning charcoal within it, and is surmounted by a second pan, or kind of lid,
containing chestnuts, which are thus kept hot. During my inquiry, chestnuts were
dear. "People don't care," I was told, "whether chestnuts is
three and six, as they are now, or one and six a peck, as I hope they will be
afore long; they wants the same pennyworths."
generally bought wholesale in Duke's-place, on the Sunday mornings, for street
sale; but some street-dealers buy them of those costermongers, whose means
enable them "to lay in" a quantity. The retail customers are, for the
most part, boys and girls, or a few labourers or street people. The usual price
is sixteen a penny.
Roasted apples used
to be vended in the streets, and often along with roasted chestnuts, but it is a
trade which has now almost entirely disappeared, and its disappearance is
attributed to the prevalence of potato cans.
I had the following
account from a woman, apparently between sixty and seventy, though she said she
was only about fifty. What she was in her youth, she said, she neither knew nor cared. At any rate she
was unwilling to converse about it. I found her statement as to chestnuts
nothing to what it was, sir," she said. "Why when the hackney coaches
was in the streets, I've often sold 2s. worth of a night at a time, for a
relish, to the hackneymen that was waiting their turn over their beer. Six and
eight a penny was enough then; now people must have sixteen; though I pays 3s.
a peck, and to get them at that's a favour. I could make my good 12s. a
week on roasted chestnuts and apples, and as much on other things in them days,
but I'm half-starved now. There'll never be such times again. People didn't want
to cut one another's throats in the street business then. O, I don't know
anything about how long ago, or what year -years is nothing to me -but I only
know that it was so. I got a penny a piece then for my roasted apples, and a
halfpenny for sugar to them. I could live then. Roasted apples was
reckoned good for the tooth-ache in them days, but, people change so, they
aren't now. I don't know what I make now in chestnuts and apples, which is all I
sells -perhaps 5s. a week. My rent's 1s. 3d. a week. I
lives on a bit of fish, or whatever I can get, and that's all about it."
quantity of oranges, lemons, and nuts sold annually in the London streets is as
Spanish and Barcelona nuts
OF "DRY" FRUIT SELLING IN
The sellers of
"dry fruit" cannot be described as a class, for, with the exception of
one old couple, none that I know of confine themselves to its sale, but resort
to it merely when the season prevents their dealing in "green fruit"
or vegetables. I have already specified what in commerce is distinguished as
"dry fruit," but its classification among the costers is somewhat
sellers derive their supplies partly from Duke's-place, partly from Puddinglane,
but perhaps principally from the costers concerning whom I have spoken, who buy
wholesale at the markets and elsewhere, and who will "clear out a
grocer," or buy such figs, &c. as a leading tradesman will not allow to
be sent, or offered, to his regular customers, although, perhaps, some of the
articles are tolerably good. Or else the dry-fruit men buy a damaged lot of a
broker or grocer, and pick out all that is eatable, or rather saleable.
The sale of dry
fruit is unpopular among the costermongers. Despite their utmost pains, they
cannot give to figs, or raisins, or currants, which may be old and stale,
anything of the bloom and plumpness of good fruit, and the price of good fruit is too high for
them. Moreover, if the fruit be a "damaged lot," it is almost always
discoloured, and the blemish cannot be removed.
It is impossible to
give the average price of dry fruit to the costermonger. The quality and the
"harvest" affect the price materially in the regular trade.
The rule which I am
informed the costermonger, who sometimes "works" a barrow of dried
fruit, observes, is this: he will aim at cent. per cent., and, to accomplish it,
"slang" weights are not unfrequently used. The stale fruit is sold by
the grocers, and the damaged fruit by the warehouses to the costers, at from a
half, but much more frequently a fourth to a twentieth of its prime cost. The
principal street-purchasers are boys.
A dry-fruit seller
gave me the following account: -By "half profits" he meant cent. per
cent., or, in other words, that the money he received for his stock was half of
it cost price and half profit.
