London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry
1851

Routes of the Vagrants.

Routes of the Vagrants.

I was desirous of ascertaining some information concerning the routes of the vagrants, and the reason why they frequent one district or county more than another. It will be seen from the following table, computed from the Poor-Law Returns for the 1st July, 1848, that the vagrants were far from equally distributed over the country at that period. NUMBER OF VAGRANTS RELIEVED IN THE DIFFERENT COUNTIES OF ENGLAND AND WALES ON THE 1ST OF JULY, 1848. Durham . . . 1425 Essex . . . . 147 Oxfordshire . . . 46 Middlesex . . . 1393 Northamptonshire . 136 Carmarthenshire . . 46 Lincolnshire . . . 1355 Wiltshire . . . 135 Radnorshire . . . 46 West Riding . . . 1197 Westmoreland . . 130 Denbighshire . . 45 Cumberland . . . 1087 Nottinghamshire . . 129 Dorsetshire . . . 43 Lancashire . . . 673 Norfolk . . . . 128 Cardiganshire . . 39 Southampton . . 648 North Riding . . 105 Carnarvonshire . . 38 Derbyshire . . . 541 Bedfordshire . . 102 Buckinghamshire . . 28 Warwickshire . . 509 Hertfordshire . . 100 Suffolk . . . . 21 Monmouthshire . . 475 Devonshire . . . 94 Cambridgeshire . . 20 Staffordshire . . . 351 Cheshire . . . 92 Brecknockshire . . 17 Surrey . . . . 319 Somersetshire . . 88 Pembrokeshire . . 15 Glamorganshire . . 244 Shropshire . . . 80 Montgomeryshire . . 14 Worcestershire . . 227 Huntingdonshire . . 75 Anglesea . . . 11 Kent . . . . 179 Leicestershire . . 72 Flintshire . . . 10 Berkshire . . . 175 Cornwall . . . 63 Rutlandshire . . 6 Northumberland . . 172 Merionethshire . . 54 ------ East Riding . . . 152 Gloucestershire . . 52 Total . . 13,547 Sussex . . . . 150 Herefordshire . . 48

In order to discover the cause of this unequal distribution, I sought out a person, whom I knew to be an experienced tramper, and who had offered to give any information that I might require upon the subject. There was a strange mystery about the man. It was evident, both from his manner and his features, that he had once been well to do in the world. He was plainly not of the common order of vagrants, though his dress was as filthy and ragged as that of the generality of the class.

