Victorian London - Publications - Social
Investigation/Journalism - London Labour and the London Poor; 1851, 1861-2;
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF EATABLES AND DRINKABLES (cont)
OF THE STREET-SALE OF DRINKABLES.
The street-sellers of
the drinkables, who have now to be considered, belong to the same class as I
have described in treating of the sale of street-provisions generally. The
buyers are not precisely of the same class, for the streeteatables often supply
a meal, but with the exception of the coffee-stalls, and occasionally of the
rice-milk, the drinkables are more of a luxury than a meal. Thus the buyers are
chiefly those who have "a penny to spare," rather than those who have
"a penny to dine upon." I have described the different classes of
purchasers of each potable, and perhaps the accounts -as a picture of
street-life -are even more curious than those I have given of the purchasers of
the eatables -of (literally) the diners out.
OF COFFEE-STALL KEEPERS.
The vending of tea and
coffee, in the streets, was little if at all known twenty years ago, saloop
being then the beverage supplied from stalls to the late and early wayfarers.
Nor was it until after 1842 that the stalls approached to anything like their
present number, which is said to be upwards of 300 -the majority of the
proprietors being women. Prior to 1824, coffee was in little demand, even among
the smaller tradesmen or farmers, but in that year the duty having been reduced
from 1s. to 6d. per lb., the consumption throughout the kingdom in the next
seven years was nearly trebled, the increase being from 7,933,041 lbs., in 1824,
to 22,745,627 lbs., in 1831. In 1842, the duty on coffee, was fixed at 4d., from
British possessions, and from foreign countries at 6d.
But it was not owing
solely to the reduced price of coffee, that the street-vendors of it increased
in the year or two subsequent to 1842, at least 100 per cent. The great
facilities then offered for a cheap adulteration, by mixing ground chicory with
the ground coffee, was an enhancement of the profits, and a greater temptation
to embark in the business, as a smaller amount of capital would suffice. Within
these two or three years, this cheapness has been still further promoted, by the
medium of adulteration, the chicory itself being, in its turn, adulterated by
the admixture of baked carrots, and the like saccharine roots, which, of course,
are not subjected to any duty, while foreign chicory is charged 6d. per lb.
English chicory is not chargeable with duty, and is now cultivated, I am
assured, to the yield of between 4,000 and 5,000 tons yearly, and this nearly
all used in the adulteration of coffee. Nor is there greater culpability in this
trade among street-venders, than among " respectable" shopkeepers; for
I was assured, by a leading grocer, that he could not mention twenty shops in
the city, of which he could say: "You can go and buy a pound of ground
coffee there, and it will not be adulterated." The revelations recently
made on this subject by the Lancet are a still more convincing proof of the
general dishonesty of grocers.
keepers generally stand at the corner of a street. In the fruit and meat markets
there are usually two or three coffee-stalls, and one or two in the streets
leading to them; in Covent-garden there are no less than four coffee-stalls.
Indeed, the stalls abound in all the great thoroughfares, and the most in those
not accounted "fashionable" and great "business" routes, but
such as are frequented by working people, on their way to their day's labour.
The best "pitch" in London is supposed to be at the corner of
Duke-street, Oxford-street. The proprietor of that stall is said to take full
30s. of a morning, in halfpence. One stall-keeper, I was informed, when
"upon the drink" thinks nothing of spending his 10l. or 15l. in a
week. A party assured me that once, when the stall-keeper above mentioned was
away "on the spree," he took up his stand there, and got from 4s. to
5s. in the course of ten minutes, at the busy time of the morning.
usually consists of a springbarrow, with two, and occasionally four, wheels.
Some are made up of tables, and some have a tressel and board. On the top of
this are placed two or three, and sometimes four, large tin cans, holding upon
an average five gallons each. Beneath each of these cans is a small iron
fire-pot, perforated like a rushlight shade, and here charcoal is continually
burning, so as to keep the coffee or tea, with which the cans are filled, hot
throughout the early part of the morning. The board of the stall has mostly a
compartment for bread and butter, cake, and ham sandwiches, and another for the
coffee mugs. There is generally a small tub under each of the stalls, in which
the mugs and saucers are washed. The "grandest" stall in this line is
the one before-mentioned, as standing at the corner of Duke-street,
Oxford-street (of which an engraving is here given). It is a large truck on four
wheels, and painted a bright green. The cans are four in number, and of bright
polished tin, mounted with brass-plates. There are compartments for bread and
butter, sandwiches, and cake. It is lighted by three large oil lamps, with
bright brass mountings, and covered in with an oil-cloth roof. The coffeestalls,
generally, are lighted by candle-lamps. Some coffee-stalls are covered over with
tarpaulin, like a tent, and others screened from the sharp night or morning air by a clotheshorse
covered with blankets, and drawn half round the stall.
Some of the
stall-keepers make their appearance at twelve at night, and some not till three
or four in the morning. Those that come out at midnight, are for the
accommodation of the "night-walkers" -"fast gentlemen" and
loose girls; and those that come out in the morning, are for the accommodation
of the working men.
It is, I may add,
piteous enough to see a few young and good-looking girls, some without the
indelible mark of habitual depravity on their countenances, clustering together
for warmth round a coffee-stall, to which a penny expenditure, or the charity of
the proprietor, has admitted them. The thieves do not resort to the
coffee-stalls, which are so immediately under the eye of the policeman.
keepers usually sell coffee and tea, and some of them cocoa. They keep hot milk
in one of the large cans, and coffee, tea, or cocoa in the others. They supply
bread and butter, or currant cake, in slices -ham sandwiches, water-cresses, and
boiled eggs. The price is 1d. per mug, or ½d. per half-mug, for coffee, tea, or
cocoa; and ½d. a slice the bread and butter or cake. The ham sandwiches are 2d.
(or 1d.) each, the boiled eggs 1d., and the water-cresses a halfpenny a bunch.
The coffee, tea, cocoa, and sugar they generally purchase by the single pound,
at a grocer's. Those who do an extensive trade purchase in larger quantities.
The coffee is usually bought in the berry, and ground by themselves. All
purchase chicory to mix with it. For the coffee they pay about 1s.; for the tea
about 3s.; for the cocoa 6d. per lb.; and for the sugar 3½d. to 4d. For the
chicory the price is 6d. (which is the amount of the duty alone on foreign
chicory), and it is mixed with the coffee at the rate of 6 ozs. to the pound;
many use as much as 9 and 12 ozs. The coffee is made of a dark colour by means
of what are called "finings," which consist of burnt sugar -such, as
is used for browning soups. Coffee is the article mostly sold at the stalls;
indeed, there is scarcely one stall in a hundred that is supplied with tea, and
not more than a dozen in all London that furnish cocoa. The stall-keepers
usually make the cake themselves. A 4 lb. cake generally consists of half a
pound of currants, half a pound of sugar, six ounces of beef dripping, and a
quartern of flour. The ham for sandwiches costs 5½d. or 6d. per lb.; and when
boiled produces in sandwiches about 2s. per lb. It is usually cut up in slices
little thicker than paper. The bread is usually "second bread;" the
butter, salt, at about 8d. the pound. Some borrow their barrows, and pay 1s. a
week for the hire of them. Many borrow the capital upon which they trade,
frequently of their landlord. Some get credit for their grocery -some for their
bread. If they borrow, they pay about 20 per cent. per week for the loan. I was
told of one man that makes a practice of lending money to the
coffee-stall-keepers and other hucksters, at the rate of at least 20 per cent. a
week. If the party wishing to borrow a pound or two is unknown to the
money-lender, he requires security, and the interest to be paid him weekly. This
money-lender, I am informed, has been transported once for receiving stolen
property, and would now purchase any amount of plate that might be taken to him.
The class of persons
usually belonging to the business have been either cab-men, policemen,
labourers, or artisans. Many have been bred to dealing in the streets, and
brought up to no other employment, but many have taken to the business owing to
the difficulty of obtaining work at their own trade. The generality of them are
opposed to one another. I asked one in a small way of business what was the
average amount of his profits, and his answer was, -
"I usually buy 10
ounces of coffee a night. That costs, when good, 1s. 0½d. With this I should
make five gallons of coffee, such as I sell in the street, which would require 3
quarts of milk, at 3d. per quart, and 1½lb. of sugar, at 3½d. per lb., there
is some at 3d. This would come to 2s. 2¾d.; and, allowing 1¼d. for a quarter
of a peck of charcoal to keep the coffee hot, it would give 2s. 4d. for the cost
of five gallons of coffee. This I should sell out at about 1½d. per pint; so
that the five gallons would produce me 5s., or 2s. 8d. clear. I generally get
rid of one quartern loaf and 6 oz. of butter with this quantity of coffee, and
for this I pay 5d. the loaf and 3d. the butter, making 8d.; and these I make
into twenty-eight slices at ½d. per slice; so the whole brings me in 1s. 2d.,
or about 6d. clear. Added to this, I sell a 4 lb. cake, which costs me 3½d. per
lb. 1s. 2d. the entire cake; and this in twentyeight slices, at 1d. per slice,
would yield 2s. 4d., or 1s. 2d. clear; so that altogether my clear gains would
be 4s. 4d. upon an expenditure of 2s. 2d. -say 200 per cent."
This is said to be
about the usual profit of the trade. Sometimes they give credit. One person
assured me he trusted as much as 9½d. that morning, and out of that he was
satisfied there was 4d., at least, he should never see. Most of the stalls are
stationary, but some are locomotive. Some cans are carried about with yokes,
like milk-cans, the mugs being kept in a basket. The best district for the
night-trade is the City, and the approaches to the bridges. There are more men
and women, I was told, walking along Cheapside, Aldersgate-street,
Bishopsgate-street, and Fleet-street. In the latter place a good trade is
frequently done between twelve at night and two in the morning. For the morning
trade the best districts are the Strand, Oxford-street, City-road, New-road
(from one end to the other), the markets, especially Covent Garden,
Billingsgate, Newgate, and the Borough. There are no coffee-stalls in
Smithfield. The reason is that the drovers, on arriving at the market, are
generally tired and
cold, and prefer sitting down to their coffee in a warm shop rather than drink
it in the open street. The best days for coffee-stalls are market mornings, viz.
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On these days the receipts are generally half
as much again as those of the other mornings. The best time of the year for the
business is the summer. This is, I am told, because the workpeople and
costermongers have more money to spend. Some stall-keepers save sufficient to
take a shop, but these are only such as have a "pitch" in the best
thoroughfares. One who did a little business informed me that he usually
cleared, including Sunday, 14s. - last week his gains were 15s.; the week before
that he could not remember. He is very frequently out all night, and does not
earn sixpence. This is on wet and cold nights, when there are few people about.
His is generally the night-trade. The average weekly earnings of the trade,
throughout the year, are said to be 1l. The trade, I am assured by all, is
overstocked. They are half too many, they say. "Two of us," to use
their own words, "are eating one man's bread." "When coffee in
the streets first came up, a man could go and earn," I am told, "his
8s. a night at the very lowest; but now the same class of men cannot earn more
than 3s." Some men may earn comparatively a large sum, as much as 38s. or
2l., but the generality of the trade cannot make more than 1l. per week, if so
much. The following is the statement of one of the class: -
"I was a mason's
labourer, a smith's labourer, a plasterer's labourer, or a bricklayer's
labourer. I was, indeed, a labouring man. I could not get employment. I was for
six months without any employment. I did not know which way to support my wife
and child (I have only one child). Being so long out of employment, I saw no
other means of getting a living but out of the streets. I was almost starving
before I took to it -that I certainly was. I'm not ashamed of telling anybody
that, because it's true, and I sought for a livelihood wherever I could. Many
said they wouldn't do such a thing as keep a coffee-stall, but I said I'd do
anything to get a bit of bread honestly. Years ago, when I was a boy, I used to
go out selling water-cresses, and apples, oranges, and radishes, with a barrow,
for my landlord; so I thought, when I was thrown out of employment, I would take
to selling coffee in the streets. I went to a tinman, and paid him 10s. 6d. (the
last of my savings, after I'd been four or five months out of work) for a can, I
didn't care how I got my living so long as I could turn an honest penny. Well; I
went on, and knocked about, and couldn't get a pitch anywhere; but at last I
heard that an old man, who had been in the habit of standing for many years at
the entrance of one of the markets, had fell ill; so, what did I do, but I goes
and pops into his pitch, and there I've done better than ever I did afore. I get
20s. now where I got 10s. one time; and if I only had such a thing as 5l. or
10l., I might get a good living for life. I cannot do half as much as the man
that was there before me. He used to make his coffee down there, and had a can
for hot water as well; but I have but one can to keep coffee and all in; and I
have to borrow my barrow, and pay 1s. a week for it. If I sell my can out, I
can't do any more. The struggle to get a living is so great, that, what with one
and another in the coffee-trade, it's only those as can get good `pitches' that
can get a crust at it."
As it appears that
each coffee-stall keeper on an average, clears 1l. a week, and his takings may
be said to be at least double that sum, the yearly street expenditure for tea,
coffee, &c., amounts to 31,200l. The quantity of coffee sold annually in the
streets, appears to be about 550,000 gallons.
To commence as a
coffee-stall keeper in a moderate manner requires about 5l. capital. The truck
costs 2l., and the other utensils and materials 3l. The expense of the cans is
near upon 16s. each. The stock-money is a few shillings.
OF THE STREET SALE OF GINGER-BEER,
SHERBET, LEMONADE, &c.
The street-trade in
ginger-beer -now a very considerable traffic -was not known to any extent until
about thirty years ago. About that time (1822) a man, during a most sultry
drought, sold extraordinary quantities of "cool ginger-beer" and of
"soda-powders," near the Royal Exchange, clearing, for the three or
four weeks the heat continued, 30s. a day, or 9l. weekly. Soda-water he sold
"in powders," the acid and the alkali being mixed in the water of the
glass held by the customer, and drunk whilst effervescing. His prices were 2d.
and 3d. a glass for ginger-beer; and 3d. and 4d. for soda-water, "according
to the quality;" though there was in reality no difference whatever in the
quality -only in the price. From that time, the numbers pursuing this street
avocation increased gradually; they have however fallen off of late years.
The street-sellers who
"brew their own beer" generally prepare half a gross (six dozen) at a
time. For a "good quality" or the "penny bottle" trade, the
following are the ingredients and the mode of preparation: -3 gallons of water;
1 lb. of ginger, 6d.; lemon-acid, 2d.; essence of cloves, 2d.; yeast, 2d.; and 1
lb. of raw sugar, 7d. This admixture, the yeast being the last ingredient
introduced, stands 24 hours, and is then ready for bottling. If the beverage be
required in 12 hours, double the quantity of yeast is used. The bottles are
filled only "to the ridge," but the liquid and the froth more than
fill a full-sized half-pint glass. "Only half froth," I was told,
"is reckoned very fair, and it's just the same in the shops." Thus, 72
bottles, each to be sold at 1d., cost -apart from any outlay in utensils, or any
consideration of the value of labour -only 1s. 7d., and yield, at 1d. per bottle, 6s. For the cheaper beverage -called "playhouse
ginger-beer" in the trade -instead of sugar, molasses from the "
private distilleries" is made available. The "private"
distilleries are the illicit ones: " `Jiggers,' we call them," said
one man; "and I could pass 100 in 10 minutes' walk from where we're
talking." Molasses, costing 3d. at a jigger's, is sufficient for a
half-gross of bottles of ginger-beer; and of the other ingredients only half the
quantity is used, the cloves being altogether dispensed with, but the same
amount of yeast is generally applied. This quality of "beer" is sold
at ½d. the glass.
