Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - London Labour and the London Poor; 1851, 1861-2; Henry Mayhew


   I now give a summary of the Capital and Income of the street-sellers of eatables and drinkables. But, first, I will endeavour to arrive at an estimate of the total number of people belonging to the class.

   The street-sellers engaged in the sale of eatables and drinkables, are, summing the several items before given, altogether 6,347: of whom 300 sell pea-soup and hot eels; 150, pickled whelks; 300, fried fish; 300, sheeps trotters; 60, ham-sandwiches; 200, baked 'tatoes; 4, hot green peas; 150, meat; 25, bread; 1,000, cat and dogs' meat; 300, coffee and tea; 1,700, ginger-beer, lemonade, sherbet, &c.; 50, elderwine; 4, peppermint-water; 28, milk; 100, curds and whey and rice-milk; 60, water; 50, pies; 6, boiled pudding; 6, plum "duff"; 150, cakes and tarts; 4, plum-cakes; 30, other cheaper cakes; 150, gingerbread-nuts; 500, cross-buns; 500, muffins and crumpets; 200, sweet stuff; 6, cough-drops; 20, ice-creams. But many of the above are only temporary trades. The streetsale of hot cross-buns, for instance, lasts only for a day; that of muffins and crumpets, baked potatoes, plum-"duff," cough-drops, elder-wine, and rice-milk, are all purely winter trades, while the sale of ginger-beer, lemonade, ice-creams, and curds and whey, is carried on solely in the summer. By this means the number of the street-sellers of eatables and drinkables, never at any one time reaches the amount before stated. In summer there are, in addition to the 10,000 costers before mentioned, about 3,000 people, and in winter between 4,000 and 5,000, engaged in the eatable and drinkable branch of the street-traffic.

   As regards the Capital and Income, many minute accounts have been prepared.

   To show the care, as well as the fulness with which these returns have been made, I give one of the Tables in its integrity, merely remarking, that similar tables relative to all the other articles have been made; but I condense the details, lest a repetition, however curious in its statistics, should prove wearisome:


Street-sellers of Hot Eels. s. d
200 stalls, at 6s. 60 0 0
100 baskets, at 1s. 5 0 0
200 eel-kettles, at 3s. 6d. 35 0 0
100 jars for itinerants, at 6d. 2 10 0
300 stew-pans, at 2s. 30 0 0
300 strainers, at 1s. 15 0 0
300 ladles, at 4d. 5 0 0
2,400 cups, at 1d. 10 0 0
2,400 spoons, at 1d. 10 0 0
200 chafing-dishes, at 6d. 5 0 0
200 glasses for candles, at 3d. 2 10 0
240 vendors' stock-money, at 5s.      
each 60 0 0
60 ditto, at 25s. each. 75 0 0
100 itinerants' ditto, at 2s. each 10 0 0
300 cloths, at 4d. each 5 0 0
300 pairs of sleeves, at 4d. per pair 5 0 0
300 aprons at 4d. each 5 0 0
339 10 0


Street-sellers of Pea Soup.

   150 soup-kettles, 4s. each; 150 ladles, 6d. each; 150 pepper-boxes, 1d. each; 150 mint-boxes, 3d. each; 150 chafing-dishes, 6d. each; 1,800 basons, 1d. each; 1,800 spoons, 1d. each; stock-money, 3s. 6d. each*. 81 5 0

Street-sellers of Pickled Whelks.

   100 stalls, 4s. each; 150 baskets, 2s. 6d. each; 150 tin boilers, 2s. 6d. each; 75 pans, 9d. each; 150 jars, 6d. each; 150 flour-dredgers, 4d. each; 1,800 saucers, d. each; 150 table-spoons, 2d. each; 150 knives, 2d. each; 150 vinegar-bottles, 1d. each; 150 serge aprons, 2s. each; stock-money, for 150 vendors, 5s. each... 125 18 9

Street-sellers of Fried Fish.