I have been right through the country on the tramp," he said, "about six or seven summers. What I was formerly I do not wish to state. I have been much better off. I was, indeed, in receipt of a very large income at one time; but it matters not how I lost it. I would rather that remained a secret. You may say that I lost it through those follies and extravagancies that are incident both to the higher and the lower classes; but let it pass. You want to know about the habits and characters of the vagrants generally, and there is no necessity for my going into my private history, further than saying, I was a gentleman once, and I am a vagrant now. I have been so for the last six years. I generally start off into the country about April or May. I stay, after the refuges are closed, until such time as I have tired out all the unions in and around London. I go into the country because I am known at all the casual wards in the metropolis, and they will not let a tramper in a second time if they know it, except at the City of London, and there I have been allowed to stay a month together. The best of the casual wards used to be in Bermondsey, but they are closed there now, I believe, as well as many of the others; however, the vagrants seldom think of going to the London unions until after the refuges are closed, because at the refuges the accommodation is better, and no work is required. I know that the vagrants come purposely to London in large bodies about the end of December, on purpose to sleep at the refuges for the winter. I myself always make it a point to come up to town every winter, so as to have my lodgings for nothing at the refuge, not being able to get it by any other means. There are at the refuges, of course, many worthy objects of charity. I have met with men who have become destitute, certainly not through any fault of their own; a good many of such persons I have found. But still the greater number at such places are persons who are habitual vagabonds and beggars, and many thieves. As the refuges are managed at present, I consider they do more harm than good. If there were no such places in London in the winter, of course I, and such as are like me, would have been driven to find shelter at our parishes; whereas the facilities they afford for obtaining a night"s shelter—to the vagabond as well as to the destitute—are such that a large number of the most depraved and idle classes are attracted to London by them. I believe some such places to be necessary, in order to prevent persons dying of cold and starvation in the streets, but they should be conducted on a different plan. You see I tell you the truth, although it may be against my own interest. After these refuges are closed, and the unions round the suburbs are shut against me, as far as Richmond, Kingston, Bromley, Romford, Stratford, Greenwich, and similar distances from the metropolis, I generally proceed upon my travels for the summer. Those who make a practice of sleeping at the casual wards are vagrants either by nature, by habit, or by force of circumstances. They generally support themselves by begging or thieving, and often by both. They are mostly boys, from about nine up to twenty years of age. The others are principally Irish beggars, and a very few are labourers and mechanics out of work. The youths I believe to be, with some exceptions, naturally bad, and almost irreclaimable. I know that many of them have been made vagrants by harsh treatment at home; they have run away. They have been threatened to be punished, generally for going to some place of amusement, as Greenwich fair, or "penny gaffs,"—that is, to the low theatres; and, being afraid to return, they have sought shelter, first at the low lodging-houses, and when they have had no money left, they have gone to the casual wards of the unions. Other boys have contracted bad habits from being allowed by their parents to run about the streets and pick up vagabond companions. These soon initiate them into their mode of life, and they then leave their homes in order to follow it. This is the way that most of the lads are depraved. I am sure that the fault lies more with the parents than with the boys themselves. The lads are either neglected or ill-treated in their youth. Some of the lads are left destitute; they are left orphans— probably to the care of some distant relation or friend—and the lads very soon find that they are not treated or cared for like the other members of the family, and they take to the streets. The majority of the vagrants are very sharp, intelligent lads, and I believe they are induced to take to a vagabond life by the low lodging-houses, the casual wards, and the refuges. These make shelter and provision so easy to them, that they soon throw off the restraint of their parents or guardians. Were there a greater difficulty of obtaining food and lodging, I am sure that there would certainly not be the number of juvenile vagrants that there are. The Irish people who resort to the casual wards are beggars at heart and soul. Many of them I know have lodgings of their own, and they will give them up at the time the refuges are open. Some I have known to go into the refuge with the whole of their family on the Saturday night, and stop all Sunday, till the Monday morning, for the express purpose of obtaining the bread and cheese which is given away there on the Sunday. The children have the same allowance as the parents, and the mother and father take all the young ones they can into the place, to get the greater quantity. This they take back home with them, and it serves to keep them the greater part of the week. The Irish, I think, do not make a point of travelling the country so much as the English vagrants. When they go into the provinces, it is generally to get work at harvesting, or tato getting, or hop-picking; not like the English, for the mere sake of vagabondising. The low Irish do better in London. They are the best beggars we have. They have more impudence and more blarney, and therefore they do much better than we can at it. A very large portion of the Irish beggars in London are in possession of money, which they have secreted about them in some way or other. I recollect seeing one Irishman have 8s. taken from him by the vagrant boys in the casual ward of St. George"s Workhouse, in the Borough. The boys generally suspect the Irish vagrants of having money on their persons; and I have often seen a number of them hold, or, as they call it, "small-gang," an Irish beggar in the darkness of the casual wards, while some of the other boys rifled the Irishman"s pockets. The labourers and mechanics are generally the only parties to be found in the casual wards who are driven there through destitution. I have known many an honest, industrious, working man, however, made a regular beggar and vagrant by continued use of the casual wards. They are driven there first by necessity, and then they learn that they can live in such places throughout the year without working for their livelihood. Many a hard-working man, I am convinced, is made idle and dishonest by such means: yes, that is the case. There are some that I know now, who have been going the round of the different refuges for not less than seven— ay, you may say for nine years. They were originally labouring men, or mechanics, and had given over all thoughts of working, finding that there was no necessity to do so in order to live. The regular vagrant leaves town every year about April, or the beginning of May. A very large portion of the wandering beggars and thieves would remain in town if they were allowed to remain longer in their nightly haunts; but after the closing of the refuges, the system of not permitting them more than one night in the same union forces them to be continually on the move: so they set off immediately they have made themselves known at all the workhouses. The boys will mostly go in small gangs of twos and threes. Before they start, they generally pick up from some other gang whom they meet in the London wards, the kind of treatment and relief they will receive at the country unions, and they regulate their journey accordingly; and they will very often go one or two days" march out of their way, in order to avoid some union that has a bad character among them, or to get to some other union where the accommodation is good, and the work required of them very slight. Often they will go miles round to get to some gentleman"s seat or hall where provisions are known