About five years ago
"fountains" for the production of ginger-beer became common in the
streets. The ginger-beer trade in the open air is only for a summer season,
extending from four to seven months, according to the weather, the season last
year having been over in about four months. There were then 200 fountains in the
streets, all of which, excepting 20 or 30 of the best, were hired of the
ginger-beer manufacturers, who drive a profitable trade in them. The average
value of a street-fountain, with a handsome frame or stand, which is usually
fixed on a wheeled and movable truck, so as one man's strength may be sufficient
to propel it, is 7l.; and, for the rent of such a fountain, 6s. a week is paid
when the season is brisk, and 4s. when it is slack; but last summer, I am told,
4s. 6d. was an average. The largest and handsomest ginger-beer fountain in
London was -I speak of last summer -in use at the East-end, usually standing in
Petticoat-lane, and is the property of a dancing-master. It is made of mahogany,
and presents somewhat the form of an upright piano on wheels. It has two pumps,
and the brass of the pump-handles and the glass receivers is always kept bright
and clean, so that the whole glitters handsomely to the light. Two persons
"serve" at this fountain; and on a fine Sunday morning, from six to
one, that being the best trading time, they take 7l. or 8l. in halfpennies -for
"the beer" is ½d. a glass -and 2l. each other day of the week. This
machine, as it may be called, is drawn by two ponies, said to be worth 10l.
a-piece; and the whole cost is pronounced -perhaps with a sufficient
exaggeration -to have been 150l. There were, in the same neighbourhood, two more
fountains on a similar scale, but commoner, each drawn by only one pony instead
of the aristocratic "pair."
required to feed the " gingerbeer" fountains are of a very cheap
description. To supply 10 gallons, 2 quarts of lime-juice (as it is called, but
it is, in reality, lemonjuice), costing 3s. 6d., are placed in the recess,
sometimes with the addition of a pound of sugar (4d.); while some, I am assured,
put in a smaller quantity of juice, and add twopennyworth of oil of vitriol,
which "brings out the sharpness of the lime-juice." The rest is water.
No process of brewing or fermentation is necessary, for the fixed air pumped
into the liquid as it is drawn from the fountain, communicates a sufficient
briskness or effervescence. "The harder you pumps," said one man who
had worked a fountain, "the fronthier it comes; and though it seems to fill
a big glass -and the glass an't so big for holding as it looks -let it settle,
and there's only a quarter of a pint." The hirer of a fountain is required
to give security. This is not, as in some sloptrades, a deposit of money; but a
householder must, by written agreement, make himself responsible for any damage
the fountain may sustain, as well as for its return, or make good the loss: the
street ginger-beer seller is alone responsible for the rent of the machine. It
is however, only men that are known, who are trusted in this way. Of the
fountains thus hired, 50 are usually to be found at the neighbouring fairs and
races. As the ginger-beer men carry lime-juice, &c., with them, only water
is required to complete the "brewing of the beer" and so conveyance is
There is another kind
of "ginger-beer," or rather of "small acid tiff," which is
sold out of barrels at street-stalls at ½d. the glass. To make 2½ gallons of
this, there is used ½lb. tartaric, or other acid, 1s.; ½lb. alkali (soda),
10d.; ½lb. lump sugar, bruised fine, 4d.; and yeast 1d. Of these
"barrel-men" there are now about one hundred.
Another class of
street-sellers obtain their stock of ginger-beer from the manufacturers. One of
the largest manufacturers for the streettrade resides near Ratcliffe-highway,
and another in the Commercial-road. The charge by the wholesale traders is 8d.
the doz., while to a known man, or for ready money, 13 are given to the dozen.
The beer, however, is often let out on credit -or in some cases security is
given in the same way as for the fountains -and the empty bottles must be duly
returned. It is not uncommon for two gross of beer to be let out in this way at
a time. For the itinerant trade these are placed on a truck or barrow, fitted up
with four shelves, on which are ranged the bottles. These barrows are hired in
the same way as the costers' barrows. Some sell their beer at stalls fitted up
exclusively for the trade, a kind of tank being let into the centre of the board
and filled with water, in which the glasses are rinsed or washed. Underneath the
stall there is usually a reserve of the beer, and a keg containing water. Some
of the best frequented stalls were in Whitechapel, Old-street-road, Cityroad,
Tottenham-court-road, the New-cut, Elephant and Castle, the Commercial-road,
Towerhill, the Strand, and near Westminster-bridge.
The stationary beer
business is, for the most part, carried on in the more public streets, such as
Holborn and Oxford-street, and in the markets of Covent-garden, Smithfield, and
Billingsgate; while the peripatetic trade, which is briskest on the Sundays
-when, indeed, some of the stationary hands become itinerant -is more for the
suburbs; Victoria-park, Battersea-fields, Hampstead-heath, Primrose-hill,
Kennington common, and
Camberwell-green, being approved Sunday haunts.
street-sellers of ginger-beer, say the more experienced, may be computed at
3,000 -of whom about one-third are women. I heard them frequently estimated at
5,000, and some urged that the number was at least as near 5,000 as 3,000. For
my own part I am inclined to believe that half the smaller number would be
nearer the truth. Judging by the number of miles of streets throughout the
metropolis, and comparing the street-sellers of ginger-beer with the fruit-stall
keepers, I am satisfied that in estimating the ginger-beer-sellers at 1,500 we
are rather over than under the truth. This body of street-sellers were more
numerous five years back by 15 or 20 per cent., but the introduction of the
street fountains, and the trade being resorted to by the keepers of coal-sheds
and the small shopkeepers -who have frequently a stand with ginger-beer in front
of their shops -have reduced the amount of the street-sellers. In 1842, there
were 1,200 ginger-beer sellers in the streets who had attached to their stalls
or trucks labels, showing that they were members -or assumed to be members -of
the Society of Odd Fellows. This was done in hopes of a greater amount of custom
from the other members of the Society, but the expectation was not realised -and
so the Odd Fellowship of the ginger-beer people disappeared. Of the
street-traders 200 work fountains; and of the remaining portion the stationary
and the itinerant are about equally divided. Of the whole number, however, not
above an eighth confine themselves to the trade, but usually sell with their
"pop" some other article of open-air traffic -fruit, sweet-stuff, or
shell-fish. There are of the entire number about 350, who, whenever the weather
permits, stay out all night with their stands or barrows, and are to be found
especially in all the approaches to Covent-garden, and the other markets to
which there is a resort during the night or at day-break. These men, I was told
by one of their body, worked from eight in the evening to eight or ten next
morning, then went to bed, rose at three, and "plenty of 'em then goes to
the skittles or to get drunk."
The character of the
ginger-beer-sellers does not differ from what I have described as pertaining to
the costermonger class, and to streettraders generally. There is the same
admixture of the reduced mechanic, the broken-down gentleman's servant, the man
of any class in life who cannot brook the confinement and restraint of ordinary
in-door labour, and of the man "brought up to the streets." One
experienced and trustworthy man told me that from his own knowledge he could
count up twenty "classical men," as he styled them, who were in the
street ginger-beer-trade, and of these four had been, or were said to have been
"parsons," two being of the same name (Mr. S -); but my informant did
not know if they stood in any degree of consanguinity one to another. The women
are the wives, daughters, or other connections of the men.
Some of the stalls at
which ginger-beer is sold -and it is the same at the coal-sheds and the
chandlers' shops -are adorned pictorially. Erected at the end of a stall is
often a painting, papered on a board, in which a gentleman, with the bluest of
coats, the whitest of trousers, the yellowest of waistcoats, and the largest of
guardchains or eye-glasses, is handing a glass of ginger-beer, frothed up like a
pot of stout, and containing, apparently, a pint and a half, to some lady in
flowing white robes, or gorgeous in purple or orange.
To commence in this
branch of the street business requires, in all 18s. 3d.: six glasses, 2s. 9d.;
board, 5s.; tank, 1s.; keg, 1s.; gross of beer, 8s. (this is where the seller is
not also the maker); and for towels, &c., 6d.; if however the street-seller
brew his own beer, he will require half a gross of bottles, 5s. 6d.; and the
ingredients I have enumerated, 1s. 7d.
In addition to the
street-sale of ginger-beer is that of other summer-drinks. Of these, the
principal is lemonade, the consumption of which is as much as that of all the
others together. Indeed, the high-sounding names given to some of these
beverages -such as "Nectar" and "Persian Sherbet" -are but
other names for lemonade, in a slightly different colour or fashion.
Lemonade is made, by
those vendors who deal in the best articles, after the following method: 1 lb.
of carbonate of soda, 6d.; 1 lb. of tartaric acid, 1s. 4d. ("at
least," said an informant, `I pay 1s. 4d. at 'Pothecaries Hall, but it can
be had at 1s."); 1 lb. of loaf-sugar, 5½d.; essence of lemon, 3d. This
admixture is kept, in the form of a powder, in a jar, and water is drawn from
what the street-sellers call a " stone-barrel" -which is a stone jar,
something like the common-shaped filters, with a tap -and a larger or smaller
spoonful of the admixture in a glass of water supplies an effervescing draught
for 1d. or ½d. "There's sometimes shocking roguishness in the trade,"
said one man, "and there is in a many trades -some uses vitriol!"
Lemonade, made after the recipe I have given, is sometimes bottled by the
street-sellers, and sold in the same way as ginger-beer. It is bought, also, for
street sale of the ginger-beer manufacturers -the profit being the same -but so
bought to less than a twentieth of the whole sale. The water in the stone barrel
is spring-water, obtained from the nearest pump, and in hot weather obtained
frequently, so as to be "served" in as cool a state as possible.
Sometimes lemonade powders are used; they are bought at a chemist's, at 1s. 6d.
the pound. "Sherbet" is the same admixture, with cream of tartar
instead of tartaric acid. "Raspberry" has, sometimes, the addition of
a few crusted raspberries, and a colouring of cochineal, with, generally, a
greater degree of sweetening than lemonade. "If cochineal is used for
colouring," said one man, "it sometimes turns brown in the sun, and
the rasberry don't
sell. A little lake's better." "Lemon-juice" is again lemonade,
with a slight infusion of saffron to give it a yellow or pale orange colour.
"Nectar," in imitation of Soyer's, has more sugar and less acid than
the lemonade; spices, such as cinnamon, is used to flavour it, and the colouring
is from lake and saffron.
drinks" are sold from the powder or the jar, as I have described, from
fountains, and from bottles. The fountain sale is not above a tenth of the
whole. All is sold in ½d. and 1d. glasses, except the nectar, which is never
less than 1d. The customers are the same as those who buy ginger-beer; but one
" lemonader" with whom I conversed, seemed inclined to insist that
they were a "more respectabler class." Boys are good customers
-better, perhaps, than for the beer, -as "the colour and the fine names
drink" season, like that of the ginger-beer, is determined by the weather,
and last summer it was only four months. It was computed for me that there were
200 persons, chiefly men, selling solely lemonade, &c., and an additional
300 uniting the sale with that of ginger-beer. One man, whose statement was
confirmed by others, told me that on fine days he took 3s. 6d., out of which he
cleared 2s. to 2s. 6d.; and he concluded that his brother tradesmen cleared as
much every fine day, and so, allowing for wet weather and diminished receipts,
made 10s. a week. The receipts, then, for this street luxury -a receipt of 17s.
6d. affording a profit of 10s. -show a street expenditure in such a summer as
the last, of 2,800l., by those who do not unite ginger-beer with the trade.
Calculating that those who do unite ginger beer with it sell only one-half as
much as the others, we find a total outlay of 4,900l. One of the best trades is
in the hands of a man who "works" Smithfield, and on the market days
clears generally from 6s. to 9s.
The stalls, &c.,
are of the same character as those of the ginger-beer sellers. The capital
required to start is: -stone barrel, with brass tap, 5s. 6d.; stand and trestle,
6s.; 6 tumbler glasses, 2s. 3d.; 2 towels, 6d.; stock money, 2s. 6d.; jar, 2s.;
12 bottles (when used), 3s. 6d.; in all, about a guinea.
In showing the money
expended in the ginger-beer trade it must be borne in mind that a large portion
of the profits accrues to persons who cannot be properly classed with the
regular street-traders. Such is the proprietor of the great fountain of which I
have spoken, who is to be classed as a speculative man, ready to embark capital
in any way -whether connected with street-traffic or not -likely to be
remunerative. The other and large participants in the profits are the wholesale
ginger-beer manufacturers, who are also the letters-out of fountains, one of
them having generally nine let out at a time. For a street trader to sell three
gross of ginger-beer in bottle is now accounted a good week, and for that the
receipts will be 36s. with a profit in the penny bottle trade, to the seller, if
he buy of a manufacturer, of 12s.; if he be his own brewer -reckoning a fair
compensation for labour, and for money invested in utensils, and in bottles,
&c., of 20s. An ordinary week's sale is two gross, costing the public 24s.,
with the same proportion of profit in the same trade to the seller. In a bad
week, or "in a small way to help out other things," not more than one
gross is sold.
The fountain trade is
the most profitable to the proprietors, whether they send out their machines on
their own account, or let them out on hire; but perhaps there are only an eighth
of the number not let out on hire. Calculating that a fountain be let out for
three successive seasons of twenty weeks each, at only 4s. the week, the gross
receipts are 12l. for what on the first day of hire was worth only 7l.; so that
the returns from 200 machines let out for the same term, would be 2,400l., or a
profit of 1,000l. over and above the worth of the fountain, which having been
thus paid for is of course in a succeeding year the means of a clear profit of
4l. I am assured that the weekly average of "a fountain's takings,"
when in the hands of the regular street-dealers, is 18s.
The barrel traders may
be taken as in the average receipt of 6s. a week.
The duration of the
season was, last year, only sixteen weeks. Calculating from the best data I
could acquire, it appears that for this period 200 street-sellers of ginger-beer
in the bottle trade of the penny class take 30s. a week each (thus allowing for
the inferior receipts in bad weather); 300 take 20s. each, selling for the most
part at ½d. the bottle, and that the remaining 400 "in a small way"
take 6s. each; hence we find 11,480l. expended in the bottled ginger-beer of the
streets. Adding the receipts from the fountains and the barrels, the barrel
season continuing only ten weeks, the total sum expended annually in street
ginger-beer is altogether 14,660l. The bottles of ginger-beer sold yearly in the
streets will number about 4,798,000, and the total street consumption of the
same beverage may be said to be about 250,000 gallons per annum.