"I sell dry
fruit, sir, in February and March, because I must be doing something, and green
fruit's not my money then. It's a poor trade. I've sold figs at 1d. a
pound, -no, sir, not slang the time I mean -and I could hardly make 1s. a
day at it, though it was half profits. Our customers look at them quite
particler. `Let's see the other side of them figs,' the boys'll say, and then
they'll out with -`I say, master, d'you see any green about me?' Dates I can
hardly get off at all, no! -not if they was as cheap as potatoes, or cheaper.
I've been asked by women if dates was good in dumplings? I've sometimes said
`yes,' though I knew nothing at all about them. They're foreign. I can't say
where they're grown. Almonds and raisins goes off best with us. I don't sell
them by weight, but makes them up in ha'penny or penny lots. There's two things,
you see, and one helps off the other. Raisins is dry grapes, I've heard. I've
sold grapes before they was dried, at 1d. and 2d. the pound. I
didn't do no good in any of 'em; 1s. a day on 'em was the topper, for all
the half profits. I'll not touch 'em again if I aint forced."
There are a few
costers who sell tolerable dry fruit, but not to any extent.
The old couple I
have alluded to stand all the year round at the corner of a street running into
a great city thoroughfare. They are supplied with their fruit, I am told,
through the friendliness of a grocer who charges no profit, and sometimes makes
a sacrifice for their benefit. As I was told that this old couple would not like
inquiries to be made of them, I at once desisted.
There are sometimes
twenty costermongers selling nothing but dry fruit, but more frequently only
ten, and sometimes only five; while, perhaps, from 300 to 400 sell a few figs,
&c., with other things, such as late apples, the dry fruit being then used "just as a
According to the
returns before given, the gross quantity of dry fruit disposed of yearly in the
streets of London may be stated as follows:
7,000 lbs. of shell almonds,
37,800 " raisins,
24,300 " figs,
4,200 " prunes.
Of THE STREET-SALE OF VEGETABLES.
The seller of fruit
in the streets confines his traffic far more closely to fruit, than does the
vegetable-dealer to vegetables. Within these three or four years many
street-traders sell only fruit the year through; but the purveyor of vegetables
now usually sells fish with his cabbages, turnips, cauliflowers, or other garden
stuff. The fish that he carries out on his round generally consists of soles,
mackerel, or fresh or salt herrings. This combination of the streetgreen-grocer
and street-fishmonger is called a general dealer."
The general dealers
are usually accompanied by boys (as I have elsewhere shown), and sometimes by
their wives. If a woman be a general dealer, she is mostly to be found at a
stall or standing, and not "going a round."
The general dealer
"works" everything through the season. He generally begins the year
with sprats or plaice: then he deals in soles until the month of May. After this
he takes to mackerel, haddocks, or red herrings. Next he trades in strawberries
or raspberries. From these he will turn to green and ripe gooseberries; thence
he will go to cherries; from cherries he will change to red or white currants;
from them to plums or green-gages, and from them again to apples and pears, and
damsons. After these he mostly "works" a few vegetables, and continues
with them until the fish season begins again. Some general dealers occasionally
trade in sweetmeats, but this is not usual, and is looked down upon by the
"I am a general
dealer," said one of the better class; "my missis is in the same line
as myself, and sells everything that I do (barring green stuff.) She follows me
always in what I sell. She has a stall, and sits at the corner of the street. I
have got three children. The eldest is ten, and goes out with me to call my
goods for me. I have had inflammation in the lungs, and when I call my goods for
a little while my voice leaves me. My missis is lame. She fell down a cellar,
when a child, and injured her hip. Last October twelvemonth I was laid up with
cold, which settled on my lungs, and laid me in my bed for a month. My missis
kept me all that time. She was `working' fresh herrings; and if it hadn't been
for her we must all have gone into the workhouse. We are doing very badly now. I
have no work to do. I have no stock-money to work with, and I object to pay 1s.