to be distributed. I have heard boys not twelve years of age tell every union between London and Newcastle. The majority of them seldom go further than there; some will go on to Edinburgh, but not many. They would know what kind of treatment and provision would be obtained at each union, and what form of application was necessary in order to gain admittance. Very many of them will go from London, first into Essex (the unions are good there, and the stages not long); then perhaps through Suffolk, keeping tolerably near the coast, because the shipping is attractive to most boys of their age; thence they will proceed, by long or short stages, according to the distance of the unions, through Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Few of the vagrants miss Leeds, there being a Mendicity Asylum in the town, where a good night"s lodging is given to them, and threepence or fourpence, and in some cases sixpence (according to the apparent worthiness of the applicant) is bestowed upon each. I believe the habitual vagrants will go three or four stages out of the direct road to make Leeds in their way. From here they will go in different directions towards Durham and Northumberland, or, perhaps, to Manchester, where there is a society of the same kind as at Leeds, supported by the Quakers, where similar relief is afforded. At Northumberland, the body of vagrants generally turn back and begin to steer southwards. Some, indeed, will go as far as Berwick; but as the relief afforded in Scotland is not obtained so readily as in England, they seldom, as I have said, proceed northward beyond that point. The Scotch are "too far north" for the regular English tramps. It is true they sometimes give them a little barleycake, but, from all I have heard, the vagrants fare very poorly beyond Berwick. From Northumberland, they turn off towards Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire; and then many will go off through Cheshire into North Wales, and thence come round again into Shropshire. Others will wander through Staffordshire and Derbyshire, but most of them centre in Birmingham; that is a favourite meeting-place for the young vagrants. Here they make a point of tearing up their clothes, because for this offence they are committed to Warwick gaol for a month, and have a shilling on being discharged from the prison. It is not the diet of Warwick gaol that induces them to do this, but the shilling. Frequently they tear up their clothes in order to get a fresh supply. You see, sir, from continually sleeping in their clothes, and never washing their bodies, or changing their shirts—even if they have such things to change—they get to swarm with vermin, to such an extent that they cannot bear them upon their bodies. Oh! I have seen such sights sometimes—such sights as any decent, cleanly person would not credit. I have seen the lice on their clothes in the sunshine, as thick as blight on the leaves of trees. When their garments, from this cause, get very uncomfortable to them, they will tear them up, for the purpose of forcing the parish officers to give them some fresh ones. From Birmingham they will come up, generally through Northampton and Hertford, to London; for by this time either the refuges will be about opening, or the lads will have been forgotten at the unions in and around the metropolis. They say that London is fresh to them, when, owing either to long absence, or some alteration in their appearance, they are looked upon as strangers by the masters or porters of the workhouses. London, on the other hand, they say, is dead to them, when they have become too well known at such places. Some will make only a short turn out of London, going across the country through Sussex, Hampshire, or Wiltshire. Hampshire they are attracted to in large numbers, in consequence of the charity distributed at Winchester." [It will be seen by the table above given, that Southampton stands very high among the places upon the vagrant list.] "In these parts the vagrants keep crossing the country to various "reliefs," as they call it, and so manage to spin out nearly two months in the autumn. The vagrants mostly go down with the fashionables to the sea-side in the latter part of the year—the practised beggars in particular. In the spring they generally make for the north of England. I believe there are more beggars and tramps in Durham, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire, than in half of the other parts of England put together." . . . . . "Begging is more profitable there than in any other quarter of the kingdom. A man may pick up more provisions in the day-time in those counties than anywhere else. The farmers are more liberal in those parts, which are great places for pudding, pies, and cakes; and of these the young tramps are remarkably fond. Round about these parts the tramps pass the summer. If the weather is fine and mild, they prefer "skippering it," that is, sleeping in an outhouse or hay-field, to going to a union. They have no trouble in getting "scran," or provisions there, and they object to the work connected with the casual wards. In the autumn, they are mostly in Sussex or Kent; for they like the hop-picking. It is not hard work, and there are a great many loose girls to be found there. I believe many a boy and man goes hop-picking who never does anything else during the year but beg. The female tramps mostly go down to Kent to pick up their "young chaps," as they call them; and with them they travel through the country as long as they can agree, or until either party meets with some one they are better pleased with, and then they leave the other, or bury them, as they term it. The Irish vagrants are mostly to be found on the roads from Liverpool or from Bristol to London. I should think that at the end of June the roads must be literally covered with the Irish families tramping to London. They come over in boatsful, without a penny in their pockets, to get a little work during the harvesting and hop-picking. Such of them as make up their minds to return to their country after the autumn, contrive, by some means, to send their money to Ireland, and then they apply to the English parishes to send them home. It is very rare indeed that the low Irish go to the expense of paying for their lodging, even when they have money. They make a point of going to the unions, where they not only get a nightly shelter, but a pound of bread for nothing. Whatever money they have, they generally give to some countryman, who is their banker, and he sleeps in another place, for fear he should be searched or robbed at the casual wards. The Irish are mostly very filthy and diseased. They live upon little or nothing, and upon the worst kind of provision that can be bought, even though it be not fit for human food. They will eat anything. The Irish tramp lives solely by begging. It has often astonished me, sir, that there are scarcely any Welsh tramps. I suppose this comes from the industry of the people. The English tramp lives by begging and stealing, —I think, mostly by stealing; a thorough tramp gets more that way than the other. If he goes to the back-door of a house on the pretence of begging, and sees any linen, or brushes, or shoes, or, indeed, even a bit of soap, he will be off with it, and sell it, mostly to the keeper of some low lodging-house where he may put up for the night. They seldom commit highway robberies, and are generally the very lowest and meanest of thieves. No one can imagine, but those who have gone through it, the horror of a casual ward of a union; what with the filth, the vermin, the stench, the heat, and the noise of the place, it is intolerable. The usual conversation is upon the adventures of the day. One recounts how he stole this thing, and another that. Some tell what police are stationed in the different towns; others, what places to go to either to beg, rob, or sleep; and others, what places to beware of. I have passed seven years of my life in this way, and I have been so used to tramping about, that when the spring comes round I must be on the move. In the winter there is more food to be picked up in London than in the country, and the beggars seldom fail to make a good thing of it in the cold weather. I have met with beggars in Carnarvon who had come all the way from London for the express purpose of begging from the visitors to the Snowdon mountains. There are very few houses round about, but a good deal is picked up from the company coming to the hotels.