OF THE EXPERIENCE AND CUSTOMERS OF A
A slim, well-spoken
man, with a half-military appearance, as he had a well trimmed moustache, and
was very cleanlily dressed, gave me the following account: "I have known
the ginger-beer trade for eight years, and every branch of it. Indeed I think
I've tried all sorts of street business. I've been a costermonger, a lot-seller,
a nut-seller, a secretpaper-seller (with straws, you know, sir), a cap-seller, a
street-printer, a cakeman, a clown, an umbrella-maker, a toasting-fork maker, a
sovereign seller, and a ginger-beer seller. I hardly know what I haven't been. I
made my own when last I worked beer. Sunday was my best day, or rather Sunday
mornings when there's
no public-houses open. Drinking Saturday nights make dry Sunday mornings. Many a
time men have said to me: `Let's have a bottle to quench a spark in my throat,'
or `My mouth's like an oven.' I've had to help people to lift the glass to their
lips, their hands trembled so. They couldn't have written their names plain if
there was a sovereign for it. But these was only chance customers; one or two in
a morning, and five or six on a Sunday morning. I've been a teetotaller myself
for fifteen years. No, sir, I didn't turn one -but I never was a drinker -not
from any great respect for the ginger-beer trade, but because I thought it gave
one a better chance of getting on. I once had saved money, but it went in a long
sickness. I used to be off early on Sunday mornings sometimes to Hackney Marsh,
and sell my beer there to gentlemen -oldish gentlemen some of them - going a
fishing. Others were going there to swim. One week I took 35s. at 1d. a bottle,
by going out early in a morning; perhaps 20s. of it was profit, but my earnings
in the trade in a good season wasn't more than 12s. one week with another. All
the trades in the streets are bad now, I think. Eight years back I could make
half as much more in ginger-beer as could be made last summer. Working people
and boys were my other customers. I stuck to ginger-beer in the season and then
went into something else, for I can turn my hand to anything. I began a street
life at eight years old by selling memorandum-books in the bull-ring at
Birmingham. My parents were ill and hadn't a farthing in the house. I began with
1d. stock-money, and I bought three memorandum-books for it at Cheap Jack's
thatched house. I've been in London seventeen or eighteen years. I'm a
roulette-maker now; I mean the roulette boxes that gentlemen take with them to
play with when travelling on a railway or such times. I make loaded dice, too,
and supply gaming-houses. I think I know more gaming-houses than any man in
London. I've sold them to gentlemen and to parsons, that is ministers of
religion. I can prove that. I don't sell those sort of things in the streets. I
could do very well in the trade, but it's so uncertain and so little's wanted
compared to what would keep a man going, and I have a mother that's sixty to
support. Altogether my present business is inferior to the ginger-beer; but the
fountains will destroy all the fair ginger-beer trade."
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF HOT ELDER WINE.
The sale of hot elder
wine in the streets is one of the trades which have been long established, but
it is only within these eight or ten years that it has been carried on in its
present form. It continues for about four months in the winter.
Elder wine is made
from the berries of the elder-tree. Elder syrup -also made from the berries -was
formerly famous in the north of England as a curative for colds, and was
frequently taken, with a small admixture of rum, at bedtime. Some of the
street-sellers make the wine themselves; the majority, however, buy it of the
British wine makers. The berries must be gathered when fully ripe, and on a dry
day. They are picked, measured, and put into a copper, two gallons of water
being added to every gallon of berries. They are then boiled till the berries
are quite soft, when the liquor is strained and pressed from them through a
strong hair sieve. The liquor thus expressed is again put into the copper,
boiled an hour, skimmed, and placed in a tub along with a bread toast, on which
yeast is spread thickly; it then stands two days, and is afterwards put into a
cask, a few cloves and crusted ginger being hung in a muslin bag from the
bung-hole, so as to flavour the liquor. Sometimes this spicing is added
afterwards, when the liquor is warmed. The berries are sold in the markets,
principally in Covent-garden, -the price varying, according to the season, from
1s. 6d. to 3s. a gallon. Of all elder-wine makers the Jews are the best as
regards the street commodity. The costermongers say they "have a
secret;" a thing said frequently enough when superior skill is shown, and
especially when, as in the case of the Jews' elder wine, better pennyworths are
given. The Jews, I am told, add a small quantity of raspberry vinegar to their
"elder," so as to give it a "sharp pleasant twang." The heat
and pungency of the elder wine sold in the streets is increased by some
street-sellers by means of whole black pepper and capsicums.
The apparatus in which
the wine is now kept for sale in the streets is of copper or brass, and is
sometimes "handsome." It is generally an urn of an oblong form,
erected on a sort of pedestal, with the lid or top ornamented with brass
mouldings, &c. Three plated taps give vent to the beverage. Orifices are
contrived and are generally hidden, or partially hidden, with some ornament,
which act as safety-valves, or, as one man would have it, "chimneys."
The interior of these urns holds three or four quarts of elder wine, which is
surrounded with boiling water, and the water and wine are kept up to the boiling
pitch by means of a charcoal fire at the foot of the vessel. Fruit of some kind
is generally sold by the elder-wine men at their stand.
The elder wine urn is
placed on a stand covered with an oil-cloth, six or eight glasses being ranged
about it. It is sold at a halfpenny and a penny a glass; but there is
"little difference in some elder wines," I was told, "between the
penn'orths and the ha'porths." A wine glass of the "regular" size
is a half-quartern, or the eighth of a pint.
Along with each glass
of hot elder wine is given a small piece of toasted bread. Some buyers steep
this bread in the wine, and so imbibe the flavour. "It ain't no good as I
know on," said an elder-wine seller, "but it's the fashion, and
so people must have it." The purchasers of elder wine are the working
classes -but not the better order of them -and the boys of the street. Some of
these lads, I was told, were very choice and critical in their elder wines. Some
will say: "It ain't such bad wine, but not the real spicy." -"The
helder I thinks," said another, "is middlin', but somehow there's
nothing but hotness for to taste."
Of these traders there
are now perhaps fifty in London. One man counted up thirty of his brethren whom
he knew personally, or knew to be then "working elder," and he thought
that there might be as many more, but I am assured that fifty is about the mark.
The sellers of elder wine have been for the most part mechanics who have adopted
the calling for the reasons I have often given. None of them, in the course of
my inquiry, depended entirely upon the sale of the wine, but sold fruit in
addition to it. All complained of the bad state of trade. One man said, that
four or five years back he had replenished the wine in a three quart urn twelve
times a day, a jar of the wine being kept at the stall in readiness for that
purpose. This amounted to 576 glasses sold in the course of the day, and a
receipt - reckoning each glass at a penny -of 48s.; but probably not more than
40s. would be taken, as some would have halfpenny glasses. Now the same man
rarely sells three quarts in a day, except perhaps on a Saturday, and on wet
days he sells none at all. The elder wine can be bought at almost any price at the wine makers, from 4d. to 1s. 6d. the quart. The charge in the
public-houses is twice as high as in the streets, but the inn wine, I was told
by a person familiar with the trade, contains spirit, and is more highly spiced.
middle-aged man who had been in a gentleman's service, but was disabled by an
accident which crushed his hand, and who thereupon resorted to street-selling
and had since continued in it, in different branches, from fifteen to twenty
years, gave me an account of his customers. He had not been acquainted with the
elder-wine trade above four or five years when he bought an elder can for about
15s. among a cheap miscellaneous "lot" in Smithfield one Friday
afternoon, and so he commenced:
"It's a poor
trade, sir," he said. "I don't suppose any of us make 10s. a week at
it alone, but it's a good help to other things, and I do middling. I should say
less than a 1s. a day was above the average profits of the trade. Say 5s. a
week, for on wet days we can't sell at all. No one will stop to drink elder wine
in the wet. They'll rather have a pennor'th of gin, or half a pint of beer with
the chill off, under shelter. I sell sometimes to people that say they're
teetotallers and ask if there's any spirit in my wine. I assure them there's
not, just the juice of the berry. I start when I think the weather's cold
enough, and keep at it as long as there's any demand. My customers are boys and
poor people, and I sell more ha'porths than pennor'ths. I've heard poor women
that's bought of me say it was the only wine they ever tasted. The boys are hard
to please, but I won't put up with their nonsense. It's not once in fifty times
that a girl of the town buys my wine. It's not strong enough for her, I fancy. A
sharp frosty dry day suits me best. I may then sell three or four quarts. I
don't make it, but buy it. It's a poor trade, and I think it gets worse every
year, though I believe there's far fewer of us."
One elder-wine stand
in Tottenham-court-road cost, when new, 7l., but that was six or seven years
ago. Calculating that 50 persons clear 5s. a week for 16 weeks, their profit
being at least cent. per cent., the street outlay in this very British wine will
be only 200l., and the street-consumption of it in the course of the year 1,500
OF THE STREET SALE OF PEPPERMINT-WATER.
Perhaps the only thing
which can be called a cordial or a liqueur sold in the streets (if we except
elder wine), is peppermint-water, and of this the sale is very limited. For the
first 15 or 20 years of the present century, I was told by one who spoke from a
personal knowledge, "a pepperminter" had two little taps to his keg,
which had a division in the interior. From one tap was extracted
"peppermint-water;" from the other, "strong
peppermint-water." The one was at that time 1d. a glass, the other from 2d.
to 4d., according to the size of the glass. With the "strong" beverage
was mixed smuggled spirit, but so strongly impregnated with the odour of the
mint, that a passer-by could not detect the presence of the illicit compound.
There are six persons selling peppermint-water in the winter, and only half that
number in the summer. The trade is irregular, as some pursue it only of a night,
and generally in the street markets; others sell at Billingsgate, and places of
great traffic, when the traffic is being carried on. They are stationary for
awhile, but keep shifting their ground. The vendors generally "distilled
their own mint," when the sale was greater, but within these six or eight
years they have purchased it at a distilling chemist's, and have only prepared
it for sale. Water is added to the distilled liquid bought of the chemist, to
increase the quantity; but to enhance the heat of the draught -which is a draw
to some buyers - black pepper (unground), or ginger, or, but rarely, capsicums,
are steeped in the beverage. The peppermint-water is lauded by the vendors, when
questioned concerning it, as an excellent stomachic; but nothing is said
publicly of its virtues, the cry being merely, "Pep-permint water, a
halfpenny a glass."
The sellers will
generally say that they distil the peppermint-water themselves, but this is not
now commonly the case. The process, however, is simple enough. The peppermint
gathered just as it is bursting into flower, and the leaves and buds are placed
in a tub, with ust water enough to cover them. This steeping continues 24 hours,
and then a still is filled three-parts full, and the water is "over"
drawn very slowly.
The price at the
chemist's is 1s. a quart for the common mint-water; the street price is ½d. a
glass, containing something short of the eighth of a pint. What costs 1s., the
street-seller disposes of for 2s., so realising the usual cent. per cent.
To take 2s. is now
accounted "a tidy day's work;" and calculating that four "
pepperminters" take that amount the year round, Sundays excepted, we find
that nearly 125l. is spent annually in peppermint-water and 900 gallons of it
consumed every year in the streets of London.
The capital required
is, keg, 3s. 6d., or jar, 2s. (for they are used indifferently); four glasses,
1s.; towel, 4d., and stock-money, 4s.; or, in all, about 8s. The
"water"-keg, or jar, is carried by the vendor, but sometimes it is
rested on a large stool carried for the purpose. A distilling apparatus, such as
the street-sellers used, was worth about 10s. The vendors are of the same class
of street-sellers as the ginger-beer people.
OF MILK SELLING IN ST. JAMES'S PARK.
The principal sale of
milk from the cow is in St. James's Park. The once fashionable drink known as
syllabubs -the milk being drawn warm from the cow's udder, upon a portion of
wine, sugar, spice, &c. -is now unknown. As the sellers of milk in the park
are merely the servants of cow-keepers, and attend to the sale as a part of
their business, no lengthened notice is required.
obtain leave from the Home Secretary, to ply their trade in the park. There are
eight stands in the summer, and as many cows, but in the winter there are only
four cows. The milk-vendors sell upon an average, in the summer, from eighteen
to twenty quarts per day; in the winter, not more than a third of that quantity.
The interrupted milking of the cows, as practised in the Park, often causes them
to give less milk, than they would in the ordinary way. The chief customers are
infants, and adults, and others, of a delicate constitution, who have been
recommended to take new milk. On a wet day scarcely any milk can be disposed of.
Soldiers are occasional customers.
sour-tempered old woman, speaking as if she had been crossed in love, but
experienced in this trade, gave me the following account:
"It's not at all
a lively sort of life, selling milk from the cows, though some thinks it's a gay
time in the Park! I've often been dull enough, and could see nothing to interest
one, sitting alongside a cow. People drink new milk for their health, and I've
served a good many such. They're mostly young women, I think, that's delicate,
and makes the most of it. There's twenty women, and more, to one man what drinks
new milk. If they was set to some good hard work, it would do them more
good than new milk, or ass's milk either, I think. Let them go on a milkwalk to
cure them -that's what I say. Some children come pretty regularly with their
nurses to drink new milk. Some bring their own china mugs to drink it out of;
nothing less was good enough for them. I've seen the nurse-girls frightened to
death about the mugs. I've heard one young child say to another: `I shall tell
mama that Caroline spoke to a mechanic, who came and shook hands with her.' The
girl was as red as fire, and said it was her brother. Oh, yes, there's a deal of
brothers comes to look for their sisters in the Park. The greatest fools I've
sold milk to is servant-gals out for the day. Some must have a day, or half a
day, in the month. Their mistresses ought to keep them at home, I say, and not
let them out to spend their money, and get into nobody knows what company for a
holiday; mistresses is too easy that way. It's such gals as makes fools of
themselves in liking a soldier to run after them. I've seen one of them -yes,
some would call her pretty, and the prettiest is the silliest and easiest
tricked out of money, that's my opinion, anyhow -I've seen one of them, and more
than one, walk with a soldier, and they've stopped a minute, and she's taken
something out of her glove and given it to him. Then they've come up to me, and
he's said to her, `Mayn't I treat you with a little new milk, my dear?' and he's
changed a shilling. Why, of course, the silly fool of a gal had given him that
there shilling. I thought, when Annette Myers shot the soldier, it would be a
warning, but nothing's a warning to some gals. She was one of those fools. It
was a good deal talked about at the stand, but I think none of us know'd her.
Indeed, we don't know our customers but by sight. Yes, there's now and then some
oldish gentlemen - I suppose they're gentlemen, anyhow, they're idle men
-lounging about the stand: but there's no nonsense there. They tell me, too,
that there's not so much lounging about as there was; those that's known the
trade longer than me thinks so. Them children's a great check on the nusses, and
they can't be such fools as the servant-maids. I don't know how many of them
I've served with milk along with soldiers: I never counted them. They're nothing
to me. Very few elderly people drink new milk. It's mostly the young. I've been
asked by strangers when the Duke of Wellington would pass to the Horse-Guards or
to the House of Lords. He's pretty regular. I've had 6d. given me -but not above
once or twice a year -to tell strangers where was the best place to see him from
as he passed. I don't understand about this Great Exhibition, but, no doubt,
more new milk will be sold when it's opened, and that's all I cares about."
OF THE STREET SALE OF MILK.
During the summer
months milk is sold in Smithfield, Billingsgate, and the other markets, and on
Sundays in Battersea-fields, Claphamcommon, Camberwell-green, Hampsteadheath,
and similar places. About twenty men are engaged in this sale. They usually wear
a smock frock, and have the cans and yoke used by the regular milk-sellers; they
are not itinerant. The skim milk -for they sell none else -is purchased at the
dairies at 1½d. a quart, and even the skim milk is also further watered by the
street-sellers. Their cry is "Half-penny half-pint! Milk!" The tin
measure however in which the milk-and-water is served is generally a
"slang," and contains but half of the quantity proclaimed. The
purchasers are chiefly boys and children; rarely men, and never costermongers, I
was told, "for they reckon milk sickly." These street-sellers -who
have most of them been employed in the more regular milk-trade -clear about 1s.
6d. a day each, for three months; and as the profit is rather more than cent.
per cent. it appears that about 4,000 gallons of milk are thus sold, and upwards
of 260l. laid out upon these persons, yearly in its purchase.
A pair of cans with
the yoke cost 15s., and 1l. is amply sufficient as capital to start in this
trade, as the two measures used may be bought for 2s.; and 3s. can be devoted to
the purchase of the liquid.
OF THE STREET-SALE OF CURDS AND WHEY.