6d. a week for the loan of 10s. Once I gave a man 1s. 6d.
a week for ten months for the loan of 10s., and that nearly did me up. I have had 8s. of the same party since, and paid 1s. a week
for eight weeks for the loan of it. I consider it most extortionate to have to
pay 2d. a day for the loan of 8s., and won't do it. When the
season gets a bit better I shall borrow a shilling of one friend and a shilling
of another, and then muddle on with as much stock-money as I can scrape
together. My missis is at home now doing nothing. Last week it's impossible to
say what she took, for we're obliged to buy victuals and firing with it as we
take it. She can't go out charing on account of her hip. When she is out, and I
am out, the children play about in the streets. Only last Saturday week she was
obligated to take the shoes off her feet to get the children some victuals. We
owe two week's rent, and the landlord, though I've lived in the house five
years, is as sharp as if I was a stranger."
sir," said another vegetable-dealer, who was a robust-looking young man,
very clean in his person, and dressed in costermonger corduroy, "I can
hardly say what my business is worth to me, for I'm no scholard. I was brought
up to the business by my mother. I've a middling connection, and perhaps clear 3s.
a day, every fine day, or 15s. or 16s. a week; but out of that
there's my donkey to keep, which I suppose costs 6d. a day, that's seven
sixpences off. Wet or fine, she must be fed, in coorse. So must I; but I've only
myself to keep at present, and I hire a lad when I want one. I work my own trap.
Then things is so uncertain. Why, now, look here, sir. Last Friday, I think it
was - but that don't matter, for it often happens -fresh herrings was 4s.
the 500 in the morning, and 1s. 6d. at night, so many had come in.
I buy at Billingsgate-market, and sometimes of a large shopkeeper, and at
Covent-garden and the Borough. If I lay out 7s. in a nice lot of
cabbages, I may sell them for 10s. 6d., or if it isn't a lucky day
with me for 8s., or less. Sometimes people won't buy, as if the cholera
was in the cabbages. Then turnips isn't such good sale yet, but they may be
soon, for winter's best for them. There's more bilings then than there's
roastings, I think. People like broth in cold weather. I buy turnips by the
`tally.' A tally's five dozen bunches. There's no confinement of the number to a
bunch; it's by their size; I've known twelve, and I've known twice that. I sell
three parts of the turnips at 1d. a bunch, and the other part at 1½d.
If I get them at 3s. 6d. the tally I do well on turnips. I go the
same rounds pretty regularly every day, or almost every day. I don't object to
wet weather so much, because women don't like to stir out then, and so they'll
buy of me as I pass. Carrots I do little in; they're dear, but they'll be
cheaper in a month or two. They always are. I don't work on Sundays. If I did,
I'd get a jacketing. Our chaps would say: `Well, you are a scurf. You
have a round; give another man a Sunday chance.' A gentleman once said to me,
when I was obligated to work on a Sunday: `Why don't you leave it off, when you
know it ain't right?' `Well, sir,' said I,
and he spoke very kind to me, `well, sir, I'm working for my dinner, and
if you'll give me 4s. or 3s. 6d., I'll tumble to your
notion and drop it, and I'll give you these here cowcumbers,' (I was working
cowcumbers at that time) `to do what you like with, and they cost me
half-a-crown.' In potatoes I don't do a great deal, and it's no great trade. If
I did, I should buy at the warehouses in Tooley-street, where they are sold in
sacks of 1 cwt.; 150 lbs. and 200 lbs., at 2s. 9d. and 3s.
the cwt. I sell mine, tidy good, at 3 pound 2d., and a halfpenny a pound,
but as I don't do much, not a bushel a day, I buy at market by the bushel at
from 1s. 6d. to 2s. I never uses slangs. I sold three times
as many potatoes as I do now four years back. I don't know why, 'cept it be that
the rot set people again them, and their taste's gone another way. I sell a few
more greens than I did, but not many. Spinach I don't do only a little in it.
Celery I'm seldom able to get rid on. It's more women's work. Ing-uns the
I may add that I
found the class, who confined their business principally to the sale of
vegetables, the dullest of all the costermongers. Any man may labour to make 1s.