I shall now conclude this account of the numbers, cost, and character of the country and the metropolis, with the narratives of two female tramps.

The first—a young woman 20 years of age —gave me the following statement. Her face was what the vulgar would call "good-looking," as her cheeks were full and deep-coloured, and her eyes tolerably bright, and her teeth good. She was very stout, too. Her dress was tolerably clean and good, but sat close about her, as if she had no under-clothing. She said:—

I am a native of ——, where my father was a woolcomber. I was an only child. I can"t remember my mother, she died when I was so young. My father died more than four years ago. I"ve heard as much since I left home. I was sent to the National School. I can read, but can"t write. My father went to work at Wellington, in Somersetshire, taking me with him, when I was quite a little girl. He was a good father and very kind, and we had plenty to eat. I think of him sometimes: it makes me sorrowful. He would have been sadly distressed if he had seen me in this state. My father married again when I was 12, I suppose. He married a factory-woman. She was about 30. She wasn"t good to me, She led me a dreadful life, always telling my father stories of me,— that I was away when I wasn"t, and he grumbled at me. He never beat me, but my stepmother often beat me. She was very bad-tempered, and I am very bad-tempered, too—very passionate; but if I"m well treated my passion doesn"t come out. She beat me with anything that came first to hand, as the hearth-brush, and she flung things at me. She disliked me, because she knew I hated my father marrying again. I was very happy before that, living with my father. I could cook dinner for him, young as I was, make his bed, and do all those sort of things, all but his washing. I had a bed to myself. My father was a good man. He came home drunk sometimes, but not often. It never made any difference in him, he was always kind. He seemed comfortable with my stepmother, but I wasn"t. I used to tell my father how she used me, but he said it was nonsense. This went on till I was 15, when I ran away. I"m sure I had been a good girl till then. I never slept out of my father"s house up to that time, and didn"t keep company with any young men. I could stand my stepmother"s treatment no longer. If she had been kind I wouldn"t have run away. I was almost as big then as I am now. I had 4s. or 5s. with me, I don"t remember just how much, I started in such a passion; but it was money I had saved up from what my father had given me. I took no clothes with me but what I had on. I was tidily dressed. It was in the haymaking time, and I made straight away to London. I was so young and in such a rage, I couldn"t think of nothing but getting away. When I cooled I began to think of my father, but at home I had heard of young girls being sent out to Australia and having done well, and I thought I could easily get sent out from London, and so I went on. I slept in lodging-houses. I was shocked the first night I got into Bridgewater, men, women, and boys, all sleeping in the same room. I slept with another young woman, a travelling-woman, but married. I couldn"t think of going back. I couldn"t humble myself before that step- Vagrants in the Casual Ward of Workhouse. [From a Sketch.] mother. I thought anything would be better than that. I couldn"t sleep at all the first night I was out. I never was in such a bed before. A young man who saw me there wanted me to live with him; he was a beggar, and I didn"t like a beggar, and I wouldn"t have nothing to say to him. He wasn"t impudent; but he followed me to Bristol, all the time, whenever I met with him, teasing me to live with him. I lived on my money as long as I could, and then had to go and sleep in a union. I don"t know where. It was a dreadful place. The rats ran over my head while I slept; and I prayed for daylight—for I used to pray then. I don"t now. I don"t like the thoughts of it. At last I got to London. I was sitting in Hyde-park thinking where I should go—I know it was in Hyde-park, for I was taken up from it since. The park-keeper took me up for making a noise—that"s a disturbance—in the park; me and some other young women: we were only washing ourselves where the horses drink, near the canteen. In Hyde-park, while I was sitting, as I"ve told you, some girls and some young men, and some older men, passed me, carrying rakes. I was sitting with three other girls I"d got acquainted with on the road, all Irish girls. The people that passed me said, "We are going half-way to Watford ahaymaking. Go with us?" We all went. Each of those Irish girls soon took up with a mate. I think they had known each other before. I had a fortnight at haymaking. I had a mate at haymaking, and in a few days he ruined me. He told the master that I belonged to him. He didn"t say I was his wife. They don"t call us their wives. I continued with him a long time, living with him as his wife. We next went into Kent harvesting, then ahopping, and I"ve been every summer since. He was kind to me, but we were both passionate—fire against fire—and we fought sometimes. He never beat me but once, for contradicting him. He wasn"t jealous, and he had no reason to be so. I don"t know that he was fond of me, or he wouldn"t have run away. I liked him, and would have gone through trouble for him. I like him still. We never talked about marrying. I didn"t care, for I didn"t think about it. I lived with him, and was true to him, until he ran away in haymaking time in 1848. He ran away from me in Kent, where we were hopping. We hadn"t quarrelled for some days before he started. I didn"t think he was going, for he was kind to me just before. I left him once for a fortnight myself, through some quarrel, but he got me back again. I came up to London in a boat from Gravesend, with other hoppers. I lived on fifteen shillings I had saved up. I lived on that as long as it lasted—more than a week. I lodged near the Dials, and used to go drinking with other women I met with there, as I was fond of drink then. I don"t like it so much now. We drank gin and beer. I kept to myself until my money was gone, and then I looked out for myself. I had no particular friends. The women I drank with were some bad and some good. I got acquainted with a young girl as I was walking along the Strand looking out for my living by prostitution—I couldn"t starve. We walked together. We couldn"t stay in the Strand, where the girls were well-dressed, and so we kept about the Dials. I didn"t think much about the life I was leading, because I got hardened. I didn"t like it, though. Still I thought I should never like to go home. I lodged in a back-street near the Dials. I couldn"t take anybody there. I didn"t do well. I often wanted money to pay my lodgings, and food to eat, and had often to stay out all night perishing. Many a night out in the streets I never got a farthing, and had to walk about all day because I durstn"t go back to my room without money. I never had a fancy man. There was all sorts in the lodging-house— thirty of them—pickpockets, and beggars, and cadgers, and fancy men, and some that wanted to be fancy men, but I never saw one that I liked. I never picked pockets as other girls did; I was not nimble enough with my hands. Sometimes I had a sovereign in my pocket, but it was never there a day. I used to go out a-drinking, treating other women, and they would treat me. We helped one another now and then. I was badly off for clothes. I had no illness except colds. The common fellows in the streets were always jeering at me. Sometimes missionaries, I think they"re called, talked to me about the life I was leading, but I told them, "You mind yourself, and I"ll mind myself. What is it to you where I go when I die?" I don"t steal anything. I swear sometimes now. When I was at home and good, I was shocked to hear such a thing. Me and the other girls used to think it clever to swear hard, and say bad words one to another or to anybody—we"re not particular. If I went into the Magdalen, I know I couldn"t stay there. I have not been there, but I know I couldn"t, from what I"ve heard of it from the other girls, some of whom said they"d been; and I suppose they had, as there was no motive at all for them to tell lies about it. I have been in the casual wards at Holborn and Kensington when I was beat out. It was better than walking the streets. I think, by the life I lead— and without help I must lead it still, or starve —I sometimes get twenty shillings a-week, sometimes not more than five shillings. I would like best to go to Australia, where nobody would know me. I"m sure I could behave myself there. There"s no hope for me here: everybody that knows me despises me. I could take a service in Sydney. I could get rid of my swearing. I only swear now when I"m vexed—it comes out natural-like then. I could get rid of my love of drink. No one— no girl can carry on the life I do without drink. No girl"s feelings would let her. I never met one but what said so, and I know they all told the truth in that. I am strong and healthy, and could take a hard place with country work. That about Australia is the best wish I have. I"m sure I"m sick of this life. It has only drink and excitement to recommend it. I haven"t a friend in the world. I have been told I was a fool not to pick pockets like other girls. I never begged but once, and that was as I was coming to London, and a woman said, "You look better than I do!" so I never begged again—that checked me at once. But I"ve got tickets for the "straw-yards," or the "leather-houses," as some call them (asylums for the houseless). The old women all say it was far better when they were young. I think what a change it is from my country life; but when I get sad, I go and get a glass of gin, if I have the money. I can get a pennyworth in some houses. I can"t do much at my needle. The idleness of the life I lead is terrible. There is nothing to interest me.