The preparations of
milk which comprise the street-trade, are curds and whey and rice-milk, the
oldest street-sellers stating that these were a portion of the trade in their
childhood. The one is a summer, and the other a winter traffic, and both are
exclusively in the hands of the same middle-aged and elderly women. The vendors
prepare the curds and whey in all cases themselves. "Skim-milk,"
purchased at the dairies, is used by the street-purveyors, a gallon being the
quantity usually prepared at a time. This milk gallon is double the usual
quantity, or eight quarts. The milk is first "scalded," the pan
containing it being closely watched, in order that the contents may not boil.
The scalding occupies 10 or 15 minutes, and it is then "cooled" until
it attains the lukewarmness of new milk. Half a pound of sugar is then dissolved
in the milk, and a tea-spoonful of rennet is introduced, which is sufficient to
"turn" a gallon. In an hour, or in some cases two, the milk is curded,
and is ready for use. The street-sale is confined to stalls; the stall, which is
the ordinary stand, being covered with a white cloth, or in some cases an
oil-cloth, and on this the curds, in a bright tin kettle or pan, are deposited.
There are six mugs on the board, and a spoon in each, but those who affect a
more modern style have glasses. One of the neatest stalls, as regards the
display of glass, and the bright cleanliness of the vessel containing the curds, is in Holborn; but the curd-seller
there has only an average business. The mugs or glasses hold about the third of
a pint, and "the full of one" is a pennyworth; for a halfpenny-worth
the vessel is half filled. The season is during the height of summer, and
continues three or four months, or, as one woman tersely and commercially
expressed it, "from Easter to fruit." The number of street-saleswomen
is about 100. Along with the curds they generally sell oranges, or such early
fruit as cherries.
A woman who had sold
"cruds" -as the street-people usually call it -for eighteen years,
gave me the following account: -"Boys and girls is my best customers for
cruds, sir. Perhaps I sell to them almost half of all I get rid of. Very little
fellows will treat girls, often bigger than themselves, at my stall, and they
have as much chaffing and nonsense about it's being `stunning good for the
teeth,' and such like, as if they was grown-up. Some don't much like it at
first, but they gets to like it. One boy, whose young woman made faces at it
-and it was a little sour to be sure that morning -got quite vexed and said,
`Wot a image you're a-making on yourself!' I don't know what sort the boys are,
only that they're the street-boys mostly. Quiet working people are my other
customers, perhaps rather more women than men. Some has told me they was
teetotallers. Then there's the women of the town of the poorer sort, they're
good customers, -as indeed I think they are for most cooling drinks at times,
for they seem to me to be always thirsty. I never sell to dustmen or that sort
of people. Saturday is my best day. If it's fine and warm, I sell a gallon then,
which makes about 40 penn'orths; sometimes it brings me 3s., sometimes 3s. 6d.;
it's rather more than half profits. Take it altogether, I sell five gallons in
fine dry weeks, and half that in wet; and perhaps there's what I call a set down
wet week for every two dry. Nobody has a better right to pray against wet
weather than poor women like me. Ten years ago I sold almost twice as much as I
can now. There's so many more of us at present, I think, and let alone that
there's more shops keeps it too."
Another old woman told
me, that she used, "when days was longest," to be up all night, and
sell her "cruds" near Drury-lane theatre, and often received in a few
hours 5s. or 6s., from "ladies and gentlemen out at night." But the
men were so rackety, she said, and she'd had her stall so often kicked over by
drunken people, and no help for it, that she gave up the nighttrade, and she
believed it was hardly ever followed now.
To start in the curds
and whey line requires the following capital: -Saucepan, for the scalding and
boiling, 2s.; stall, 5s; 6 mugs, 6d.; or 6 glasses, 2s. 6d.; 6 spoons, 3d.; tin
kettle on stall, 3s. 6d.; pail for water to rinse glasses, 1s. Then for
stock-money: 1 gallon skimmed milk, 1s. 6d. or 1s. 8d.; and ½ lb. sugar, 2d. In
all, 14s. 1d.,
reckoning the materials to be of the better sort.
Of the whole number of
street curd-sellers, 50 dispose of as much as my informant, or 12½ gallons in 3
weeks; the other 50 sell only half as much. Taking the season at 3 months, we
find the consumption of curds and whey in the street to be 2,812 double gallons
(as regards the ingredient of milk), at a cost to the purchasers of 421l., half
of which is the profit accruing to the street-seller. The receipts of those
having the better description of business being 9s. 4d. weekly; those of the
smaller traders being 4s. 8d. There is a slight and occasional loss by the
"cruds" being kept until unsaleable, in which case they are "fit
for nothing but the hog-wash man."
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF RICE-MILK.
To make rice-milk, the
street-seller usually boils four quarts, of the regular measure, of
"skim" with one pound of rice, which has been previously boiled in
water. An hour suffices for the boiling of the milk; and the addition of the
rice, swollen by the boiling water, increases the quantity to six quarts. No
other process is observed, except that some sweeten their ricemilk before they
offer it for sale; the majority, however, sweeten it to the customer's liking
when he is "served," unless -to use the words of one informant
-"he have a werry, werry sweet tooth indeed, sir; and that can't be
stood." For the sweetening of six quarts, half a pound of sugar is used;
for the "spicing," half an ounce of allspice, dashed over the milk
freely enough from a pepper-castor. Rice-milk is always sold at stalls arranged
for the purpose, and is kept in a tin pan fitted upon a charcoal brazier, so
that the "drinkable" is always hot. This apparatus generally stands on
the ground alongside the stall, and is elevated only by the feet of the brazier.
The "rice-milk woman," -for the street-sellers are generally females,
-dips a large breakfast-cup, holding half a pint, into the pan, puts a
teaspoonful of sugar into it, browns the whole with allspice, and receives 1d.;
a halfpennyworth is, of course, half the quantity. The rice-milk women are also
sellers of oranges, chestnuts, apples, or some other fruit, as well as the
ricemilk; but, sometimes, when the weather is very cold and frosty, they sell
rice-milk alone. There are fifty street-sellers of rice-milk in London. Saturday
night is the best time of sale, when it is not uncommon for a ricemilk woman to
sell six quarts; but, in a good trade, four quarts a day for six days of the
week is an average. The purchasers are poor people; and a fourth of the milk is
sold to boys and girls, to whom it is often a meal. "Ah, sir," said
one woman, "you should have seen how a poor man, last winter, swallowed a
penn'orth. He'd been a-wandering all night, he said, and he looked it, and a
gentleman gave him 2d., for he took pity on his hungry look, and he spent 1d.
with me, and I gave him another cup for charity. `God bless the gentleman and you!' says he,
`it's saved my life; if I'd bought a penny loaf, I'd have choked on it.' He
wasn't a beggar, for I never saw him before, and I've never seen him again from
that day to this." The same informant told me, that she believed no
rice-milk was bought by the women of the town: "it didn't suit the likes of
them." Neither is it bought by those who are engaged in noisome trades. If
there be any of the ricemilk left at night, and the saleswoman have doubts of
its "keeping," it is re-boiled with fresh rice and milk. The profit is
considerable; for the ingredients, which cost less than 1s. 6d., are made into
96 pennyworths, and so to realize 8s. In some of the poorer localities, however,
such as Rosemary-lane, only ½d. the half-pint can be obtained, and 4s. is then
the amount received for six quarts, instead of 8s.
To start "in
rice-milk" requires 13s. capital, which includes a pan for boiling the
milk, 2s.; a kettle, with brazier, for stall, 4s.; stall or stand, 5s.; six
cups, 9d.; for stock-money 15½d., with which is bought 4 quarts of skimmilk,
9d.; 1 lb. of rice, 3d.; ½ lb. of sugar, 2d.; allspice, 1d.
The season continues
for four months; and calculating -a calculation within the mark - that one half
of the 50 sellers have as good a trade as my informant -24 quarts weekly -and
that, of the remaining 25, one half sell 12 quarts each weekly, at 1d. the
half-pint, and the other half vend 24 quarts at ½d. the half-pint, we find that
320l. is annually spent in rice-milk and about 3,000 gallons of it yearly
consumed in the streets of London.
It may surprise many
to learn that there are still existing water-carriers in London, and some of
them depending upon the trade for a livelihood; while others, the "odd
men" of the neighbourhood, carry pails of spring water to the publicans or
eating-house keepers, who may not have servants to send to the nearest pump for
it, and who require it fresh and cool for those who drink it at their meals. Of
these men there are, as near as I can ascertain, from 100 to 150; their charge
is 1d. per pail. Their earnings per day 6d. to 1s.. Perhaps none of them depend
solely upon this labour for their support.
It is otherwise at
Highgate and Hampstead, for in those places both men and women depend entirely
for their daily bread on water carrying. At Hampstead the supply is derived from
what may be called a double well, known as "the Conduit." The ground
is flagged, and the water is seen at each corner of a wall built to the surface
of the ground (about eight feet) and surmounted by an iron rail. The water is
covered over, in one corner and not in the other, and the carrier descends a
step or two, dips in his pails and walks away with them when filled. The water
is carried by means of a "yoke," in the same way as we see the milk-pails carried
in every street in London. The well and the field in which the Hampstead water
is situated are the property of the Church, and the water is free to any one, in
any quantity, either for sale or any other purpose, "without leave."
In droughts or frosts the supply fails, and the carriers have sometimes to wait
hours for their "turn," and then to bale the water into their pails
with a basin. The nearest street to which the water is carried is half a mile
distant. Some is carried three quarters of a mile, and some (occasionally) a
mile. The two pails full, which contain seven gallons, are sold at 1½d. The
weight is about 70 lbs. Seventeen years ago the price was 3d.; after which it
fell to 2½d., then to 2d., and has been 1½d. these five or six years, while
now there are three or four carriers who even "carry" at two pails
a-penny to the nearer places. The supply of the well (apart from drought or
frost) is fiftysix gallons an hour. The principal customers are the laundresses;
but in wet weather their cisterns and water-tubs are filled, and the carriers,
or the major part of them, are idle. The average earnings of the carriers are
5s. a week the year through. Two of them are men of seventy. There is a bench
about midway to Hampstead, at which these labourers rest; and here on almost
every fine day sits with them a palsied old soldier, a pensioner of about
eighty, who regales them, almost daily, with long tales of Vinegar Hill, and
Jemmy O'Brien (the informer), and all the terrors of the terrible times of the
Irish rebellion of 1798; for the old man (himself an Irishman) had served
through the whole of it. This appears to be a somewhat curious theme for
constant expatiation to a band of London water-carriers.
There are now twenty
individuals, fourteen men and six women, carrying at Hampstead, and twice that
number at Highgate. Some leave the carrying when they get better work, -but
threefourths of the number live by it entirely. The women are the wives and
widows of carriers. The men have been either mechanics or labourers, except six
or eight youths (my informant was not certain which) who had been "brought
up to the water, but would willingly get away from it if they could."
A well-spoken and
intelligent-looking man, dressed in thick fustian, old and greasy, "but
good enough for the carrying," gave me the following account.
"I was a
copper-plate printer," he said, "and twenty years ago could earn my
25s. a week. But employment fell off. The lithographic injured it, and at last I
could get very little work, and then none at all, so I have been carrying now
between three and four years. My father-in-law was in the trade, and that made
me think of it. My best day's work, and it's the same with all, is 2s., which is
sixteen turns. It's not possible to do more. If that could be done every day it
would be very well, but in wet weather when the laundresses, who are my
customers, don't want water, I can't make 1s. a week. Then in a drought or a
frost one has to wait such a long time for his turn, that it's not 6d. a day; a
dry spring's the worst. Last March I had many days to wait six turns, and it
takes well on to an hour for a turn then. We sit by the well and talk when we're
waiting. O, yes, sir, the Pope has had his turn of talk. There's water companies
both at Hampstead and Highgate, but our well water (Hampstead) is asked for, for
all that. It's so with Highgate. It is beautiful water, either for washing or
drinking. Perhaps it's better with a little drop of spirit for drinking, but I
seldom taste it that way. The fatigue's so great that we must take a little drop
of spirit on a long day. No, sir, we don't mix it; that spoils two good things.
I've been at the well first light in the morning, and in summer I've been at
work at it all night. There's no rule among us, but it's understood that every
one has his turn. There's a little chaff sometimes, and some get angry at having
to wait, but I never knew a fight. I have a wife and three children. She works
for a laundress, and has 2s. 6d. a day. She has two days regular every week, and
sometimes odd turns as well. I think that the women earn more than the men in
Hampstead. My rent is 1s. 6d. a week for an unfurnished room. There is no trade
on Sundays, but on fine summer Sundays old - attends at the well and sells
glasses of cool water. He gets 2s. 6d. some days. He makes no charge; just what
any one pleases to give. Any body might do it, but the old gentleman would
grumble that they were taking his post."
Computing the number
of water carriers at the two places at sixty, and their average earnings through
the year at 5s. a week, it appears that these men receive 1,452l. yearly. The
capital required to start in the business is 9s., the cost of a pair of pails
and a yoke.
The old man who sells
water on the summer Sunday mornings, generally leaving off his sale at
church-time, told me that his best customers were ladies and gentlemen who loved
an early walk, and bought of him "as it looked like a bit of country
life," he supposed, more than from being thirsty. When such customers were
not inhabitants of the neighbourhood, they came to him to ask their way, or to
make inquiries concerning the localities. Sometimes he dispensed water to men
who "looked as if they had been on the loose all night." One
gentleman," he said, "looks sharp about him, and puts a dark-coloured
stuff -very likely it's brandy -into the two or three glasses of water which he
drinks every Sunday, or which he used to drink rather, for I missed him all last
summer, I think. His hand trembled like a aspen; he mostly gave me 6d." The
water-seller spoke with some indignation of boys, and sometimes men, going to
the well on a Sunday morning and "drinking out of their own tins that
they'd taken with 'em."
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF PASTRY AND
The cooked provisions
sold in the streets, it has been before stated, consist of three kinds - solids,
liquids, and pastry and confectionary. The two first have now been fully
described, but the last still remains to be set forth.
The street pastry may
be best characterised as of a strong flavour. This is, for the most part,
attributable to the use of old or rancid butter, - possessing the all-important
recommendation of cheapness, -or to the substitution of lard, dripping, or some
congenial substance. The "strong" taste, however, appears to possess
its value in the estimation of street pastry-buyers, especially among the boys.
This may arise from the palates of the consumers having been unaccustomed to
more delicate flavours, and having become habituated to the relish of that which
is somewhat rank; just in the same way as the "fumet" of game or
venison becomes dear to the palate of the more aristocratic gourmand. To some
descriptions of street pastry the epithet strong-flavoured may seem
inappropriate, but it is appropriate to the generality of these comestibles,
-especially to the tarts, which constitute a luxury, if not to the meat pies or
puddings that may supply a meal.
The articles of pastry
sold in the London streets are meat and fruit pies, boiled meat and kidney
puddings, plum "duff" or pudding, and an almost infinite variety of
tarts, cakes, buns, and biscuits; while the confectionary consists of all the
several preparations included under the wide denomination of "
sweetstuff," as well as the more "medicinal" kind known as
"cough drops;" in addition to these there are the more
"aristocratic" delicacies recently introduced into street traffic,
viz., penny raspberry creams and ices.
OF STREET PIEMEN.
The itinerant trade in
pies is one of the most ancient of the street callings of London. The meat pies
are made of beef or mutton; the fish pies of eels; the fruit of apples,
currants, gooseberries, plums, damsons, cherries, raspberries, or rhubarb,
according to the season -and occasionally of mince-meat. A few years ago the
street pie-trade was very profitable, but it has been almost destroyed by the
"pie-shops," and further, the few remaining street-dealers say
"the people now haven't the pennies to spare." Summer fairs and races
are the best places for the piemen. In London the best times are during any
grand sight or holiday-making, such as a review in Hyde-park, the Lord Mayor's
show, the opening of Parliament, Greenwich fair, &c. Nearly all the men of
this class, whom I saw, were fond of speculating as to whether the Great
Exposition would be "any good" to them, or not.