6d. of cabbages or turnips, which cost him 1s., when the
calculation as to the relative proportion of measures, &c. is beyond his
Pursuing the same
mode of calculation as has been heretofore adopted, we find that the absolute
quantity of vegetables sold in the London streets by the costers is as follows:
lbs. of potatoes (home grown)
junks of turnip tops,
brocoli and cauliflowers,
bushels of peas,
" french beans,
dozens of vegetable marrows,
dozen bundles of asparagus,
dozen hands of radishes,
bushels of onions,
dozen bunches of spring onions,
bushels of cucumbers,
dozen bunches of herbs.
OF THE "ARISTOCRATIC"
In designating these
dealers I use a word not uncommon among the costermongers. These aristocratic
sellers, who are not one in twenty, or perhaps in twenty-five, of the whole body
of costermongers, are generally men of superior manners and better dressed than
their brethren. The following narrative, given to me by one of the body, shows
the nature of the trade: -
"It depends a
good deal upon the season and the price, as to what I begin with in the `
haristocratic' way. My rounds are always in the suburbs. I sell neither in the streets, nor squares in town. I like it
best where there are detached villas, and best of all where there are kept
mistresses. They are the best of all customers to men like me. We talk our
customers over among ourselves, and generally know who's who. One way by which
we know the kept ladies is, they never sell cast-off clothes, as some ladies do,
for new potatoes or early peas. Now, my worst customers, as to price, are the
ladies -or gentlemen -they're both of a kidney -what keeps fashionable schools. They
are the people to drive a bargain, but then they buy largely. Some buy entirely
of costermongers. There's one gent. of a school-keeper buys so much and knows so
well what o'clock it is, that I'm satisfied he saves many a pound a year by
buying of us 'stead of the greengrocers.
begin the season in the haristocratic way, with early lettuces for salads. I
carry my goods in handsome baskets, and sometimes with a boy, or a boy and a
girl, to help me. I buy my lettuces by the score (of heads) when first in, at 1s.
6d., and sell them at 1½d. each, which is 1s. profit on a
score. I have sold twenty, and I once sold thirty score, that way in a day. The
profit on the thirty was 2l. 5s., but out of that I had to pay
three boys, for I took three with me, and our expenses was 7s. But you
must consider, sir, that this is a precarious trade. Such goods are delicate,
and spoil if they don't go off. I give credit sometimes, if anybody I know says
he has no change. I never lost nothing
grass (asparagus), and that's often good money. I buy all mine at Coventgarden,
where it's sold in bundles, according to the earliness of the season, at from 5s.
to 1s., containing from six to ten dozen squibs (heads). These you have
to take home, untie, cut off the scraggy ends, trim, and scrape, and make them
level. Children help me to do this in the court where I live. I give them a few
ha'pence, though they're eager enough to do it for nothing but the fun. I've had
10s. worth made ready in half an hour.
sir, about grass, there's not a coster in London, I'm sure, ever tasted it; and
how it's eaten puzzles us." [I explained the manner in which asparagus was
brought to table.] "That's the ticket, is it, sir? Well, I was once at the
Surrey, and there was some macaroni eaten on the stage, and I thought grass was
eaten in the same way, perhaps; swallowed like one o'clock," [rather a
favourite comparison among the costers.]
"I have the
grass -it's always called, when cried in the streets, `Spar-row gra-ass' -tied
up in bundles of a dozen, twelve to a dozen, or one over, and for these I never
expect less than 6d. For a three or four dozen lot, in a neat sieve, I
ask 2s. 6d., and never take less than 1s. 3d. I once
walked thirty-five miles with grass, and have oft enough been thirty miles. I
made 7s. or 8s. a day by it, and next day or two perhaps nothing,
or may-be had but one customer. I've sold half-crown lots, on a Saturday night, for a
sixpence; and it was sold some time back at 2d. a bundle, in the
New Cut, to poor people. I dare say some as bought it had been maidservants and
understood it. I've raffled 5s. worth of grass in the parlour of a
respectable country inn of an evening.
generally buy new potatoes at 4s. to 5s. the bushel, and cry them
at ` threepound-tuppence;' but I've given 7s. a bushel, for choice and
early, and sold them at 2d. a pound. It's no great trade, for the bushel
may weigh only 50 lb., and at 2d. a pound that's only 8s. 4d.