The next was a mere girl, who had lost all traces of feminine beauty. There was an impudence in her expression that was utterly repulsive; and even in her most serious moments it was evident that she had the greatest difficulty to restrain her inward levity. Her dress consisted principally of a ragged red and green plaid shawl, pinned tight over her neck, and a torn straw-bonnet, worn back upon her head.

I have a father alive," she said; "I have got no mother. I have been away these three years. I came away with a chap. I was living, sir, when I was at home, with my father in Maidstone. My father was a gardener, and I used to work at shirt-making when I was at home with my father. My mother has been dead eight years, I think. I can"t say how old I was then. I am twenty now. My father, after my mother"s death, married again. She was dead seven years before he got another wife. He didn"t marry again while I was at home. My mother was a very good mother. I was very fond of my mother, for she was a very good mother; but not of my father, for he was a bad father. Why, sir, he used to treat us three girls so ill, my biggest sister was obliged to go to Australia from him. My next sister was younger than me, and I don"t know whether she is at home now; but I don"t believe that she can stop at home, because I have been down as far as Maidstone since I went away with my young man, and I"ve heard that she"s almost dead between the pair of them. By the pair of them, I mean my father and stepmother. My mother-in-law is the worst to my sister. My father was bad before she came; he was such a drunkard. We went to school, where we paid nothing a-week, in Maidstone; it"s a free school. I can read. I can"t write. All the money my father used to earn he used to drink, and leave us without any food. I went to the shirt-making when I was twelve years of age, and that used to bring me about 4d. a-day, and with that I used to buy bread, for we never got a halfpenny from my father to keep us. My father used to work for a gentleman, and got pretty good wages. The young chap that I first took up with was a carpenter. He was apprenticed to the trade. He enticed me away. He told me if I"d come to London with him he"d do anything for me. I used to tell him how badly my father treated me, and he used to tell me not to stop at home. I have been knocking about three years, and I"m twenty now, so I leave you to say how old I was then. No, I can"t say. I"m twenty now, and I"ve been away these three years, and I don"t know how old that would make me. I never learnt any ciphering. My father used to beat us and knock us about when he came home drunk. I liked the young man that came a-courting on me very well. I thought all he said was true, and I thought he would make me much happier than I was at home." [Here she shook her head with apparent regret.] "Yes, sir, he promised he would marry me; but when I came over to London he ruined me, and then ran away and left me. I knew it was wrong to go away and live with him without being married; but I was wretched at home, and he told me he would make me his wife, and I believed him. He brought me up to London with him, into the Borough. He took me to a low lodging-house there. The charge was 6d. a-night for the two of us. There were six sleeping in the same room beside us two. They were men and women. Some of "em were married, and some were not. He had 4s. 6d. when he came up to London with me, and I had none. He stopped with me. He stopped with me in the same house a week. He was 22 years of age, or 23, I can"t say which. While he was with me he was very kind to me: oh, yes, sir, much kinder than my father, and I loved him a great deal more, I"m sure. I hadn"t many clothes when I left my father"s home. I had nothing but what I stood upright in. I had no more clothes when I was at home. When my young man left me there was another young girl in the same lodging-house, who advised me to turn out upon the streets. I went and took her advice. I did like the life for a bit, because I see"d there was money getting by it. Sometimes I got 4s. or 5s. a-day, and sometimes more than that. I still kept at the same house. There were a lot of girls like me at the same place. It was not a bad house, but they encouraged us like. No tramps used to come there, only young chaps and gals that used to go out thieving. No, my young man didn"t thieve, not while he was with me, but I did afterwards. I"ve seen young chaps brought in there by the girls merely to pay their lodgingmoney. The landlady told us to do that; she said I could do better than knocking about with a man. If I hadn"t had enough to pay for my lodging, I couldn"t have had a bed to lie on. We used to be all in the same room, chaps and girls, sometimes nine or ten couples in the same room—only little bits of girls and chaps. I have seen girls there 12 years of age. The boys was about 15 or 16. They used to swear dreadful. I fell out with the gal as first told me to go on the streets, and then I got with another at another house. I moved to Paddington. I lived at a little public-house there—a bad house; and I used to go out shoplifting with my pal. I used to take everything I could lay my hands on. We went one night, and I stole two dresses, at a linendraper"s shop, and had two months a-piece for it. Yes, sir, I liked prison very well, because I had such bad clothes; and was glad to be out of the way. Some days we hardly had a bit to put in our mouths. Sometimes we used to get nothing shoplifting; the men, perhaps, would notice—the fly-men, as we called them. They used to be too wide-awake for us. Sometimes we used to make 5s. in the day; but then we used to spend it all in waste —why, spending it in anything. We"d buy fish, and meat, and baked potatoes, and pudding. No, sir, very little drink we had. We didn"t care for gin, nor any liquor at all. There was none among us but one that cared for drink, and she used to pawn all her clothes for it. I dare say there was upwards of twelve or thirteen gals; the kitchen used to be full. The mistress used to treat us well if we paid her; but she used to holler at us if we didn"t. The chaps used to serve her out so. They used to take the sheets, and blankets, and everything away from her. She was deaf. They was mostly all prigs that used to come to see us. They used to go out nailing—that"s thieving. There was one that they used to call Fogerty was transported: another got seven months; and another got a twelvemonth. I had one fancy-man. He was a shoplifter and a pickpocket: he has got two years now. I went to see him once in quod; some calls it "the Steel." I cried a good deal when he got nailed, sir: I loved him. A little time after he went away, I went down into the country; down into Essex. I saw I couldn"t get him off, "cause it was for a watch, and the gentleman went so hard against him. I was with him at the time he stole it, but I didn"t know he"d got it till I saw him run. I got the man down by a saw-mill; he was tipsy. He was a gentleman, and said he would give me five shillings if I would come along with him. My fancy-man always kept near to me whenever I went out of a night. I usen"t to go out to take the men home; it was only to pick them up. My young man used to tell me how to rob the men. I"d get them up in a corner, and then I used to take out of their pockets whatever I could lay my hands on; and then I used to hand it over to him, and he used to take the things home and "fence" them. We used to do a good deal this way sometimes: often we"d get enough to keep us two or three days. At last he got caught for the watch; and when I see"d I couldn"t get him off, I went down into the country—down into Essex, sir. I travelled all parts, and slept at the unions on the road. I met a young girl down in Town Malling, in Kent. I met her, and then we used to go begging together, and tramp it from one union to another. At last we got so ragged and dirty, and our things all got so bad, that we made up our minds to go in for three months into prison, at Battle, down in Sussex. We used to meet a great many on the road boiling their kettle, and sometimes we used to stop and skipper with them of a night. Skippering is sleeping in barns or under hedges, if it"s warm weather. They weren"t gipsies. We usen"t to stop to speak to the gipsies—not much—unless we went to fairs or horse-races. Then we used to sit with them for a little while, if they had their tent. We generally used to steal on the way. If we could see anything, we used to take it. At last, when our clothes got bad, I and the other girl—she still kept with me—determined to break the parson"s windows at Battle. We broke one because the house was good for a cant—that"s some food—bread or meat, and they wouldn"t give it us, so we got savage, and broke all the glass in the windows. For that we got three months. After we got out, the parson sent word for us to come to his house, and he gave us half-a-crown a-piece to take us on our road. He would have given us some clothes—we had no shoes and stockings: we was very bad off; but his wife was in London. So we went on the road tramping again, and I have been tramping it about the country ever since. I was all last winter in Town Malling union with the fever, and when I got well I set off tramping again. I didn"t have no more chaps since I left my fancy-man—I mean, I never took up with no others, not to keep their company. I have been about two years tramping altogether; out of that I had five months in prison for stealing and breaking windows. I like the tramping life well enough in the summer, "cause there"s plenty of victuals to be had then, but it"s the winter that we can"t stand. Then we generally come to London, but we can"t call at house to house here as we do in the country, so we make but a poor thing of it. I never was so bad off as I am now, excepting when I was at Battle, for I had no shoes or stockings then. The police is too sharp for us in London. I"m very fond of going through the country in fine weather. Sometimes we don"t make much freedom with the chaps in the union, and sometimes we do. They tells us to go along with them, for they knows good houses to call at. What you make is all according to whether you"re in a lonesome road. I"ve travelled a day, and not seen a house that I could get anything at. Some days I"ve got a shilling given to me, and some days as much as half-a-crown. We can always get plenty of bread and meat, for countryfolks is very good. If I had some good things— that is, good boots—I should like to go into the country again. Sometimes we gets so much scran we sells it among ourselves. I should sell my lot to some travellers on the road. They gives us 3d. or 4d., but we must give them a good lot for that. I can"t say which is the best of the unions now, for they are all shut up. They used to be good at one time, but the Irish ruined them; they came in such swarms, the people, I knew, would never stand it. We used often to say of a night that them Irish Greeks would ruin the business. They are much better beggars than we are, though they don"t get as much as the English, because they go in such swarms up to the door. Now, down in Hawkhurst, there used to be a twopenny loaf allowed to everybody that called at the parson"s house, little and big; it was allowed by a lady, till the pigs of Irish came in such lots, that they spoilt all the game. The parson won"t give it to no one now, except eight travelling-men in the morning. I know all the good houses, and the tidy grubbikens, — that"s the unions where there"s little or nothing to do for the food we gets. We walk mostly eleven miles a-day. If it"s hot we walk only six miles, and turn in under a hedge if we"ve got our things with us to make a tent. We go all right round the country, up to Yorkshire, and as far as Northumberland. We don"t try Warwick gaol, because the shilling they used to give on being discharged is stopped, excepting to those that"s not been there before, and there"s very few of the trampers, boys or girls, that hasn"t. Then there"s the twopenny-house down in High- field, in Kent. I"m blowed if they ain"t been and stopped that! I can"t tell what"s come to the country of late. It"s got very bad and scaly, there"s no hospitality going on. I"ve been two years at the business, and I"ve seen it grow worse and worse, meaner and meaner, every day before my very eyes. I don"t know, I"m sure, what poor trampers will do if it gets any worse. Some do talk of the good old times, when there was plenty of money-getting in them days. I shouldn"t like to give it up just yet. I do like to be in the country in the summer-time. I like haymaking and hopping, because that"s a good bit of fun. Still, I"m sick and tired of what I"m doing now. It"s the winter that sickens me. I"m worn out now, and I often sits and thinks of the life that I"ve led. I think of my kind, dear mother, and how good I would have been if my father had taught me better. Still, if I"d clothes I"d not give up my present life. I"d be down in the country now. I do love roving about, and I"m wretched when I"m not at it. After my mother died I never liked to be at home. I"ve seen many an unhappy day since I"ve been away; still, I wouldn"t go back to my home, because it"s no home to me.