The London piemen, who
may number about forty in winter, and twice that number in summer, are seldom
stationary. They go along with their pie-cans on their arms, crying, "Pies
all 'ot! eel, beef, or mutton pies! Penny pies, all 'ot -all 'ot!" The
"can" has been before described. The pies are kept hot by means of a
charcoal fire beneath, and there is a partition in the body of the can to
separate the hot and cold pies. The "can" has two tin drawers, one at
the bottom, where the hot pies are kept, and above these are the cold pies. As
fast as the hot dainties are sold, their place is supplied by the cold from the
A teetotal pieman in
Billingsgate has a pony and "shay cart." His business is the most
extensive in London. It is believed that he sells 20s. worth or 240 pies a day,
but his brother tradesmen sell no such amount. "I was out last night,"
said one man to me, "from four in the afternoon till half-past twelve. I
went from Somers-town to the Horse Guards, and looked in at all the
public-houses on my way, and I didn't take above 1s. 6d. I have been out
sometimes from the beginning of the evening till long past midnight, and haven't
taken more than 4d., and out of that I have to pay 1d. for charcoal."
usually make the pies themselves. The meat is bought in "pieces," of
the same part as the sausage-makers purchase - the "stickings" -at
about 3d. the pound. "People, when I go into houses," said one man,
"often begin crying, `Mee-yow,' or ` Bowwow-wow!' at me; but there's
nothing of that kind now. Meat, you see, is so cheap." About five-dozen
pies are generally made at a time. These require a quartern of flour at 5d. or
6d.; 2 lbs. of suet at 6d.; 1½ lb. meat at 3d., amounting in all to about 2s.
To this must be added 3d. for baking; 1d. for the cost of keeping hot, and 2d.
for pepper, salt, and eggs with which to season and wash them over. Hence the
cost of the five dozen would be about 2s. 6d., and the profit the same. The
usual quantity of meat in each pie is about half an ounce. There are not more
than 20 hot-piemen now in London. There are some who carry pies about on a tray
slung before them; these are mostly boys, and, including them, the number
amounts to about sixty all the year round, as I have stated.
The penny pie-shops,
the street men say, have done their trade a great deal of harm. These shops have
now got mostly all the custom, as they make the pies much larger for the money
than those sold in the streets. The pies in Tottenhamcourt-road are very highly
seasoned. "I bought one there the other day, and it nearly took the skin
off my mouth; it was full of pepper," said a street-pieman, with
considerable bitterness, to me. The reason why so large a quantity of pepper is
put in is, because persons can't exactly tell the flavour of the meat with it.
Piemen generally are not very particular about the flavour of the meat they buy,
as they can season it up into anything. In the summer, a street pieman thinks he
is doing a good business if he takes 5s. per day, and in the winter if he gets
half that. On a Saturday
night, however, he generally takes 5s. in the winter, and about 8s. in the
summer. At Greenwich fair he will take about 14s. At a review in Hyde-park, if
it is a good one, he will sell about 10s. worth. The generality of the customers
are the boys of London. The women seldom, if ever, buy pies in the streets. At
the public-houses a few pies are sold, and the pieman makes a practice of
"looking in" at all the taverns on his way. Here his customers are
found principally in the tap-room. "Here's all 'ot!" the pieman cries,
as he walks in; "toss or buy! up and win 'em!" This is the only way
that the pies can be got rid of. "If it wasn't for tossing we shouldn't
To "toss the
pieman" is a favourite pastime with costermongers' boys and all that class;
some of whom aspire to the repute of being gourmands, and are critical on the
quality of the comestible. If the pieman win the toss, he receives 1d. without
giving a pie; if he lose, he hands it over for nothing. The pieman himself never
"tosses," but always calls head or tail to his customer. At the week's
end it comes to the same thing, they say, whether they toss or not, or rather
whether they win or lose the toss: "I've taken as much as 2s. 6d. at
tossing, which I shouldn't have had if I had'nt done so. Very few people buy
without tossing, and the boys in particular. Gentlemen `out on the spree' at the
late public-houses will frequently toss when they don't want the pies, and when
they win they will amuse themselves by throwing the pies at one another, or at
me. Sometimes I have taken as much as half-acrown, and the people of whom I had
the money has never eaten a pie. The boys has the greatest love of gambling, and
they seldom, if ever, buys without tossing." One of the reasons why the
street boys delight in tossing, is, that they can often obtain a pie by such
means when they have only a halfpenny wherewith to gamble. If the lad wins he
gets a penny pie for his halfpenny.
For street mince-meat
pies the pieman usually makes 5lb. of mince-meat at a time, and for this he will
put in 2 doz. of apples, 1lb. of sugar, 1lb. of currants, 2lb. of
"critlings" (critlings being the refuse left after boiling down the
lard), a good bit of spice to give the critlings a flavour, and plenty of
treacle to make the mince-meat look rich.
which used to be given with the meat-pies was poured out of an oil-can, and
consisted of a little salt and water browned. A hole was made with the little
finger in the top of the meat pie, and the "gravy" poured in until the
crust rose. With this gravy a person in the line assured me that he has known
pies four days old to go off very freely, and be pronounced excellent. The
street piemen are mostly bakers, who are unable to obtain employment at their
trade. "I myself," said one, "was a bread and biscuit baker. I
have been at the pie business now about two years and a half, and I can't get a
living at it. Last week my earnings were not more than 7s. all the week through,
and I was out till three in the morning to get that." The piemen seldom
begin business till six o'clock, and some remain out all night. The best time
for the sale of pies is generally from ten at night to one in the morning.
Calculating that there
are only fifty street piemen plying their trade in London, the year through, and
that their average earnings are 8s. a week, we find a street expenditure
exceeding 3,000l., and a street consumption of pies amounting nearly to three
quarters of a million yearly.
To start in the penny
pie business of the streets requires 1l. for a "can," 2s. 6d. for a
"turn-halfpenny" board to gamble with, 12s. for a gross of tin
pie-dishes, 8d. for an apron, and about 6s. 6d. for stock money -allowing 1s.
for flour, 1s. 3d. for meat, 2d. for apples, 4d. for eels, 2s. for pork flare or
fat, 2d. for sugar, ½d. for cloves, 1d. for pepper and salt, 1d. for an egg to
wash the pies over with, 6d. for baking, and 1d. for charcoal to keep the pies
hot in the streets. Hence the capital required would be about 2l. in all.
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF BOILED
The sale of boiled
puddings, meat and currant -which might perhaps be with greater correctness
called dumplings -has not been known in London, I was informed by one in the
trade, more than twelve or fourteen years. The ingredients for the meat puddings
are not dissimilar to those I have described as required for the meat pies, but
the puddings are boiled, in cotton, bags, in coppers or large pans, and present
the form of a round ball. The charge is a halfpenny each. Five or six years back
a man embarked his means -said to be about 15l. -in the meat-pudding line, and
prepared a superior article, which was kept warm in the street by means of
steam, in a manner similar to that employed by the pieman. A mechanic out of
work was engaged by this projector to aid him in the sale of his street
luxuries, and the mechanic and his two boys made a living by this sale for two
or three years. The original pudding-projector relinquished the street trade to
go into business as a small shopkeeper, and the man who sold for him on a sort
of commission, earning from 12s. to 18s. a week, made the puddings on his own
account. His earnings, however, on his own account were not above from 1s. to
2s. 6d. a week beyond what he earned by commission, and a little while back he
obtained work again at his own business, but his two boys still sell puddings in
The sale of boiled
meat puddings is carried on only in the autumn and winter months, and only in
the evenings, except on Saturdays, when the business commences in the afternoon.
The sale, I was informed by one of the parties, has been as many as forty-five
dozen puddings on a
Saturday evening. The tins in which the puddings are carried about hold from
four to six dozen, and are replenished from the pans - the makers always living
contiguous to the street where the vend takes place -as fast as the demand
requires such replenishment. An average sale on a fine dry winter Saturday
evening is thirty dozen, but then, as in most street callings, "the
weather" -a remark often made to me -"has considerable to do with
it." A frost, I was told, helped off the puddings, and a rain kept them
back. Next to Saturday the best business night is Monday; but the average sale
on the Monday is barely half that on the Saturday, and on the other evenings of
the week about a third. This gives a weekly sale by each street-seller of 85
dozen, or 1,020 puddings, and as I am informed there are now but six
street-sellers (regularly) of this comestible, the weekly aggregate would be
-allowing for bad weather -5,400, or 129,600 in a season of 24 weeks; an
expenditure on the part of the street boys and girls (who are the principal
purchasers), and of the poor persons who patronise the street-trade, of about
270l. per annum. The wandering street-musicians of the poorer class -such as
"Old Sarey" and the Italian boys -often make their dinner off a meat
pudding purchased on their rounds; for it is the rule with such people never to
return home after starting in the morning till their day's work is done.
The boys who ply their
callings in the street, or are much in the open air, are very fond of these
puddings, and to witness the way in which they throw the pudding, when very hot,
from hand to hand, eyeing it with an expression that shows an eagerness to eat
with a fear of burning the mouth, is sometimes laughable and sometimes painful,
because not unfrequently there is a look of keen hunger about the -probably
outcast -lad. The currant puddings are, I believe, sold only at Billingsgate and
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF PLUM
"DUFF" OR DOUGH.
Plum dough is one of
the street-eatables - though perhaps it is rather a violence to class it with
the street-pastry -which is usually made by the vendors. It is simply a boiled
plum, or currant, pudding, of the plainest description. It is sometimes made in
the rounded form of the plum-pudding; but more frequently in the
"roly-poly" style. Hot pudding used to be of much more extensive sale
in the streets. One informant told me that twenty or thirty years ago, batter,
or Yorkshire, pudding, "with plums in it," was a popular street
business. The "plums," as in the orthodox plum-puddings, are raisins.
The street-vendors of plum "duff" are now very few, only six as an
average, and generally women, or if a man be the salesman he is the woman's
husband. The sale is for the most part an evening sale, and some vend the plum
dough only on a Saturday night. A woman in Leather-lane, whose trade is a
Saturday night trade, is accounted "one of the best plum duffs" in
London, as regards the quality of the comestible, but her trade is not
The vendors of plum
dough are the streetsellers who live by vending other articles, and resort to
plum dough, as well as to other things, "as a help." This dough is
sold out of baskets in which it is kept hot by being covered with cloths,
sometimes two and even three, thick; and the smoke issuing out of the basket,
and the cry of the street-seller, "Hot plum duff, hot plum," invite
custom. A quartern of flour, 5d.; ½ lb. Valentia raisins, 2d.; dripping and
suet in equal proportions, 2½d.; treacle, ½d.; and allspice, ½d. -in all 10½d.;
supply a roly-poly of twenty pennyworths. The treacle, however, is only
introduced "to make the dough look rich and spicy," and must be used
The plum dough is sold
in slices at ½d. or 1d. each, and the purchasers are almost exclusively boys
and girls -boys being at least threefourths of the revellers in this street
luxury. I have ascertained -as far as the information of the street-sellers
enables me to ascertain -that take the year through, six "plum
duffers" take 1s. a day each, for four winter months, including Sundays,
when the trade is likewise prosecuted. Some will take from 4s. to 10s. (but
rarely 10s.) on a Saturday night, and nothing on other nights, and some do a
little in the summer. The vendors, who are all stationary, stand chiefly in the
street-markets and reside near their stands, so that they can get relays of hot
If we calculate then
42s. a week as the takings of six persons, for five months, so including the
summer trade, we find that upwards of 200l. is expended in the street purchase
of plum dough, nearly half of which is profit. The trade, however, is reckoned
among those which will disappear altogether from the streets.
The capital required
to start is: basket, 1s. 9d.; cloths, 6d.; pan for boiling, 2s.; knife, 2d.;
stock-money, 2s.; in all about, 7s. 6d.
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF CAKES, TARTS,
These men and boys
-for there are very few women or girls in the trade -constitute a somewhat
numerous class. They are computed ( including Jews) at 150 at the least, all
regular hands, with an addition, perhaps, of 15 or 20, who seek to earn a few
pence on a Sunday, but have some other, though poorly remunerative, employment
on the week-days. The cake and tart-sellers in the streets have been, for the
most part, mechanics or servants; a fifth of the body, however, have been
brought up to this or to some other street-calling.
The cake-men carry
their goods on a tray slung round their shoulders when they are offering their
delicacies for sale, and on their heads when not engaged in the effort to do
business. They are to be found in the vicinity of all public places. Their goods
are generally arranged in pairs
on the trays; in bad weather they are covered with a green cloth.
None of the
street-vendors make the articles they sell; indeed, the diversity of those
articles renders that impossible. Among the regular articles of this street-sale
are "Coventrys," or three-cornered puffs with jam inside; raspberry
biscuits; cinnamon biscuits; "chonkeys," or a kind of mince-meat baked
in crust; Dutch butter-cakes; Jews' butter-cakes; "bowlas," or round
tarts made of sugar, apple, and bread; "jumbles," or thin crisp cakes
made of treacle, butter, and flour; and jams, or open tarts with a little
preserve in the centre.
All these things are
made for the street-sellers by about a dozen Jew pastry-cooks, the most of whom
reside about Whitechapel. They confine themselves to the trade, and make every
description. On a fine holiday morning their shops, or rather bake-houses, are
filled with customers, as they supply the small shops as well as the
street-sellers of London. Each article is made to be sold at a halfpenny, and
the allowance by the wholesale pastry-cook is such as to enable his customers to
realise a profit of 4d. in 1s.; thus he charges 4d. a dozen for the several
articles. Within the last seven years there has been, I am assured, a great
improvement in the composition of these cakes, &c. This is attributable to
the Jews having introduced superior dainties, and, of course, rendered it
necessary for the others to vie with them: the articles vended by these Jews (of
whom there are from 20 to 40 in the streets) are still pronounced, by many
connoisseurs in street-pastry, as the best. Some sell penny dainties also, but
not to a twentieth part of the halfpenny trade. One of the wholesale
pastry-cooks takes 40l. a week. These wholesale men, who sometimes credit the
streetpeople, buy ten, fifteen, or twenty sacks of flour at a time whenever a
cheap bargain offers. They purchase as largely in Irish butter, which they have
bought at 3d. or 2½d. the pound. They buy also "scrapings," or what
remains in the butter-firkins when emptied by the butter-sellers in the shops.
"Good scrapings" are used for the best cakes; the jam they make
themselves. To commence the wholesale business requires a capital of 600l. To
commence the street-selling requires a capital of only 10s.; and this includes
the cost of a tray, about 1s. 9d.; a cloth 1s.; and a leathern strap, with
buckle, to go round the neck, 6d.; while the rest is for stock, with a shilling,
or two as a reserve. All the street-sellers insist upon the impossibility of any
general baker making cakes as cheap as those they vend. "It's impossible,
sir," said one man to me; "it's a trade by itself; nobody else can
touch it. They was miserable little things seven years ago."
An acute-looking man,
decently dressed, gave me the following account. He resided with his wife -who
went out charing -in a decent little back-room at the East-end, for which he
paid 1s. a week. He had no children: -
`translator' (a species of cobbler) by trade," he said, "but I've been
a cake and a tart-seller in the streets for seven or eight years. I couldn't
make 1s. 3d. a day of twelve hours' work, and sometimes nothing, by translating.