The schools don't buy at all until they're 1d. the pound, and don't buy
in any quantity until they're 1s. 6d. the 25 lb. One day a school
'stonished me by giving me 2s. 6d. for 25 lb., which is the
general weight of the half bushel. Perhaps the master had taken a drop of
something short that morning. The schools are dreadful screws, to be sure.
early ones, I don't buy when they first come in, for then they're very dear, but
when they're 4s. or 3s. 6d. a bushel, and that's pretty
soon. I can make five pecks of a bushel. Schools don't touch peas `till they're
2s. a bushel.
were an aristocratic sale. Four or five years ago they were looked upon, when
first in, and with a beautiful bloom upon them, as the finest possible relish.
But the cholera came in 1849, and everybody -'specially the women -thought the
cholera was in cowcumbers, and I've known cases, foreign and English, sent from
the Borough Market for manure.
"I sell a good
many mushrooms. I sometimes can pick up a cheap lot at Covent Garden. I make
them up in neat sieves of three dozen to eight dozen according to size, and I
have sold them at 4s. the sieve, and made half that on each sieve I sold.
They are down to 1s. or 1s. 6d. a sieve very soon.
for pickling I sell a quantity of. One day I sold 20s. worth -half profit
-I got them so cheap, but that was an exception. I sold them cheap too. One lady
has bought a bushel and a half at a time. For walnut catsup the refuse of the
walnut is used; it's picked up in the court, where I've got children or poor
fellows for a few ha'pence or a pint of beer to help me to peel the
OF ONION SELLING IN THE STREETS.
The sale of onions
in the streets is immense. They are now sold at the markets at an average of 2s.
a bushel. Two years ago they were 1s., and they have been 4s. and
up to 7s. the bushel. They are now twisted into "ropes" for
street sale. The ropes are of straw, into which the roots are platted, and
secured firmly enough, so that the ropes can be hung up; these have superseded
the netted onions, formerly sold by the Jew boys. The plaiting, or twisting, is
done rapidly by the women, and a straw-bonnet-maker described it to me as
somewhat after the mode of her trade, only that the top, or projecting portion
of the stem of the onion, was twisted within the straw,
instead of its being plaited close and flat together. The trade in rope
onions is almost entirely in the hands of the Irish women and girls. There are
now, it is said, from 800 to 1000 persons engaged in it. Onion selling can be
started on a small amount of capital, from 6d. to 1s., which is no
doubt one inducement for those poor persons to resort to it. The sixpenny ropes,
bunches, or strings (I heard each word applied), contain from three to four
dozen; the penny bunches, from six to twenty roots, according to size; and the
intermediate and higher priced bunches in proportion. Before Christmas, a good
many shilling lots are sold. Among the costermongers I heard this useful root
-which the learned in such matters have pronounced to be, along with the
mushroom, the foundation of every sauce, ancient or modern -called ing-guns,
ingans, injens, injyens, inions, innons, almost everything but onions.
apparently of thirty-five, but in all probability younger -she did not know her
age -gave me the following account. Her face, with its strongly-marked Irish
features, was almost purpled from constant exposure to the weather. She was a
teetotaller. She was communicative and garrulous, even beyond the average of her
countrywomen. She was decently clad, had been in London fifteen years (she
thought) having been brought from Ireland, viā Bristol, by her parents
(both dead). She herself was a widow, her husband, "a bricklayer" she
called him (probably a bricklayer's labourer), having died of the cholera in
1849. I take up her statement from that period:
sir, he died -the heavins be his bed! -and he was prepared by Father M -. We had
our thrials togither, but sore's been the cross and heavy the burthin since it
plased God to call him. Thin, there's the two childer, Biddy and Ned. They'll be
tin and they'll be eight come their next burreth-days, 'plase the Lorrud. They
can hilp me now, they can. They sells ing-uns as well. I ropes 'em for 'em. How
is ing-uns roped? Shure, thin -but it's not mocking me your 'onnur is -shure,
thin, a gintleman like you, that can write like a horrus agalloping, and perhaps
is as larned as a praste, glory be to God! must know how to rope ing-uns!