I was desirous of ascertaining some information concerning the routes of the vagrants, and the reason why they frequent district or county more than another. It will be seen from the following table, computed from the Poor-Law Returns for the , that the vagrants were far from equally distributed over the country at that period.

399

NUMBER OF VAGRANTS RELIEVED IN THE DIFFERENT COUNTIES OF ENGLAND AND WALES ON THE1STOF JULY,1848.
 Durham . . . 1425 Essex . . . . 147 Oxfordshire . . . 46 
 Middlesex . . . 1393 Northamptonshire . 136 Carmarthenshire . . 46 
 Lincolnshire . . . 1355 Wiltshire . . . 135 Radnorshire . . . 46 
 West Riding . . . 1197 Westmoreland . . 130 Denbighshire . . 45 
 Cumberland . . . 1087 Nottinghamshire . . 129 Dorsetshire . . . 43 
 Lancashire . . . 673 Norfolk . . . . 128 Cardiganshire . . 39 
 Southampton . . 648 North Riding . . 105 Carnarvonshire . . 38 
 Derbyshire . . . 541 Bedfordshire . . 102 Buckinghamshire . . 28 
 Warwickshire . . 509 Hertfordshire . . 100 Suffolk . . . . 21 
 Monmouthshire . . 475 Devonshire . . . 94 Cambridgeshire . . 20 
 Staffordshire . . . 351 Cheshire . . . 92 Brecknockshire . . 17 
 Surrey . . . . 319 Somersetshire . . 88 Pembrokeshire . . 15 
 Glamorganshire . . 244 Shropshire . . . 80 Montgomeryshire . . 14 
 Worcestershire . . 227 Huntingdonshire . . 75 Anglesea . . . 11 
 Kent . . . . 179 Leicestershire . . 72 Flintshire . . . 10 
 Berkshire . . . 175 Cornwall . . . 63 Rutlandshire . . 6 
 Northumberland . . 172 Merionethshire . . 54 ------ 
 East Riding . . . 152 Gloucestershire . . 52 Total . . 13,547 
 Sussex . . . . 150 Herefordshire . . 48     

In order to discover the cause of this unequal distribution, I sought out a person, whom I knew to be an experienced tramper, and who had offered to give any information that I might require upon the subject. There was a strange mystery about the man. It was evident, both from his manner and his features, that he had once been well to do in the world. He was plainly not of the common order of vagrants, though his dress was as filthy and ragged as that of the generality of the class.

I have been right through the country on the tramp," he said, "about six or seven summers. What I was formerly I do not wish to state. I have been much better off. I was, indeed, in receipt of a very large income at one time; but it matters not how I lost it. I would rather that remained a secret. You may say that I lost it through those follies and extravagancies that are incident both to the higher and the lower classes; but let it pass. You want to know about the habits and characters of the vagrants generally, and there is no necessity for my going into my private history, further than saying, I was a gentleman once, and I am a vagrant now. I have been so for the last six years. I generally start off into the country about April or May. I stay, after the refuges are closed, until such time as I have tired out all the unions in and around London. I go into the country because I am known at all the casual wards in the metropolis, and they will not let a tramper in a second time if they know it, except at the City of London, and there I have been allowed to stay a month together. The best of the casual wards used to be in Bermondsey, but they are closed there now, I believe, as well as many of the others; however, the vagrants seldom think of going to the London unions until after the refuges are closed, because at the refuges the accommodation is better, and no work is required. I know that the vagrants come purposely to London in large bodies about the end of December, on purpose to sleep at the refuges for the winter. I myself always make it a point to come up to town every winter, so as to have my lodgings for nothing at the refuge, not being able to get it by any other means. There are at the refuges, of course, many worthy objects of charity. I have met with men who have become destitute, certainly not through any fault of their own; a good many of such persons I have found. But still the greater number at such places are persons who are habitual vagabonds and beggars, and many thieves. As the refuges are managed at present, I consider they do more harm than good. If there were no such places in London in the winter, of course I, and such as are like me, would have been driven to find shelter at our parishes; whereas the facilities they afford for obtaining a night"s shelter—to the vagabond as well as to the destitute—are such that a large number of the most depraved and idle classes are attracted to London by them. I believe some such places to be necessary, in order to prevent persons dying of cold and starvation in the streets, but they should be conducted on a different plan. You see I tell you the truth, although it may be against my own interest. After these refuges are closed, and the unions round the suburbs are shut against me, as far as Richmond, Kingston, Bromley, Romford, Stratford, Greenwich, and similar distances from the metropolis, I generally proceed upon my travels for the summer. Those who make a practice of sleeping at the casual wards are vagrants either by nature, by habit, or by force of circumstances. They generally support themselves by begging or thieving, and often by both. They are mostly boys, from about nine up to twenty years of age. The others are principally Irish beggars, and a very few are labourers and mechanics out of work. The youths I believe to be, with some exceptions, naturally bad, and almost irreclaimable. I know that many of them have been made vagrants by harsh treatment at home; they have run away. They have been threatened to be punished, generally for going to some place of amusement, as Greenwich fair, or "penny gaffs,"—that is, to the low theatres; and, being afraid to return, they have sought shelter, first at the low lodging-houses, and when they have had no money left, they have gone to the casual wards of the unions. Other boys have contracted bad habits from being allowed by their parents to run about the streets and pick up vagabond companions. These soon initiate them into their mode of life, and they then leave their homes in order to follow it. This is the way that most of the lads are depraved. I am sure that the fault lies more with the parents than with the boys themselves. The lads are either neglected or ill-treated in their youth. Some of the lads are left destitute; they are left orphans— probably to the care of some distant relation or friend—and the lads very soon find that they are not treated or cared for like the other members of the family, and they take to the streets. The majority of the vagrants are very sharp, intelligent lads, and I believe they are induced to take to a vagabond life by the low lodging-houses, the casual wards, and the refuges. These make shelter and provision so easy to them, that they soon throw off the restraint of their parents or guardians. Were there a greater difficulty of obtaining food and lodging, I am sure that there would certainly not be the number of juvenile vagrants that there are. The Irish people who resort to the casual wards are beggars at heart and soul. Many of them I know have lodgings of their own, and they will give them up at the time the refuges are open. Some I have known to go into the refuge with the whole of their family on the Saturday night, and stop all Sunday, till the Monday morning, for the express purpose of obtaining the bread and cheese which is given away there on the Sunday. The children have the same allowance as the parents, and the mother and father take all the young ones they can into the place, to get the greater quantity. This they take back home with them, and it serves to keep them the greater part of the week. The Irish, I think, do not make a point of travelling the country so much as the English vagrants. When they go into the provinces, it is generally to get work at harvesting, or tato getting, or hop-picking; not like the English, for the mere sake of vagabondising.