Besides, my health was failing; and, as I used to go out on a Sunday with cakes
to sell for a cousin of mine, I went into the trade myself, because I'd got up
to it. I did middling the first three or four years, and I'd do middling still,
if it wasn't for the bad weather and the police. I've been up three times for
`obstructing.' Why, sir, I never obstructed a quarter as much as the print-shops
and newspaper-shops down there" (pointing to a narrow street in the City).
"But the keepers of them shops can take a sight at the Lord Mayor from
behind their tills. The first time I was up before the Lord Mayor -it's a few
years back -I thought he talked like an old wife. `You mustn't stand that way,'
he says, `and you mustn't do this, and you mustn't do that.' `Well, my lord,'
says I, `then I mustn't live honestly. But if you'll give me 9s. a week, I'll
promise not to stand here, and not to stand there; and neither to do this, nor
that, nor anything at all, if that pleases you better.' They was shocked, they
said, at my impudence -so young a fellow, too! I got off each time, but a deal
of my things was spoiled. I work the City on week-days, and Victoria Park on
Sundays. In the City, my best customers is not children, but young gents; real
gents, some of them with gold watches. They buys twopenn'orth, mostly -that's
four of any sort, or different sorts. They're clerks in banks and
counting-houses, I suppose, that must look respectable like on a little, and so
feeds cheap, poor chaps! for they dine or lunch off it, never doubt. Or they may
be keeping their money for other things. To sell eleven dozen is a first-rate
days' work; that's 1s. 9d. or 1s. 10d. profit. But then comes the wet days, and
I can't trade at all in the rain; and so the things get stale, and I have to
sell them in Petticoat-lane for two a halfpenny. Victoria Park -I'm not let
inside with my tray -is good and bad as happens. It's chiefly a tossing trade
there. Oh, I dare say I toss 100 times some Sundays. I don't like tossing the
coster lads, they're the wide-awakes that way. The thieves use `grays.' They're
ha'pennies, either both sides heads or both tails. Grays sell at from 2d. to 6d.
I'm not often had that way, though. Working-people buy very few of me on
Sundays; it's mostly boys; and next to the gents., why, perhaps, the boys is my
best customers in the City. Only on Monday a lad, that had been lucky `fiddling'
" (holding horses, or picking up money anyhow) "spent a whole shilling
on me. I clear, I think -and I'm among the cakes that's the top of the tree
-about 10s. a week in summer, and hardly 7s. a week in winter. My old woman and
me makes both ends meet, and that's all."
cake-sellers, each clearing 6s. a week, a sufficiently low average, the street
outlay will be 2,340l., representing a streetconsumption of 1,123,200
cakes, tarts, &c.
OF OTHER CAKE-SELLERS IN THE STREETS.
cake-selling of London is not altogether confined to the class I have described;
but the others engaged in it are not regular pursuers of the business, and do
not exceed thirty in number. Some stock their trays with flare-cakes, which are
round cakes, made of flour and "unrendered" (unmelted) lard, and stuck
over freely with currants. They are sold at a farthing and a halfpenny each.
Others, again, carry only sponge-cakes, made of flour and eggs, packed closely
and regularly together, so as to present an uniform and inviting surface. Others
carry only gingerbread, made of flour and treacle. These small trades are
sometimes resorted to for a temporary purpose, rather than a street-seller's
remaining in compulsory idleness. I learned also that cakesellers in the regular
line, when unable to command sufficient capital to carry on their trade in the
way they have been accustomed to, sell "flayers," so called from being
made with pig's or sheep's "flay," or any other cheap cakes, and so
endeavour to retrieve themselves. The profits on these plainer sorts is 1d. in
1s. more than that on the others, but the sale rarely exceeds half as much. I
heard, however, of one man who deposited in pence, in eight days, 1s. 10d. with
a wholesale pastrycook. He had saved this sum by almost starving himself, on the
sale of the inferior cakes, and the dealer trusted him the 10d. to make up eight
dozen in the regular cake business. To commence the street sale of cheap cakes
requires a capital of less than 5s.; for tray, 1s. 6d.; cloth, 6d.; strap, 6d.;
and stock-money, 1s. 6d.
Three or four men are
occupied in selling plum-cakes. These are generally sold in halfpenny and penny
lots. The plum-cake is made by the same class of pastrycooks whom I have
described as supplying the tarts, puffs, &c., and sold on the same terms.
The profits are fifty per cent. -what cost 4s. bringing in 6s. One man who
travels to all the fairs and races, and is more in the country than town in the
summer and autumn, sells large quantities of plum-cake in Smithfield when in
town, sometimes having 2l. worth and more on his stall. He sells cakes of a
pound (ostensibly) at 4d., 6d., and 8d., according to quality. He sometimes
supplies the street-sellers on the same terms as the pastrycooks, for he was
once a baker.
From the best data at
my command, it appears that the sale of these inferior cakes does not realise
above a fifth of that taken by the other sellers, of whom I have treated,
amounting to about 450l. in all.
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF GINGERBREADNUTS, &c.
The sale of
gingerbread, as I have previously observed, was much more extensive in the streets than it is at present. Indeed, what was formerly known in the
trade as "toy" gingerbread is now unseen in the streets, except
occasionally, and that only when the whole has not been sold at the neighbouring
fairs, at which it is still offered. But, even at these fairs, the principal,
and sometimes the only, toy gingerbread that is vended is the "cock in
breeches;" a formidable-looking bird, with his nether garments of gold.
Twenty or thirty years ago, "king George on horseback" was popular in
gingerbread. His Majesty, wearing a gilt crown, gilt spurs, and a gilt sword,
bestrode the gilt saddle of his steed, and was eaten with great relish by his
juvenile subjects. There were also sheep, and dogs, and other animals, all
adorned in a similar manner, and looking as if they had been formed in close and
faithful imitation of children's first attempts at cattle drawing. These edible
toys were then sold in "white," as well as in "brown"
gingerbread, the white being the same in all other respects as the brown, except
that a portion of sugar was used in its composition instead of treacle.
There are now only two
men in London who make their own gingerbread-nuts for sale in the streets. This
preparation of gingerbread is called by the street-sellers, after a common
elliptical fashion, merely "nuts." From the most experienced man in
the street trade I had the following account: he was an intelligent,
well-mannered, and well-spoken man, and when he laughed or smiled, had what may
be best described as a pleasant look. After he had initiated me into the art and
mystery of gingerbread making -which I shall detail separately -he said,
"I've been in the
`nut' trade 25 years, or thereabouts, and have made my own nuts for 20 years of
that time. I bought of a gingerbread baker at first -there was plenty of them in
them days -and the profit a living profit, too. Certainly it was, for what I
bought for 5s. I could sell for 16s. I was brought up a baker, but the moment I
was out of my time I started in the street nut trade for myself. I knew the
profits of it, and thought it better than the slavery of a journeyman baker's
life. You've mentioned, sir, in your work, a musical sort of a street-crier of
gingerbread (see p. 160), and I think, and indeed I'm pretty certain, that it's
the same man as was my partner 20 years back; aye, more than 20, but I can't
tell about years." [The reader will have remarked how frequently this
oblivion as to dates and periods characterises the statements of street-sellers.
Perhaps no men take less note of time.] "At that time he was my partner in
the pig trade. Dairy-fed, d'you say, sir? Not in the slightest. The outsides of
the hanimals was paste, and the insides on 'em was all mince-meat. Their eyes
was currants. We two was the original pigs, and, I believe, the only two pigs in
the streets. We often made 15s. between us, in a day, in pigs alone. The musical
man, as you call him -poor fellow, he dropped down dead in
the street one day as he was crying; he was regular worn out -cried
himself into his grave you may say -poor fellow, he used to sing out
a long-tailed pig, and a short-tailed pig, And a pig with a curly tail:
Here's a Yorkshire pig, and a Hampshire pig,And a pig without e'er a tail.'
"When I was first
in the trade, I sold twice as many nuts as I do now, though my nuts was only 12
a penny then, and they're now 40. A little larger the 12 were, but not very
much. I have taken 20s. and 24s. many and many a Saturday. I then made from 2l.
to 2l. 10s. a week by sticking to it, and money might have been saved. I've
taken between 7l. and 8l. at a Greenwich Fair in the three days, in them times,
by myself. Indeed, last Easter, my wife and me -for she works as well as I do,
and sells almost as much -took 5l. But gingerbread was money in the old times,
and I sold `lumps' as well as `nuts;' but now lumps won't go off - not in a
fair, no how. I've been in the trade ever since I started in it, but I've had
turns at other things. I was in the service of a Customhouse agency firm; but
they got into bother about contrabands, and the revenue, and cut off to America
-I believe they took money with them, a good bit of it -and I was indicted, or
whatever they call it, in the Court of Exchequer -I never was in the Court in my
life -and was called upon, one fine day, to pay to the Crown 1,580l., and some
odd pounds and shillings besides! I never understood the rights of it, but it
was about smuggling. I was indicted by myself, I believe. When Mr. Candy, and
other great houses in the City, were found out that way, they made it all right;
paid something, as I've heard, and sacked the profits. Well; when I was called
on, it wasn't, I assure you, sir -ha, ha, ha! -at all convenient for a servant
-and I was only that -to pay the fifteen hundred and odd; so I served 12 months
and 2 days in prison for it. I'd saved a little money, and wasn't so
uncomfortable in prison. I could get a dinner, and give a dinner. When I came
out, I took to the nuts. It was lucky for me that I had a trade to turn to; for,
even if I could have shown I wasn't at all to blame about the Exchequer, I could
never have got another situation -never. So the streets saved me: my nuts was my
"At this present
time, sir, if I make, the year through, 9s. a week, and my wife 1s. or 2s. less,
that's the extent. When the Queen opened Parliament, the two on us took 10s. The
Queen's good for that, anyhow, in person. If the opening was by
proclamation" [so he called it, three or four times], "it wouldn't
have been worth while going to -not at all. If there's not a crowd, the police
interfere, and `move on!' is the order. The Queen's popular with me, for her
opening Parliament herself. I count it her duty. The police are a great trouble.
I can't say they disturb me in the place (never mind mentioning it, sir) where
you've seen me, but they do in other places. They say there's no rest for the
wicked; but, in the streets, there's no rest for a man trying to make an honest
living, as I'm sure I do. I could pitch anywhere, one time.
dependence is on working-men, who buys my nuts to take home to their young 'uns.
I never sell for parties, or desserts, that I know of. I take very little from
boys -very little. The women of the town buy hardly any of me. I used to sell a
good many pigs to them, in some of the streets about Brunswick-square; kept
misses, and such like -and very pleasant customers they was, and good pay: but
that's all over now. They never 'bated me -never."
To make about 56 lbs.
of the gingerbread-nuts sold by my informant, takes 28 lbs. of treacle, 7s.; 48
lbs. of flour, 14s.; ½ lb. of ginger, 4d.; and ½ lb. of allspice, 4d. From 18
to 20 dozen of small nuts go to the pound. This quantity, at 40 a penny,
reckoning 18 dozen to a pound, realises about 5d. per pound; or about 25s. for
an outlay of 11s. 8d. The expense of baking, however, and of
"appurtenances," reduces the profit to little more than cent. percent.
The other nut-sellers
in the streets vend the "almond nuts." Of these vendors there are not
less than 150; of them, 100 buy their goods of the bakers (what they sell for
1s. costing them 4d.), and the other 50 make their own. The materials are the
same as those of the gingerbread, with the addition of 4 lbs. of butter, 8d. per
lb.; 1 lb. of almonds, 1s. 4d.; and 2 lbs. of volatile salts, 8d. Out of this
material, 60 lbs. of "almond nuts" may be made. A split almond is
placed in the centre of each of these nuts; and, as they are three times as
large as the gingerbread nuts, 12 a penny is the price. To sell 36 dozen a day
-and so clearing 2s. -is accounted a "very tidy day's work." With the
drawback of wet weather, the average weekly earnings of the almond nut-sellers
are, perhaps, the same as the gingerbread nut man's -9s. weekly. These almond
nut-sellers are, for the most part, itinerant, their localities of sale being
the same as in the "cake and tart" line. They carry their goods,
neatly done up in paper, on trays slung from the shoulder. The gingerbreadnuts
are carried in a large basket, and are ready packed in paper bags.
Some of the
"almond" men call at the public-houses, but the sale in such places is
very small. Most of those who make their own nuts have been brought up as bakers
-a class of workmen who seem to resort and adapt themselves to a street trade
more readily than others. The nuts are baked in the usual way, spread on tin
trays. To erect a proper oven for the purpose costs about 5l., but most of the
men hire the use of one.
I have already
specified the materials required to make 56 lb. of gingerbread nuts, the cost
being 11s. 8d. To that, the capital required to start in the business must be
added, and this consists of basket, 6s.; baize cloth, 1s.; pan for dough, 1s.;
rolling-pin, 3d., and baking-tins, 1s. In all about 21s. To begin in a small way in the
"almond" line, buying the nuts ready made, requires as capital: tray,
2s.; leather strap, 6d.; baize, 1s.; stock-money, 1s. 6d. -in all 5s. The sale
is prosecuted through the year, but hot weather is unfavourable to it, as the
nuts then turn soft.
Calculating that 150
of these street-dealers take 17s. each weekly (clearing 9s.), we find 6,630l.
spent yearly in "spice" nuts in the streets of London.
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF HOT-CROSS BUNS,
AND OF CHELSEA BUNS.
Perhaps no cry -though
it is only for one morning -is more familiar to the ears of a Londoner, than
that of "One-a-penny, two-apenny, hot-cross buns," on Good Friday. The
sale is unknown in the Irish capital; for among Roman Catholics, Good Friday, I
need hardly say, is a strict fast, and the eggs in the buns prevent their being
used. One London gentleman, who spoke of fifty years ago, told me that the
street-bun-sellers used to have a not unpleasing distich. On reflection,
however, my informant could not be certain whether he had heard this distich
cried, or had remembered hearing the elders of his family speak of it as having
been cried, or how it was impressed upon his memory. It seems hardly in
accordance with the usual style of street poetry: -
two-a-penny, hot-cross buns! If
your daughters will not eat them, give them to your sons. But if you hav'n't any of those pretty little elves,
You cannot then do better than eat them all yourselves."
A tradesman who had
resided more than fifty years in the Borough had, in his boyhood, heard, but not
often, this ridiculous cry: -
poker; two-a-penny, tongs!
yes"> One-a-penny; two-a-penny, hot-cross buns."
The sellers of the
Good Friday buns are principally boys, and they are of mixed classes -costers'
boys, boys habitually and boys occasionally street-sellers, and boys
street-sellers for that occasion only. One great inducement to embark in the
trade is the hope of raising a little money for the Greenwich Fair of the
I am informed that 500
persons are employed on Good Friday in the streets of London in the sale of
hot-cross buns, each itinerant selling upon the day's average six dozen
halfpenny, and seven dozen penny buns, for which he will take 12s. 6d. (his
profits being 3d. in the shilling or 3s. 1½d.). One person informed me that
last Good Friday he had sold during the day forty dozen penny buns, for which he
itinerants derive their supplies principally from the wholesale pastrycooks,
and, in a less degree, from the small bakers and pastrycooks, who work more for
"the trade" than themselves. The street hotcross bun trade is less
than it was seven or eight years ago, as the bakers have entered into it more
freely, and send round for orders: so that the itinerants complain that they
have lost many a good customer. One informant (a master pastrycook, who had been
in the business nearly fifty years) said to me: "Times are sadly altered to
what they were when I was a boy. Why I have known my master to bake five sacks
of flour in nothing but hot-cross buns, and that is sufficient for 20,000
buns" (one sack of flour being used for 4,000 buns, or 500 lbs. of raw
material to the same quantity of buns). The itinerants carry their baskets slung
on their arm, or borne upon the head. A flannel or green baize is placed at the
bottom of the basket and brought over the buns, after which a white cloth is
spread over the top of the baize, to give it a clean appearance.