Poor people can do it. Some say it's a sacrit, but that's all a say, or there
couldn't be so many ropes a-silling. I buy the sthraw at a sthrawdaler's;
twopinn'orth at a time; that'll make six or twilve ropes, according to what they
are, sixpinny or what. It's as sthraight as it can be grown, the sthraw, that it
is indeed. Och, sir, we've had many's the black day, me and the childer, poor
things; it's thim I care about, but -God's name be praised! -we've got on
somehow. Another poor woman -she's a widdur too, hilp her! -and me has a 2s.
room for the two of us. We've our siprate furnithur. She has only hersilf, but
is fond of the childer, as you or your ady -bliss her! if you've got one -might
be, if you was with them. I can read a little mysilf, at laste I could oncte,
and I gits them a bit o' schoolin'
now and thin, whin I can, of an evenin mostly. I can't write a letther; I wish I
could. Shure, thin, sir, I'll tell you the thruth -we does best on ing-uns.
Oranges is nixt, and nuts isn't near so good. The three of us now makes 1s. and
sometimes 1s. 6d. a day, and that's grand doin's. We may sill
bechuxt us from two to three dozin ropes a day. I'm quick at roping the ing-uns.
I never noted how many ropes an hour. I buy them of a thradesman, an honist
gintleman, I know, and I see him at mass ivery Sunday, and he gives me as many
as he can for 1s. or what it is. We has 1d., plase God, on ivery 6d.;
yis, sir, perhaps more sometimes. I'll not tell your 'onnur a bit of a lie. And
so we now get a nice bit o' fish, with a bit of liver on a Sunday. I sell to the
thradesmen, and the lodgers of them, about here (Tottenham-court-road), and in
many other parruts, for we thravels a dale. The childer always goes the same
round. We follows one another. I've sould in the sthreets ever since I've been
in this counthry."
The greatest sum of
money expended by the poor upon any vegetable (after potatoes) is spent upon
onions -99,900l. being annually devoted to the purchase of that article.
To those who know the habits of the poor, this will appear in no way singular -a
piece of bread and an onion being to the English labourer what bread and an
apple or a bunch of grapes is to the French peasant -often his dinner.
OF POT-HERBS AND CELERY.
I use the old
phrase, pot-herbs, for such productions as sage, thyme, mint, parsley,
sweet marjoram, fennel, (though the last is rarely sold by the street-people),
&c.; but "herbs" is the usual term. More herbs, such as agrimony,
balm (balsam), wormwood, tansy, &c., used to be sold in the streets. These
were often used for "teas," medicinally perhaps, except tansy, which,
being a strong aromatic, was used to flavour puddings. Wormwood, too, was often
bought to throw amongst woollen fabrics, as a protective against the attack of
herb-trade is now almost entirely in the hands of Irishwomen, and is generally
carried on during the autumn and winter at stalls. With it, is most commonly
united the sale of celery. The herbs are sold at the several markets, usually in
shilling lots, but a quarter of a shilling lot may be purchased. The Irishwoman
pursues a simple method of business. What has cost her 1s. she divides
into 24 lots, each of 1d., or she will sell half of a lot for a
halfpenny. An Irishwoman said to me:
good, sir; it falls and it falls. I don't sell so many herrubs or so much ciliry
as I did whin mate was higher. Poor people thin, I've often been said it, used
to buy bones and bile them for broth with ciliry and the beautiful herrubs. Now
they buys a bit of mate and ates it without brothing. It's good one way and it's
bad another. Only last Saturday night my husband -and a good husband he's to me,
though he is a London man, for he knows how to make a bargain -he bought a bit of mutton, afore the stroke of twilve, in
Newgit-markit, at 2½d. the pound. I don't know what parrut it was. I
don't understand that, but he does, and tills me how to cook it. He has worruk
at the docks, but not very rigular. I think I sill most parrusley. Whin frish
herrings is chape, some biles them with parrusley, and some fries them with
ing-uns. No, sir; I don't make sixpence a day; not halfa-crown a week, I'm
shure. Whin herrubs isn't in -and they're autumn and winther things, and so is
ciliry -I sills anything; gooseberries and currints, or anything. If I'd had a
family, I couldn't have had a shoe to my futt."