The low Irish do better in London. They are the best beggars we have. They have more impudence and more blarney, and therefore they do much better than we can at it. A very large portion of the Irish beggars in London are in possession of money, which they have secreted about them in some way or other. I recollect seeing one Irishman have 8s. taken from him by the vagrant boys in the casual ward of St. George"s Workhouse, in the Borough. The boys generally suspect the Irish vagrants of having money on their persons; and I have often seen a number of them hold, or, as they call it, "small-gang," an Irish beggar in the darkness of the casual wards, while some of the other boys rifled the Irishman"s pockets. The labourers and mechanics are generally the only parties to be found in the casual wards who are driven there through destitution. I have known many an honest, industrious, working man, however, made a regular beggar and vagrant by continued use of the casual wards. They are driven there first by necessity, and then they learn that they can live in such places throughout the year without working for their livelihood. Many a hard-working man, I am convinced, is made idle and dishonest by such means: yes, that is the case. There are some that I know now, who have been going the round of the different refuges for not less than seven— ay, you may say for nine years. They were originally labouring men, or mechanics, and had given over all thoughts of working, finding that there was no necessity to do so in order to live.

The regular vagrant leaves town every year about April, or the beginning of May. A very large portion of the wandering beggars and thieves would remain in town if they were allowed to remain longer in their nightly haunts; but after the closing of the refuges, the system of not permitting them more than one night in the same union forces them to be continually on the move: so they set off immediately they have made themselves known at all the workhouses. The boys will mostly go in small gangs of twos and threes. Before they start, they generally pick up from some other gang whom they meet in the London wards, the kind of treatment and relief they will receive at the country unions, and they regulate their journey accordingly; and they will very often go one or two days" march out of their way, in order to avoid some union that has a bad character among them, or to get to some other union where the accommodation is good, and the work required of them very slight. Often they will go miles round to get to some gentleman"s seat or hall where provisions are known to be distributed. I have heard boys not twelve years of age tell every union between London and Newcastle. The majority of them seldom go further than there; some will go on to Edinburgh, but not many. They would know what kind of treatment and provision would be obtained at each union, and what form of application was necessary in order to gain admittance. Very many of them will go from London, first into Essex (the unions are good there, and the stages not long); then perhaps through Suffolk, keeping tolerably near the coast, because the shipping is attractive to most boys of their age; thence they will proceed, by long or short stages, according to the distance of the unions, through Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Few of the vagrants miss Leeds, there being a Mendicity Asylum in the town, where a good night"s lodging is given to them, and threepence or fourpence, and in some cases sixpence (according to the apparent worthiness of the applicant) is bestowed upon each. I believe the habitual vagrants will go three or four stages out of the direct road to make Leeds in their way. From here they will go in different directions towards Durham and Northumberland, or, perhaps, to Manchester, where there is a society of the same kind as at Leeds, supported by the Quakers, where similar relief is afforded. At Northumberland, the body of vagrants generally turn back and begin to steer southwards. Some, indeed, will go as far as Berwick; but as the relief afforded in Scotland is not obtained so readily as in England, they seldom, as I have said, proceed northward beyond that point. The Scotch are "too far north" for the regular English tramps. It is true they sometimes give them a little barleycake, but, from all I have heard, the vagrants fare very poorly beyond Berwick. From Northumberland, they turn off towards Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire; and then many will go off through Cheshire into North Wales, and thence come round again into Shropshire. Others will wander through Staffordshire and Derbyshire, but most of them centre in Birmingham; that is a favourite meeting-place for the young vagrants. Here they make a point of tearing up their clothes, because for this offence they are committed to Warwick gaol for a month, and have a shilling on being discharged from the prison. It is not the diet of Warwick gaol that induces them to do this, but the shilling. Frequently they tear up their clothes in order to get a fresh supply. You see, sir, from continually sleeping in their clothes, and never washing their bodies, or changing their shirts—even if they have such things to change—they get to swarm with vermin, to such an extent that they cannot bear them upon their bodies. Oh! I have seen such sights sometimes—such sights as any decent, cleanly person would not credit. I have seen the lice on their clothes in the sunshine, as thick as blight on the leaves of trees. When their garments, from this cause, get very uncomfortable to them, they will tear them up, for the purpose of forcing the parish officers to give them some fresh ones. From Birmingham they will come up, generally through Northampton and Hertford, to London; for by this time either the refuges will be about opening, or the lads will have been forgotten at the unions in and around the metropolis. They say that London is fresh to them, when, owing either to long absence, or some alteration in their appearance, they are looked upon as strangers by the masters or porters of the workhouses. London, on the other hand, they say, is dead to them, when they have become too well known at such places. Some will make only a short turn out of London, going across the country through Sussex, Hampshire, or Wiltshire. Hampshire they are attracted to in large numbers, in consequence of the charity distributed at Winchester." [It will be seen by the table above given, that Southampton stands very high among the places upon the vagrant list.] "In these parts the vagrants keep crossing the country to various "reliefs," as they call it, and so manage to spin out nearly two months in the autumn. The vagrants mostly go down with the fashionables to the sea-side in the latter part of the year—the practised beggars in particular. In the spring they generally make for the north of England. I believe there are more beggars and tramps in Durham, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire, than in half of the other parts of England put together." . . . . . "Begging is more profitable there than in any other quarter of the kingdom. A man may pick up more provisions in the day-time in those counties than anywhere else. The farmers are more liberal in those parts, which are great places for pudding, pies, and cakes; and of these the young tramps are remarkably fond. Round about these parts the tramps pass the summer. If the weather is fine and mild, they prefer "skippering it," that is, sleeping in an outhouse or hay-field, to going to a union. They have no trouble in getting "scran," or provisions there, and they object to the work connected with the casual wards. In the autumn, they are mostly in Sussex or Kent; for they like the hop-picking. It is not hard work, and there are a great many loose girls to be found there. I believe many a boy and man goes hop-picking who never does anything else during the year but beg. The female tramps mostly go down to Kent to pick up their "young chaps," as they call them; and with them they travel through the country as long as they can agree, or until either party meets with some one they are better pleased with, and then they leave the other, or bury them, as they term it.