   300 trays, 1s. 6d. each; 300 frying-pans, 1s. 6d. each; 300 saltdredgers, 3d. each; 300 knives, 2d. each; 300 earthenware pans, 1s. each; 300 shallows, 1s. each; stockmoney, for 150 vendors, 5s. each. 156 5 0 

Street-sellers of Sheeps' Trotters.

   300 baskets, 1s. 4d. each; 300 s. d. cotton cloths, 4d. each; 300 forks, 2d. each; 300 knives, 3d. each; 300 pepper-boxes, 1d. each; 300 saltcellars, 1d. each; stock-money, for 300 sellers, 1s. each... 48 15 0

Street-sellers of Ham Sandwiches.

   60 baskets, 2s. each; 60 tin boilers, 2s. each; 60 knives and forks, 6d. per pair; 60 mustard-pots, 1d. each; 60 spoons, 1d. each; 60 cloths, 5d. each; 60 aprons, 4d. each; 60 pairs of sleeves, 4d. per pair; stock-money for 60 vendors, 7s. 2d. weekly.. 38 15 0

Street-sellers of Baked' Tatoes.

   300 cans, 2l. each; 300 knives, 3d. each; 300 pepper-boxes, 1d. each; stock-money for 300 vendors, 10s. each... 755 0 0

Street-sellers of Hot Green Peas.

   4 cans, 2s. 6d. each; 4 vinegarbottles, 1d. each: 4 pepper-boxes, 3d. each; 12 saucers, 1d. each; 12 spoons, 1d. each; 4 cloths, 4d. each; stock-money for 4 vendors, 2s. each 1 2 8

Street-sellers of Meat ("Hawking Butchers.")

   150 baskets, 4s. 6d. each; 150 saws, 2s. each; 150 cleavers, 1s. 6d. each; 150 steels, 1s. 6d. each; 150 belts for baskets, 1s. each; 150 do. for waist, 6d. each; 150 cloths, 6d. each; 150 aprons, 6d. each; 150 pairs of sleeves, 4d. per pair; 150 vendors' stock-money, 6s each per day... 138 5 0

Street-sellers of Bread.

   12 baskets, 4s. 6d. each; 12 barrows, 40s. each; 1 long bread-basket, 40s.; 1 barrow, 30s.; 13 sacks, 1s. each; stock-money for 25 vendors, at 1l. each... 55 17 0

Street-sellers of Cats' and Dogs'-meat.

   500 barrows, 18s. each; 1,000 baskets, 1s. 6d. each; 500 sets of weights and scales, 4s. each; 1,000 knives, 8d. each; 1,000 steels, 1s. each; stock-money of 1,500 vendors, 7s. 6d. per head... 1,083 6 8

Street-sellers of Coffee and Tea.

   150 tables, 2s. 6d. each; 75 stalls, 6s. each; 75 coffee-barrows, 1l. each; 400 coffee-cans (100 vendors having two cans, and 200 only one), 8s. each; 1,200 half-pint cups and saucers, 3d. each, and 900 pints, 6d. each; 2,100 spoons, 1d. each; 900 plates, 1d. each; 300 knives, 2d. each; 300 pans, 9d. each; 600 canisters, 5d. each; 50 screens, 2s. 6d. each; stockmoney of 300 vendors, 5s. each. 435 12 0

   Street-sellers of Ginger-beer.

   300 barrows, 1l. each; 1,000 stalls, s. d. 5s. each; 175 fountains, 7l. each; 20 ditto, 20l. each; 3 ditto, 100l. each; 9,000 glasses, 5d. each; 1,500 tanks, 1s. each; 3,000 towels, 6d. each; 500 sets of brewing utensils, corks, &c., 5s. each; 500 gross of bottles, 10s. per gross, and stock-money for 1,500 vendors, 5s. each... 3,562 10 0

Street-sellers of Lemonade, Nectar, Sherbet, &c.*

   200 stalls, 6s. each; 500 stone barrels, 5s. 6d. each; 1,200 glasses, 4d. each; 400 towels, 6d. each; 200 jars, 2s. each; 2,400 glass bottles, 3d. each; stock-money for 200 vendors, 2s. 6d. each... 305 0 0

Street-sellers of Elder-wine.