GROSS VALUE OF THE FRUIT AND
VEGETABLES SOLD ANNUALLY IN THE LONDON STREETS.
To complete the
present account of the costermonger's trade, we must now estimate the money
value of the fruit and vegetables disposed of by them throughout the year. The
money annually spent in fish by the humbler portion of the metropolitan
population comes to, as we have seen, very nearly one million five hundred
thousand pounds sterling -the sum laid out in fruit and vegetables we shall find
is but little more than a third of this amount.
377,500 bushels of apples, at
six a penny or 4s. per bush. (288 to the bushel)
193,700 bushels of pears, at 5s.
1,215,360 lbs. of cherries, at 2d.
11,700 bushels of plums, at 1d.
per half pint
100 bushels of greengages, at 1½d.
per half pint
548 bushels of damsons, at 1½d.
per half pint
2,450 bushels of bullace, at 1½d.
per half pint
207,500 bushels of gooseberries,
at 3d. per quart
85,500 sieves of red currants,
at 1d. per pint (three halfsieves to the bushel)
13,500 sieves of black currants,
at 1d. per pint (three halfsieves to the bushel)
3,000 sieves of white currants,
at 1d. per pint (three halfsieves to the bushel)
763,750 pottles of strawberries,
at 2d. per pottle
1,760 pottles of raspberries, at
6d. per pottle
30,485 pottles of mulberries, at
6d. per pottle
6,000 bushels of hazel nuts, at
¾d. per half pint
17,280 lbs. of filberts, at 3d.
26,563 lbs. of grapes, at 4d.
20,000 pine apples, at 6d.
15,400,000 oranges, at two for 1d.
154,000 lemons, at two for 1d.
24,000 bushels of Spanish and
Barcelona nuts, at 6d. per quart
3,000 bushels of Brazil nuts
(1500 to the bushel), at fifteen for 1d.
6,500 bushels of chestnuts (1500
to the bushel), at fifteen for 1d.
24,000 bushels of walnuts (1750
to the bushel), at ten for 1d.
400,000 coker-nuts, at 3d.
Total expended yearly in green
7,000 lbs. of shell almonds, at
20 a penny (320 to the lb.)
37,800 lbs. of raisins, at 2d.
24,300 lbs. of figs, at 2d.
4,800 lbs. of prunes, at 2d.
Total expended yearly on dry
60,500,000 lbs. of potatoes, at
5lbs. for 2d.
23,760,000 cabbages, at ½d.
3,264,800 turnips, at 1½d.
601,000 carrots, at 2½d.
567,300 brocoli and
cauliflowers, at 1d. per head
616,666 junks of turnip tops, at
4d. per junk
219,000 bushels of peas, at 1s.
6d. per bushel
8,890 bushels of beans, at 1s.
6d. per bushel
22,110 bushels of French beans,
at 6d. per peck, or 2s. per bushel
25,608 vegetable marrows, at ½d.
489 dozen bundles of asparagus,
at 2s. 6d. per bundle (4d. or 6d. a doz.
9,120 dozen bundles of rhubarb,
at 2s. 6d. per doz
4,350 dozen bundles of celery,
at 3d. per bundle
561,602 lettuces, at 3 a penny
13,291 dozen hands of radishes,
at 3 bunches for 1d., and 6 bunches to the hand
499,530 bushels of onions, at 4s.
10,920 bushels of cucumbers, at
1d. each (60 to the bush.)
3,290 dozen bundles of herbs, at
3d. a bundle
Total expended yearly in
Putting the above
sums together we have the following aggregate result: -
Expended yearly in green fruit
Expended yearly in dry fruit
Expended yearly in vegetables
Gross sum taken annually by the
Lodon costermongers for fruit and vegetables
adding the above to the gross amount received by the street-sellers of fish,
which we have before seen comes to as much as £1,460,850, we have for the
annual income of the London costermongers no less a sum than £2,087,270.