A vendor of
"hot-cross buns" has to provide himself with a basket, a flannel (to
keep the buns warm), and a cloth, to give a clean appearance to his commodities.
These articles, if bought for the purpose, cost -basket, 2s. 6d.; flannel and
cloth, 2s.; stock-money, average, 5s. (largest amount 15s., smallest 2s. 6d.);
or about 10s. in all.
There is expended in
one day, in hot-cross buns purchased in the London streets, 300l., and nearly
100,000 buns thus bought.
The Chelsea buns are
now altogether superseded by the Bath and Alexander's buns. " People,"
the street-sellers say, "want so much for their money." There are now
but two Chelsea bun-houses; the one at Pimlico, and the other at Chelsea. The
principal times Chelsea buns were sold in the streets was Good Friday, Easter,
and Whitsuntide; and, with the exception of Good Friday, the great sales were at
Greenwich Fair, and then they were sold with other cakes and sweetmeats. I am
informed that twenty years ago there was one man, with a rich musical voice, who
sold these buns, about Westminster principally, all the year round; his cry
-which was one of the musical ones -was, "One a penny, two a penny, hot
Chelsea buns! Burning hot! smoking hot! r-r-r-reeking hot! hot Chelsea
OF MUFFIN AND CRUMPET-SELLING IN THE
The street-sellers of
muffins and crumpets rank among the old street-tradesmen. It is difficult to
estimate their numbers, but they were computed for me at 500, during the winter
months. They are for the most part boys, young men, or old men, and some of them
infirm. There are a few girls in the trade, but very few women.
The ringing of the
muffin-man's bell -attached to which the pleasant associations are not a few
-was prohibited by a recent Act of Parliament, but the prohibition has been as
inoperative as that which forbad the use of a drum to the costermonger, for the
muffin bell still tinkles along the streets, and is rung vigorously in the
suburbs. The sellers of muffins and
crumpets are a mixed class, but I am told that more of them are the
children of bakers, or worn-out bakers, than can be said of any other calling.
The best sale is in the suburbs. "As far as I know, sir," said a
muffin-seller, "it's the best Hackney way, and Stoke Newington, and
Dalston, and Balls Pond, and Islington; where the gents that's in banks -the
steady coves of them -goes home to their teas, and the missuses has muffins to
welcome them; that's my opinion."
I did not hear of any
street-seller who made the muffins or crumpets he vended. Indeed, he could not
make the small quantity required, so as to be remunerative. The muffins are
bought of the bakers, and at prices to leave a profit of 4d. in 1s. Some bakers
give thirteen to the dozen to the street-sellers whom they know. The muffin-man
carries his delicacies in a basket, wherein they are well swathed in flannel, to
retain the heat: "People likes them warm, sir," an old man told me,
"to satisfy them they're fresh, and they almost always are fresh; but it
can't matter so much about their being warm, as they have to be toasted again. I
only wish good butter was a sight cheaper, and that would make the muffins go.
Butter's half the battle." The basket and flannels cost the muffin-man 2s.
6d. or 3s. 6d. His bell stands him in from 4d. to 2s., " according as the
metal is." The regular price of goodsized muffins from the street-sellers
is a halfpenny each; the crumpets are four a penny. Some are sold cheaper, but
these are generally smaller, or made of inferior flour. Most of the
street-sellers give thirteen, and some even fourteen to the dozen, especially if
the purchase be made early in the day, as the muffin-man can then, if he deem it
prudent, obtain a further supply.
A sharp London lad of
fourteen, whose father had been a journeyman baker, and whose mother (a widow)
kept a small chandler's shop, gave me the following account: -
"I turns out with
muffins and crumpets, sir, in October, and continues until it gets well into the
spring, according to the weather. I carries a fust-rate article; werry much so.
If you was to taste 'em, sir, you'd say the same. If I sells three dozen muffins
at ½d. each, and twice that in crumpets, it's a werry fair day, werry fair; all
beyond that is a good day. The profit on the three dozen and the others is 1s.,
but that's a great help, really a wonderful help, to mother, for I should be
only mindin' the shop at home. Perhaps I clears 4s. a week, perhaps more,
perhaps less; but that's about it, sir. Some does far better than that, and some
can't hold a candle to it. If I has a hextra day's sale, mother'll give me 3d.
to go to the play, and that hencourages a young man, you know, sir. If there's
any unsold, a coffee-shop gets them cheap, and puts 'em off cheap again next
morning. My best customers is genteel houses, 'cause I sells a genteel thing. I
likes wet days best, 'cause there's werry respectable ladies what don't keep a
servant, and they buys to save themselves going out. We're a great conwenience
to the ladies, sir -a great conwenience to them as likes a slap-up tea. I have
made 1s. 8d. in a day; that was my best. I once took only 2½d. -I don't know
why -that was my worst. The shops don't love me -I puts their noses out. Sunday
is no better day than others, or werry little. I can read, but wish I could read
muffin-sellers, each clearing 4s. a week, we find 300l. a week expended on the
metropolitan street sale of muffins; or, in the course of twenty weeks, 2,000l.
Five shillings, with the price of a basket, &c., which is about 3s. 6d.
more, is the capital required for a start.
OF THE STREET SALE OF SWEET-STUFF.
In this sale there are
now engaged, as one of the most intelligent of the class calculated, 200
individuals, exclusive of twenty or thirty Jew boys. The majority of the sellers
are also the manufacturers of the articles they vend. They have all been brought
up to the calling, their parents having been in it, or having been artizans
(more especially bakers) who have adopted it for some of the general reasons I
have before assigned. The non-makers buy of the cheap confectioners.
The articles now
vended do not differ materially, I am informed by men who have known the street
trade for forty years, from those which were in demand when they began selling
in the streets.
A very intelligent
man, who had succeeded his father and mother in the "sweet-stuff"
business -his father's drunkenness having kept them in continual poverty -showed
me his apparatus, and explained his mode of work. His room, which was on the
second-floor of a house in a busy thoroughfare, had what I have frequently
noticed in the abodes of the working classes -the decency of a turn-up bedstead.
It was a large apartment, the rent being 3s. 6d. a week, unfurnished. The room
was cheerful with birds, of which there were ten or twelve. A remarkably fine
thrush was hopping in a large wicker cage, while linnets and bullfinches showed
their quick bright eyes from smaller cages on all sides. These were not kept for
sale but for amusement, their owner being seldom able to leave his room. The
father and mother of this man cleared, twenty years ago, although at that time
sugar was 6d. or 7d. the pound, from 2l. to 3l. a week by the sale of
sweet-stuff; half by keeping a stall, and half by supplying small shops or other
stallkeepers. My present informant, however, who has -not the best -but one of
the best businesses in London, makes 24s. or 25s. a week from October to May,
and sarcely 12s. a week during the summer months, "when people love to buy
any cool fresh fruit instead of sweetstuff." The average profits of the
generality of the trade do not perhaps exceed 10s. 6d. or 12s.
a week, take the year round. They reside in all parts.
Treacle and sugar are
the ground-work of the manufacture of all kinds of sweet-stuff. "
Hardbake," "almond toffy," "halfpenny lollipops,"
"black balls," the cheaper "bulls eyes," and
"squibs" are all made of treacle. One informant sold more of treacle
rock than of anything else, as it was dispensed in larger halfpennyworths, and
no one else made it in the same way. Of peppermint rock and sticks he made a
good quantity. Half-a-crown's worth, as retailed in the streets, requires 4 lbs.
of rough raw sugar at 4¼d. per lb., 1½d. for scent (essence of peppermint), 1½d.
for firing, and ½d. for paper -in all 1s. 8½d. calculating nothing for the
labour and time expended in boiling and making it. The profit on the other
things was proportionate, except on almond rock, which does not leave 2½d. in a
shilling -almonds being dear. Brandy balls are made of sugar, water, peppermint,
and a little cinnamon. Rose acid, which is a "transparent" sweet, is
composed of loaf sugar at 6½d. per lb., coloured with cochineal. The articles
sold in "sticks" are pulled into form along a hook until they present
the whitish, or speckled colour desired. A quarter of a stone of materials will,
for instance, be boiled for forty minutes, and then pulled a quarter of an hour,
until it is sufficiently crisp and will "set" without waste. The
flavouring -or "scent" as I heard it called in the trade -now most in
demand is peppermint. Gibraltar rock and Wellington pillars used to be flavoured
with ginger, but these "sweeties" are exploded.
Dr. Pereria, in his
"Treatise on Diet," enumerates as many as ten different varieties and
preparations of sugar used for dietetical purposes. These are (1) purified or
refined sugar; (2) brown or raw sugar; (3) molasses or treacle -or fluid sugar;
(4) aqueous solutions of sugar -or syrups; (5) boiled sugars, or the softer
kinds of confectionary; (6) sugar-candy, or crystallized cane sugar; (7) burnt
sugar, or caramel; (8) hard confectionary; (9) liquorice; (10) preserves. The
fifth and eighth varieties alone concern us here.
Of the several
preparations of boiled sugar, the Doctor thus speaks, "If a small quantity
of water be added to sugar, the mixture heated until the sugar dissolves, and
the solution boiled to drive off part of the water, the tendency of the sugar to
crystallise is diminished, or, in some cases, totally destroyed. To promote this
effect, confectioners sometimes add a small portion of cream of tartar to the
solution while boiling. Sugar, thus altered by heat, and sometimes variously
flavoured, constitutes several preparations sold by the confectioner.
Barley-sugar and acidulated drops are prepared in this way from white sugar:
powdered tartaric acid being added to the sugar while soft. Hardbake and toffee
are made by a similar process from brown sugar. Toffee differs from hardbake
from containing butter.
The ornamented sugar pieces, or caramel-tops, with which pastrycooks
decorate their tarts, &c., are prepared in the same way. If the boiled and
yet soft sugar be rapidly and repeatedly extended, and pulled over a hook, it
becomes opaque and white, and then constitutes pulled sugar, or penides. Pulled
sugar, variously flavoured and coloured, is sold in several forms by the
prepares of hard confectionary.
hard confectionary," Dr. Pereira says, "sugar constitutes the base of
an almost innumerable variety of hard confectionary, sold under the names of
lozenges, brilliants, pipe, rock, comfits, nonpareils, &c. Besides sugar,
these preparations contain some flavouring ingredient, as well as flour or gum,
to give them cohesiveness, and frequently colouring matter. Carraway, fruits,
almonds, and pine seeds, constitute the nuclei of some of these
One of the appliances
of the street sweetstuff trade which I saw in the room of the seller before
mentioned was -Acts of Parliament. A pile of these, a foot or more deep, lay on
a shelf. They are used to wrap up the rock, &c., sold. The sweet-stuff maker
(I never heard them called confectioners) bought his "paper" of the
stationers, or at the old book-shops. Sometimes, he said, he got works in this
way in sheets which had never been cut (some he feared were stolen,) and which
he retained to read at his short intervals of leisure, and then used to wrap his
goods in. In this way he had read through two Histories of England! He
maintained a wife, two young children, and a young sister, who could attend to
the stall; his wife assisted him in his manufactures. He used 1 cwt. of sugar a
week on the year's average, ½ cwt. of treacle, and 5 oz. of scents, each 8d. an
The man who has the
best trade in London streets, is one who, about two years ago, introduced -after
much study, I was told -short sentences into his "sticks." He boasts
of his secret. When snapped asunder, in any part, the stick presents a sort of
coloured inscription. The four I saw were: "Do you love me?" The next
was of less touching character, "Do you love sprats?" The others were,
"Lord Mayor's Day," and "Sir Robert Peel." This man's
profits are twice those of my respectable informant's.
OF THE CUSTOMERS OF THE SWEET-STUFF
man, originally a baker, but who, for a fortnight before I saw him, had been
attending upon an old gentleman, disabled from an accident, gave me the
following account of his customers. What I heard from the other street-sellers
satisfies me of the correctness of the statement. It will be seen that he was
possesed of some humour and observation:
"Boys and girls
are my best customers, sir, and mostly the smallest of them; but then,
again, some of them's fifty, aye, turned fifty; Lor' love you. An old
fellow, that hasn't a stump of a tooth in front, why, he 'll stop and buy a
ha'porth of hard-bake, and he'll say, `I've a deal of the boy left about me
still.' He doesn't show it, anyhow, in his look. I'm sometimes a thinking I'll
introduce a softer sort of toffy -boiled treacle, such as they call Tom Trot in
some parts, but it's out of fashion now, just for old people that's `boys
still.' It was rolled in a ha'penny stick, sir, and sold stunnin'. The old ones
wants something to suck, and not to chew. Why, when I was a lad at school, there
was Jews used to go about with boxes on their backs, offering rings and
pencilcases, and lots of things that's no real use to nobody, and they told
everybody they asked to buy `that they sold everything, and us boys used to say
-`Then give's a ha'porth of boiled treacle.' It was a regular joke. I wish I'd
stuck more to my book then, but what can't be cured must be endured, you know.
Now, those poor things that walks down there" (intimating, by a motion of
the head, a thoroughfare frequented by girls of the town), "they're often
customers, but not near so good as they was ten year ago; no, indeed, nor six or
eight year. They like something that bites in the mouth, such as
peppermint-rock, or ginger-drops. They used to buy a penn'orth or two and offer
it to people, but they don't now, I think. I've trusted them ha'pennies and
pennies, sometimes. They always paid me. Some that held their heads high like,
might say: `I really have no change; I'll pay you to-morrow.' She hadn't no
change, poor lass, sure enough, and she hadn't nothing to change either, I'll go
bail. I've known women, that seemed working men's or little shopkeeper's wives,
buy of me and ask which of my stuffs took greatest hold of the breath. I always
knew what they was up to. They'd been having a drop, and didn't want it to be
detected. Why, it was only last Saturday week two niceish-looking and
niceishdressed women, comes up to me, and one was going to buy peppermint-rock,
and the other says to her: `Don't, you fool, he'll only think you've been
drinking gin-and-peppermint. Coffee takes it off best.' So I lost my customers.
They hadn't had a single drain that night, I'll go bail, but still they didn't
look like regular lushingtons at all. I make farthing's-worths of sweet-stuff,
for children, but I don't like it; it's an injury to trade. I was afraid that
when half-farthings was coined, they'd come among children, and they'd want half
a farthing of brandy-balls. Now, talking of brandy-balls, there's a gentleman
that sometimes has a minute's chat with me, as he buys a penn'orth to take home
to his children -(every reasonable man ought to marry and have children for the
sake of the sweet-trade, but it ain't the women's fault that many's single
still) -when one gentleman I knows buys brandy-balls, he says, quite grave,
`What kind o'brandy do you put in them?' `Not a drop of British,' says I, `I can
assure you; not a single drop.' He's not finely dressed; indeed, he's a leetle
seedy, but I know he's a gentleman, or what's the same thing, if he ain't rich;
for a common fellow 'll never have his boots polished that way, every day of his
life; his blacking bills must come heavy at Christmas. I can tell a gentleman,
too, by his way of talk, 'cause he's never bumptious. It's the working people's
children that's my great support, and they was a better support, by 2s. in every
10s., and more, when times was better; and next to them among my patrons is poor
people. Perhaps, this last year, I've cleared 11s. a week, not more, all
through. I make my own stuffs, except the drops, and they require machinery. I
would get out of the streets if I could."