   3 elder-wine carriages and apparatus, 7l. each; 47 ditto ditto, 3l. 10s. each; 300 small wine-glasses, 2d. each; stock-money, 3s. per head. 195 10 0

Street-sellers of Peppermint-water.

   2 kegs, 3s. 6d. each; 2 jars, 2s. each; 16 glasses, 3d. each; 4 cloths, 4d. each; stock-money, for four vendors, 1s. each... 1 0 4

Milk-sellers in the Park.

   16 cows, 20l. each; 8 lockers, 3l. each; 32 fixed seats, 3s. each; 48 forms, 3s. each; 48 glasses, 4d. each; 96 cups, 1d. each; 8 halters, for cows, 6d. each; 8 pans, 1s. each; 16 towels, 6d. each... 358 6 0

Milk-sellers in Markets, &c.

   20 yokes and pairs of cans, 15s. each; 20 sets of measures, 2s. per set; stock-money for 20 vendors, 3s. each... 20 0 0

Street-sellers of Curds and Whey.

   100 stalls, 5s. each; 100 saucepans, to scald the milk in, 2s. each; 300 cups, 1d. each; 300 glasses, 5d. each; 600 spoons, d. each; 100 tin kettles, for stalls, at 3s. 6d. each; 100 small tubs, 1s each; 100 cloths, 3d. each; stock-money for 100 vendors, at 2s. each... 77 10 0

Street-sellers of Rice-milk.

   50 kettles and braziers, for stall, 4s. the two; 300 spice or peppermintboxes, 1d. each; stock-money for fifty vendors, 1s. 3d. each... 14 7 6


   120 pails, 2s. each; 60 yokes, 5s. each... 27 0 0 


   50 pie-cans, 1l. each; 25 turn s. d. halfpenny boards, to gamble with, 2s. 6d. each; 50 gross of tin piedishes, 12s. per gross; 50 aprons, 8d. each; 100 tins, 1s. each (for baking pies upon), stock-money, for 50 vendors, 6s. 6d. each... 106 0 10

Street-sellers of Boiled Puddings.

   6 stands, 6s. each; 6 cans, 2s. 6d. each; 6 pots (tin), 2s. each; 6 chafing-dishes and stands, 5d. each; 6 forks, 2d. each; 6 cloths, 6d. each; stock-money, for 6 vendors, 2s. 6d. each... 4 4 6

Street-sellers of Plum-duff.

   6 baskets, 1s. 9d. each; 6 saucepans, 2s. each; 6 cloths, 6d. each; 6 knives, 2d. each; stock-money, for 6 vendors, 2s. each... 1 18 6

Street-sellers of Cakes, Tarts, &c.

   150 trays, 1s. 9d. each; 150 cloths, 1s. 3d. each; 150 straps, 6d. each; stock-money, 16s. 6d. each... 150 0 0

Other and inferior Cake-sellers.

   30 trays, 1s. 9d. each; 30 straps, 6d. each; stock-money, 2s. 6d. each 7 2 6

Street-sellers of Plum-cake.

   4 trays, 1s. 9d. each; 4 baskets, 1s. 6d. each; 4 cloths (oil-cloth covers for baskets), 1s. each; 4 knives, 2d. each; stock-money, for 4 sellers, 4s. each... 1 18 8

Gingerbread-nut Makers and Sellers.

   50 ovens, 5l. each; 50 peels and rakes, 3s. the two; 750 tins, 1s. each; 50 lamps, for fairs, 6s. each; 50 stalls, 6s. each; 50 sets of scales and 100 sets of weights, half of them false, 7s. 6d. each; 100 canisters, 2s. each; 50 barrows, 30s. each; 50 baskets, 6s. each; 50 baizes, 1s. each; 50 cloths to cover stall, 1s. each; stock-money, for 50 makers and sellers, 14s. each... 483 15 0

Gingerbread-nut Sellers (not Makers.)

   150 trays, 1s. 9d. each; 150 straps, 6d. each; stock-money, for 150 sellers, 1s. 6d. each... 28 5 6

Street-sellers of Hot cross Buns.

   500 baskets, 2s. 6d. each; 500 flannels and cloths, 2s. the two; stock-money, for 500 sellers, 2s. 6d. each... 175 0 0

Street-sellers of Muffins and Crumpets.

   500 baskets, 2s. 6d. each; 500 cloths, 1s. each; stock-money, for 500 sellers, 5s. each... 212 10 0

   Street-sellers of Sweet-stuff.

   6 barrows, 1l. 10s. each; 150 s. d. trays, 1s. 9d. each; 50 saucepans, 2s. each; 18 canisters (long tin), 2s. each; 44 stalls, at 4s. each; 50 sets of weights and scales, at 4s. each; stock-money, for 150 vendors, 3s. each... 70 4 6

Street-sellers of Cough Drops.

   2 stills and barrows, 3l. 10s. each; 4 stalls, 7s. each; 6 weights and scales, 3s. 6d. each; stock-money, for 6 sellers, 2s. 6d. each... 10 4 0

Street-sellers of Ices.

   20 jars, 1s. each; 20 coolers, 2s. each; 30 cups, 1d. each, and 30 glasses, 4d. each; 60 spoons, 1d. each; stock-money, for 20 vendors, 2s. per head... 5 17 6

   Total Capital invested in the Street Sale of Eatables and Drinkables... 9,077 12 5

   * The hot-eel trade being in conjunction with the pea-soup, the same stall, candles, towels, sleeves, and aprons do for both.

   * There are altogether 500 vendors of emonade in the streets, but 300 of these sell also ginger-beer, and consequently do not have separate stalls, &c.

    The street-sellers of rice-milk are included in the street-sellers of curds and whey; hence the stalls, saucepans, cups, &c., of the two classes are the same.


Street-sellers of Hot Eels.

   There are upwards of 1,000,000 lbs. weight of hot eels sold yearly in the streets of London. 140 vendors each sell 6 lbs. of eels daily at their stands; 60 sell 40 lbs. daily; and 100 itinerant sell 5 lbs. nightly at the public-houses. The first mentioned take on an average 2s. daily; the second 16s.; and the third 1s. 8d. This gives a yearly street expenditure in the trade in hot eels amounting to... 19,448

Street-sellers of Pea-soup.

   The annual street consumption of pea-soup amounts to 1,680 gallons. 100 vendors sell each 4 gallons daily; and 50 vendors, each sell upon an average 10 gallons daily. The first mentioned take 3s. a day; and the last, 7s. 6d. This gives a street expenditure during the winter season of five months, of... 4,050

Street-sellers of Pickled Whelks.

   According to the Billingsgate returns, there are nearly 5,000,000 of whelks sold yearly in the streets of London. These are retailed in a boiled state, and flavoured with vinegar, at four a penny. 150 vendors take on an average 13s. weekly. This gives an annual street expenditure, of... 5,000

Street-sellers of Fried Fish.

   150 sellers make 10s. 6d. weekly, or yearly 27l. 6s.; and 150 sellers make half that amount, 13l. 13s. per annum. Reckoning 20l. a year as a medium earning, and adding 90 per cent. for  profit, the annual consumption of fried fish supplied by London street-sellers amounts to 684,000 lbs., and the sum expended thereupon to... 11,400

Street-sellers of Sheep's Trotters.