Another of these
traders told me, that he took more in farthings, than in halfpennies or pennies.
sweet-stuff sellers, each clearing 10s. weekly, the outlay in rocks, candies,
hard-bakes, &c., in the streets is 5,200l. yearly, or nearly two and a half
millions of halfpenny-worths.
To start in the
sweet-stuff business requires a capital of 35s., including a saucepan in which
to boil sugar, 2s.; weights and scales, 4s.; stock-money (average), 4s.; and
barrow, 25s. If the seller be not his own manufacturer, then a tray, 1s. 9d.;
and stock-money, 1s. 6d.; or 3s. 3d. in all will be sufficient.
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF COUGH DROPS AND
OF MEDICAL CONFECTIONARY.
Mr. Strutt, in his
"Sports and Pastimes of the People of England" (1800), says of the
Mountebank: "It is uncertain at what period this vagrant dealer in physic
made his appearance in England; it is clear, however, that he figured away with
much success in this country during the last two centuries... The mountebanks
usually preface the vending of their medicines with pompous orations, in which
they pay as little regard to truth as to propriety." I am informed by a
gentleman observant of the matter, that within his knowledge, which extends to
the commencement of the present century, no mountebank (proper) had appeared in
the streets of London proclaiming the virtues of his medicines; neither with nor
without his "fool." The last seen by my informant, perhaps the latest
mountebank in England, was about twenty years ago, in the vicinity of Yarmouth.
He was selling "cough drops" and infallible cures for asthma, and was
dressed in a .... and an embroidered coat, with ruffles at his wrist, a
sword to his side, and was a representation, in shabby genteel, of the fine
gentleman of the reign of Queen Anne. The mountebank's most legitimate successor
in the street cajolery of London, as regards his " orations," is the
"Patterer," as I shall show in my account of the street trade in
stationery literature. His successor in the vending of curative confectionaries
and (in a small degree) of nostrums, salves, ointments, &c., are the
sellers of "cough drops" and "horehound candy," and of the
corn salves, and cures for bruises, sprains, burns, &c., &c., &c.
The street-traders in
cough drops and their accompaniments, however, do not now exceed six, and of
them only two -who are near relatives -manufacture their own stock-in-trade. I
here treat of the street trade in "cough drops," as a branch of the
itinerant sweet-stuff trade. The "mountebank" part of the business
-that is to say, "the prefacing the vending of the medicines with pompous
orations," I shall reserve till its proper place -viz. the
"pattering" part of the street trade, of which an account will be
given in the next Chapter.
The two principal
vendors of cough drops wheel their stalls, which are fixed upon barrows, to
different parts of town, but one principal stand is in Holborn. On their boards
are displayed the cough cures, both in the form of "sticks" and
"drops," and a model of a small distillery. The portion inclosing the
still is painted to resemble brick-work, and a tin tube, or worm, appears to
carry the distillation to a receiver. Horehound, colts-foot, and some other
herbs lie in a dried state on the stall, but principally horehound, to which
popular (street) opinion seems to attach the most and the greatest virtues.
There are also on the stalls a few bottles, tied up in the way they are
dispensed from a regular practitioner, while the cough drops are in the form of
sticks (½d. each), also neatly wrapped in paper. The cry is both expressive and
simply descriptive -"Long life candy! Candy from herbs!"
From the most
experienced person in this curious trade, I had the following statement. He
entertained a full assurance, as far as I could perceive, of the excellence of
his remedies, and of the high art and mystery of his calling. In persons of his
class, professing to heal, no matter in what capacity, or what may be the
disease, this is an important element of success. My informant, whether
answering my questions or speaking of his own accord, always took time to
consider, and sometimes, as will be seen, declined replying to my inquiries.
From him I received the following account: -
"The cough drop
and herb trade is nothing now to what it was long ago. Thirty or forty years
ago, it was as good as 3l. or 4l. a week to a person, and was carried on by
respectable men. I know nothing of any `humbugs' in the respectable part of the
trade. What's done by those who are ignorant, and not respectable, is nothing to
me. I don't know how many there were in the trade thirty or forty years ago; but
I know that, ten or eleven years since, I supplied seven persons who sold cough
drops, and such like, in the streets, and now I supply only myself and another.
I sell only four or five months in the year -the cold months, in course; for, in
the summer, people are not so subject to coughs and colds. I am the `original'
maker of my goods. I will cure any child of the hooping cough, and very speedily. I defy any medical man to dispute it, and I'll
do it -`no cure, no pay.' I never profess to cure asthma. Nobody but a
gravedigger can put an end to that there; but I can relieve it. It's the same
with consumption; it may be relieved, but the gravedigger is the only man as can
put a stop to it. Many have tried to do it, but they've all failed. I sell to
very respectable people, and to educated people, too; and, what's more, a good
deal (of cough drops) to medical men. In course, they can analyse it, if they
please. They can taste the bitter, and judge for themselves, just as they can
taste wine in the Docks. Perhaps the wives of mechanics are among my best
customers. They are the most numerous, but they buy only ha'porths and
penn'orths. Very likely, they would think more of the remedy if they had to pay
13½d. for it, instead of the 1½d. The Government stamp makes many a stuff
sell. Oh! I know nothing about quackery: you must inquire at the Stamp-office,
if you want to know about them kind of medicines. They're the people that help
to sell them. Respectable people will pay me 1s. or 2s. at a time; and those who
buy once, buy again. I'm sent to from as far off as Woolwich. I'll undertake to
cure, or afford relief, in coughs, colds, or wind in the chest, or forfeit 1s. I
can dispel wind in two minutes. I sell bottles, too, for those cures (as well as
the candy from herbs): I manufacture them myself. They're decoctions of herbs,
and the way to prepare them is my secret. I sell them at from 2d. to 1s. Why, I
use one article that costs 24s. a pound, foreign, and twice that English. I've
sold hundred weights. The decoctions are my secret. I will instruct any person
-and have instructed a good many -when I'm paid for it. In course, it would
never do to publish it in your work, for thousands would then learn it for 2d.
My secret was never given to any person - only with what you may call a fee
-except one, and only to him when he got married, and started in the line. He's
a connection of mine. All we sell is genuine.
"I sell herbs,
too, but it's not a street sale: I supply them to orders from my connection.
It's not a large trade. I sell horehound, for tea or decoctions; coltsfoot, for
smoking as herb tobacco (I gather the coltsfoot myself, but buy the horehound of
a shopkeeper, as it's cultivated); ground-ivy is sold only for the blood (but
little of it); hyssop for wind; and Irish moss for consumption. I'm never asked
for anything improper. They won't ask me for -or -. And I'm never asked for
washes or cosmetics; but a few nettles are ordered of me for complexions.
"Well, sir, I'd
rather not state the quantities I sell, or my profits, or prices. I make what
keeps myself, my wife, and seven children, and that's all I need say about it.
I'd rather say no more on that part of the business: and so, I'm sure you won't
press me. I don't know what others in the trade make. They buy of confectioners,
and are only imitators of me. They buy coltsfoot-candy, and such like; how it's made so
cheap, I don't know. In the summer, I give up cough-drop selling, and take to
I am told that the
cough-drop-makers, who are also street-sellers, prepare their sticks, &c.,
much in the same method as the manufacturers of the ordinary sweet-stuff (which
I have described), using the decoction, generally of horehound or coltsfoot, as
the "scents" are used. In the old times, it would appear that the
preparation of a medicinal confection was a much more elaborate matter, if we
may judge by the following extract from an obsolete medical work treating of the
matter. The author styles such preparations "lohochs," which is an
Arabic word, he says, and signifies "a thing to be licked." It would
appear that the lohoch was not so hard as the present cough-drop. The following
is one of the receipts, "used generally against diseases in the breast and
"Lohoch de farfara," the
Lohoch of Coltsfoot.
Take of coltsfoot
roots creansed 8 ozs., marsh-mallow roots 4 ozs., boil them in a sufficient
quantity of water, and press the pulp through a sieve, dissolve it again in the
decoction, and let it boil once or twice; then take it from the fire, and add 2
lbs. of white sugar, honey of raisins 14 ozs., juice of liquorice 2½ drams,
stir them well with a wooden pestle, sprinkling in of saffron and cloves in
powder, of each 1 scruple, cinnamon and mace, of each 2 scruples; make them into
a lohoch according to art. It is good for a cough and roughness of the windpipe.
Without wishing to
infringe upon professional secrets, I may mention that the earnings of the
principal man in the trade may be taken at 30s. a week for 20 weeks; that of
another at 15s. for the same period; and those of the remaining four at 5s.
each, weekly; but the latter sell acid drops, and other things bought of the
chemists. Allowing the usual cent. per cent., we then find 130l. expended by
street-buyers on cough-drops.
The best cough-drop
stall seen in the streets is a kind of barrow, which can be shut up like a
piano: it cost 3l. 10s. complete with the distilling apparatus before described.
Scales and weights cost 5s., and the stock-money for the supply of such a stall
need not exceed 10s.; or, in all, about 4l. 10s. For an ordinary trade -
ready-made articles forming the stock -the capital would be, stall and trestle,
7s.; scales and weights (which are not always used), 3s. 6d., and stock-money,
2s. 6d.; in all, 13s
OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF ICES AND OF ICE
I have already treated
of the street luxury of pine-apples, and have now to deal with the greater
street rarity of ice-creams.
street-seller -but not in the "provision" line -conversing with me
upon this subject, said: "Ices in the streets! Aye, and there'll be jellies
next, and then mock turtle, and then the real ticket, sir. I don't know nothing
of the difference between the real thing and the mock, but I once had some cheap
mock in an eating-house, and it tasted like stewed tripe with a little glue.
You'll keep your eyes open, sir, at the Great Exhibition; and you'll see a new
move or two in the streets, take my word for it. Penny glasses of cham pagne, I
sanguine anticipations of my street friend, the sale of ices in the streets has
not been such as to offer any great encouragement to a perseverance in the
The sale of ice-creams
was unknown in the streets until last summer, and was first introduced, as a
matter of speculation, by a man who was acquainted with the confectionary
business, and who purchased his ices of a confectioner in Holborn. He resold
these luxuries daily to street-sellers, sometimes to twenty of them, but more
frequently to twelve. The sale, however, was not remunerative, and had it not
been generally united with other things, such as ginger-beer, could not have
been carried on as a means of subsistence. The supplier of the street-traders
sometimes went himself, and sometimes sent another to sell ice-cream in
Greenwich Park on fine summer days, but the sale was sometimes insufficient to
pay his railway expenses. After three or four weeks' trial, this man abandoned
the trade, and soon afterwards emigrated to America.
Not many weeks
subsequent to "the first start," I was informed, the trade was entered
into by a street-seller in Petticoat-lane, who had become possessed, it was
said, of Masters's Freezing Apparatus. He did not vend the ices himself for more
than two or three weeks, and moreover confined his sale to Sunday mornings;
after a while he employed himself for a short time in making ices for four or
five street-sellers, some of whom looked upon the preparation as a wonderful
discovery of his own, and he then discontinued the trade.
There were many
difficulties attending the introduction of ices into street-traffic. The buyers
had but a confused notion how the ice was to be swallowed. The trade, therefore,
spread only very gradually, but some of the more enterprising sellers purchased
stale ices from the confectioners. So little, however, were the street-people
skilled in the trade, that a confectioner told me they sometimes offered ice to
their customers in the streets, and could supply only water! Ices were sold by
the street-vendors generally at 1d. each, and the trade left them a profit of
4d. in 1s., when they served them "without waste," and some of the
sellers contrived, by giving smaller modicums, to enhance the 4d. into 5d.; the
profit, however, was sometimes what is expressively called "nil."
Cent. per cent. -the favourite and simple rate known in the streets as "
halfprofits" was rarely attained.
From a street-dealer I
received the following account: -
"Yes, sir, I mind
very well the first time as I ever sold ices. I don't think they'll ever take
greatly in the streets, but there's no saying. Lord! how I've seen the people
splntter when they've tasted them for the first time. I did as much myself. They get among the teeth
and make you feel as if you tooth-ached all over. I sold mostly strawberry ices.
I haven't an idee how they're made, but it's a most wonderful thing in summer
-freezing fruits in that way. One young Irish fellow -I think from his look and
cap he was a printer's or stationer's boy -he bought an ice of me, and when he
had scraped it all together with the spoon, he made a pull at it as if he was a
drinking beer. In course it was all among his teeth in less than no time, and he
stood like a stattey for a instant, and then he roared out, -`Jasus! I'm kilt.
The could shivers is on to me!' But I said, `O, you're all right, you are;' and
he says, `What d'you mane, you horrid horn,* by selling such stuff as that. An'
you must have the money first, bad scran to the likes o' you!'
"The persons what
enjoyed their ices most," the man went on, "was, I think, servant
maids that gulped them on the sly. Pr'aps they'd been used, some on 'em, to get
a taste of ices on the sly before, in their services. We sees a many dodges in
the streets, sir -a many. I knew one smart servant maid, treated to an ice by
her young man -they seemed as if they was keeping company -and he soon was
stamping, with the ice among his teeth, but she knew how to take hern, put the
spoon right into the middle of her mouth, and when she'd had a clean swallow she
says: `O, Joseph, why didn't you ask me to tell you how to eat your ice?' The
conceit of sarvant gals is ridiculous. Don't you think so, sir? But it goes out
of them when they gets married and has to think of how to get broth before how
to eat ices. One hot day, about eleven, a thin tall gentleman, not very young,
threw down 1d. to me, and says, says he, `As much ice as you can make for that.'
He knew how to take it. When he'd done, he says, says he, `By G -, my good
feller, you've saved my life. I've been keeping it up all night, and I was dying
of a burnt-up throat, after a snooze, and had only 1d. So sick and hot was my
stomach, I could have knelt down and taken a pull at the Thames' -we was near it
at the time -`You've saved my life, and I'll see you again.' But I've never
see'd him since. He was a gentleman, I think. He was in black, and wore a big
black and gold ring -only one.
"The rest of my
customers for ices, was people that bought out of curiosity, and there was
gentlemen's servants among 'em, very little fellows some of 'em; and doctors'
boys; and mechanics as was young and seemed of a smartish sort; and boys that
seemed like schoolboys; and a few women of the town, - but mine's not much of a
pitch for them."
From the information I
obtained, I may state that, if the sale of street ices be calculated at twenty
persons taking, not earning, 1s. 6d. daily for four weeks, it is as near the
mark as possible. This gives an expenditure of 42l. in street ices, with a
profit to the vendors of from 10 to 25 per cent. I am told that an unsuccessful
start has characterised other street trades -rhubarb for instance, both in the
streets and markets -which have been afterwards successful and remunerative.
For capital in the ice
trade a small sum was necessary, as the vendors had all stalls and sold other
commodities, except the "original street ice man," who was not a
regular street trader, but a speculator. A jar -in which the ices were neither
sufficiently covered nor kept cooled, though it was often placed in a vessel or
"cooler," containing cold water -cost 1s., three cups, 3d. (or three
glasses, 1s.), and three spoons, 3d., with 2s. stock-money; the total is,
presuming glasses were used, 4s., or, with a vessel for water, 5s.
* I inquired as to
what was meant by the reproachful appellation, "horrid horn," and my
informant declared that "to the best of his hearing," those were the
words used; but doubtless the word was " omadhaun," signifying in the
Erse tongue, a half-witted fellow. My informant had often sold fruit to the same
lad, and said he had little of the brogue, or of "old Irish words,"
unless "his temper was riz, and then it came out powerful.'