   In the wholesale "trotter" establishment there are prepared, weekly, 20,000 sets, or 80,000 feet; giving a yearly average of 4,160,000 trotters, or the feet of 1,040,000 sheep. Of this quantity the street-folk buy seven-eighths, or 3,640,000 trotters yearly. The number of sheep trotter-sellers may be taken at 300; which gives an average of nearly 60 sets a week per individual. There is then expended yearly in London streets on trotters, calculating their sale, retail, at d. each, 6,500l.; but though the regular price is d., some trotters are sold at four for 1d., very few higher than d., and some are kept until they are unsaleable, so that the amount thus expended may be estimated at... 6,000

Street-sellers of Ham-sandwiches.

   60 vendors, take 8s. a week, and sell annually 486,800 sandwiches, at a cost of... 1,800

Street-sellers of Baked 'Tatoes.

   300 vendors, sell upon an average cwt. of baked potatoes daily, or 1,755 tons in the season. The average takings of each vendor amount to 6s. a day; and the receipts of the whole number throughout the season (which lasts from the latter end of September till March inclusive), a period of 6 months, are.. 14,000

The Street-sellers of Hot Green Peas.

   The chief man of business sells 3 gallons a day (which, at 1d. the quarterpint, would be 8s., my informant said 7s.), the other three together sell the same quantity; hence there is an annual street consumption of 1,870 gallons, and a street expenditure on "hot green peas" of... 250

Street-sellers of Meat.

   The hawking butchers, taking their number at 150, sell 747,000 lbs. of meat, and take annually... 12,450

Street-sellers of Bread.

   25 men take 45s. a day for five months in the summer, and 12 regular traders take 1l. 12s. per day; this gives an annual street consumption of 700,000 quartern loaves of bread, and a street expenditure of... 9,000

Street-sellers of Cats and Dogs' Meat.

   There are 300,000 cats in the metropolis, and from 900 to 1,000 horses, averaging 2 cwt. of meat each, boiled down every week; the quantity of cats'    and dogs' meat used throughout London is about 200,000 lbs. per week, and this, sold at the rate of 2d. per lb., gives 2,000l. a week for the money spent in cats' and dogs' meat, or per year, upwards of... 100,000

Street-sellers of Coffee, Tea, &c.

   Each coffee-stall keeper on an average clears 1l. a week, and his takings may be said to be at least double that sum; hence the quantity of coffee sold annually in the streets, is about 550,000 gallons, while the yearly street expenditure for tea, coffee, &c., amounts to... 31,200

Street-sellers of Ginger-beer.

   The bottles of ginger-beer sold yearly in the streets 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. 200 streetsellers of ginger-beer in the bottle trade of the penny class take 30s. a week each (thus allowing for inferior receipts in bad weather); 300 take 20s. each, selling their "beer" for the most part at d. the bottle, while the remaining 400 "in a small way" take 6s. each; hence there is expended in the bottled ginger-beer of the streets 11,480l. 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 amounts altogether to... 14,660

Street-sellers of Lemonade, Sherbet, Nectar, &c.

   There are 200 persons, chiefly men, selling solely lemonade, &c., and an additional 300 uniting the sale with that of ginger-beer. Their average receipts on fine days are 3s. 6d. a day, or, allowing for wet weather and diminished receipts, 10s. a week. The receipts, then, for this street luxury, show a street expenditure in such a summer as the last, of 2,800l., among those who do not unite gingerbeer 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... 4,900

Street-sellers of Elder-wine.

   50 vendors clear 5s. a week for 16 weeks by the sale of elder-wine in the streets, their profit being at least cent. per cent.; hence the street consumption of this beverage in the course of the year is 1,500 gallons, and the outlay... 200

Street-sellers of Peppermint-water.

   Calculating that 4 "Pepperminters" take 2s. a day the year round, Sundays excepted, we find that 900 gallons of peppermint-water are consumed every year in the streets of London, while the sum expended in it amounts annually to 125

Street-sellers of Milk in the Markets, Parks, &c.

   The vendors in the markets clear about 1s. 6d. a day each, for three months; and as the profit is rather more than cent. per cent., there are about 4,000 gallons of milk thus sold yearly. The quantity sold in the park averages 20 quarts a day for a period of nine months, or 1,170 gallons in the year. This is retailed at 4d. per quart; hence the annual expenditure is... 344

Street-sellers of Curds and Whey.

   50 sellers dispose of 12 gallons in 3 weeks; the other 50 sell only half as much. Taking the season at 3 months, the annual consumption of curds and whey in the streets is 2,812 double gallons (as regards the ingredients of milk), which is retailed at a cost to the purchasers of... 412

Street-sellers of Rice-milk.

   Calculating that 50 sellers dispose of 24 quarts weekly, while one-half of the remaining 25 sell 12 quarts each per week at 1d. the half-pint, and the other half vend 24 quarts at d. the halfpint, there are about 3,000 gallons of rice-milk yearly consumed in the streets of London, while the expenditure amounts to... 320


   The number of water-carriers are sixty, and their average earnings through the year 5s. a week; hence the sum annually expended in water thus obtained amounts to... 780

Street Piemen.

   There are fifty street piemen plying their trade in London, the year through, their average takings are one guinea a week; hence there is an annual street consumption of pies of nearly to threequarters of a million, and a street expenditure amounting to... 3,000

Street-sellers of Meat and Currant Puddings.

   Each street-seller gets rid of, on an average, 85 dozen, or 1,020 puddings; there are now but six street-sellers ( regularly) of these comestibles; hence the weekly aggregate would be -allowing for bad weather -5,400, and the total 129,600 meat and currant puddings sold in the streets, in a season of 24 weeks. This gives an annual 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... 270

Street-sellers of Plum "duff."

   Calculating 42s. a week as the takings of six persons, for five months, we find there is yearly expended in the street purchase of plum dough upwards of. 250

   Street-sellers of Cakes, Tarts, &c.

   Reckoning 150 cake-sellers, each taking 6s. a week -a sufficiently low average -the street consumption of cakes, tarts, &c., will be 1,123,200 every year, and the street outlay about.. 2,350

Street-sellers of other and inferior Cakes.

   The sale of the inferior street cakes realises about a fifth of that taken by the other cake-sellers; hence it may be estimated yearly at.. 450

Street-sellers of Gingerbread-nuts.

   150 gingerbread-nut-sellers take 17s. each weekly (clearing 9s.); at this rate the sum spent yearly in "spice" nuts in the streets of London amounts to. 6,630

Street-sellers of Hot-cross Buns.

   There are nearly 100,000 hot-cross buns sold every Good Friday in the streets of London; hence there is expended in one day, upon the buns thus bought about... 300

Street-sellers of Muffins and Crumpets.

   There are 500 muffin-sellers, each clearing 4s. and taking 12s. a week on an average; hence the metropolitan street sale of muffins and crumpets will be in 20 weeks about 120,000 dozen, and the sum expended thereon... 6,000

Street-sellers of Sweet-stuff.

   The number of sweet-stuff sellers in London amounts to 200, each of whom, on an average, clears 10s., and takes 20s. weekly; the yearly consumption, therefore, of rocks, candies, hard-bakes, &c., purchased in the streets is nearly two and a half millions of halfpenny-worths, or (at the rate of d. an ounce) about 70 tons weight per annum, costing the consumers about... 10,000

Street-sellers of Cough-drops.

   The earnings of the principal man in the "cough-drop" street trade may be taken at 30s. a week for twenty weeks; that of another at 15s. for the same period; and those of the remaining four street-sellers of the same compound at 5s. each, weekly; allowing the usual cent. per cent., we find there is annually expended by street-buyers on coughdrops... 130

Street-sellers of Ice Creams.

   The sale of street ices may be calculated at twenty persons, taking 1s. 6d. daily for four weeks. This gives a street consumption of 10,000 penny ices, and an annual expenditure thereon of 42

   Total Sum expended Yearly on Street Eatables and Drinkables... 203,115