The Irish vagrants are mostly to be found on the roads from Liverpool or from Bristol to London. I should think that at the end of June the roads must be literally covered with the Irish families tramping to London. They come over in boatsful, without a penny in their pockets, to get a little work during the harvesting and hop-picking. Such of them as make up their minds to return to their country after the autumn, contrive, by some means, to send their money to Ireland, and then they apply to the English parishes to send them home. It is very rare indeed that the low Irish go to the expense of paying for their lodging, even when they have money. They make a point of going to the unions, where they not only get a nightly shelter, but a pound of bread for nothing. Whatever money they have, they generally give to some countryman, who is their banker, and he sleeps in another place, for fear he should be searched or robbed at the casual wards. The Irish are mostly very filthy and diseased. They live upon little or nothing, and upon the worst kind of provision that can be bought, even though it be not fit for human food. They will eat anything. The Irish tramp lives solely by begging. It has often astonished me, sir, that there are scarcely any Welsh tramps. I suppose this comes from the industry of the people. The English tramp lives by begging and stealing, —I think, mostly by stealing; a thorough tramp gets more that way than the other. If he goes to the back-door of a house on the pretence of begging, and sees any linen, or brushes, or shoes, or, indeed, even a bit of soap, he will be off with it, and sell it, mostly to the keeper of some low lodging-house where he may put up for the night. They seldom commit highway robberies, and are generally the very lowest and meanest of thieves. No one can imagine, but those who have gone through it, the horror of a casual ward of a union; what with the filth, the vermin, the stench, the heat, and the noise of the place, it is intolerable. The usual conversation is upon the adventures of the day. One recounts how he stole this thing, and another that. Some tell what police are stationed in the different towns; others, what places to go to either to beg, rob, or sleep; and others, what places to beware of. I have passed seven years of my life in this way, and I have been so used to tramping about, that when the spring comes round I must be on the move. In the winter there is more food to be picked up in London than in the country, and the beggars seldom fail to make a good thing of it in the cold weather. I have met with beggars in Carnarvon who had come all the way from London for the express purpose of begging from the visitors to the Snowdon mountains. There are very few houses round about, but a good deal is picked up from the company coming to the hotels.

I shall now conclude this account of the numbers, cost, and character of the country and the metropolis, with the narratives of female tramps.

The —a young woman years of age —gave me the following statement. Her face was what the vulgar would call "good-looking," as her cheeks were full and deep-coloured, and her eyes tolerably bright, and her teeth good. She was very stout, too. Her dress was tolerably clean and good, but sat close about her, as if she had no under-clothing. She said:—

I am a native of ——, where my father was a woolcomber. I was an only child. I can"t remember my mother, she died when I was so young. My father died more than four years ago. I"ve heard as much since I left home. I was sent to the National School. I can read, but can"t write. My father went to work at Wellington, in Somersetshire, taking me with him, when I was quite a little girl. He was a good father and very kind, and we had plenty to eat. I think of him sometimes: it makes me sorrowful. He would have been sadly distressed if he had seen me in this state. My father married again when I was 12, I suppose. He married a factory-woman. She was about 30. She wasn"t good to me, She led me a dreadful life, always telling my father stories of me,— that I was away when I wasn"t, and he grumbled at me. He never beat me, but my stepmother often beat me. She was very bad-tempered, and I am very bad-tempered, too—very passionate; but if I"m well treated my passion doesn"t come out. She beat me with anything that came first to hand, as the hearth-brush, and she flung things at me. She disliked me, because she knew I hated my father marrying again. I was very happy before that, living with my father. I could cook dinner for him, young as I was, make his bed, and do all those sort of things, all but his washing. I had a bed to myself. My father was a good man. He came home drunk sometimes, but not often. It never made any difference in him, he was always kind. He seemed comfortable with my stepmother, but I wasn"t. I used to tell my father how she used me, but he said it was nonsense. This went on till I was 15, when I ran away. I"m sure I had been a good girl till then. I never slept out of my father"s house up to that time, and didn"t keep company with any young men. I could stand my stepmother"s treatment no longer. If she had been kind I wouldn"t have run away. I was almost as big then as I am now. I had 4s. or 5s. with me, I don"t remember just how much, I started in such a passion; but it was money I had saved up from what my father had given me. I took no clothes with me but what I had on. I was tidily dressed. It was in the haymaking time, and I made straight away to London. I was so young and in such a rage, I couldn"t think of nothing but getting away. When I cooled I began to think of my father, but at home I had heard of young girls being sent out to Australia and having done well, and I thought I could easily get sent out from London, and so I went on. I slept in lodging-houses. I was shocked the first night I got into Bridgewater, men, women, and boys, all sleeping in the same room. I slept with another young woman, a travelling-woman, but married. I couldn"t think of going back. I couldn"t humble myself before that step- Vagrants in the Casual Ward of Workhouse. [From a Sketch.] mother. I thought anything would be better than that. I couldn"t sleep at all the first night I was out. I never was in such a bed before. A young man who saw me there wanted me to live with him; he was a beggar, and I didn"t like a beggar, and I wouldn"t have nothing to say to him. He wasn"t impudent; but he followed me to Bristol, all the time, whenever I met with him, teasing me to live with him. I lived on my money as long as I could, and then had to go and sleep in a union. I don"t know where. It was a dreadful place. The rats ran over my head while I slept; and I prayed for daylight—for I used to pray then. I don"t now. I don"t like the thoughts of it. At last I got to London. I was sitting in Hyde-park thinking where I should go—I know it was in Hyde-park, for I was taken up from it since. The park-keeper took me up for making a noise—that"s a disturbance—in the park; me and some other young women: we were only washing ourselves where the horses drink, near the canteen. In Hyde-park, while I was sitting, as I"ve told you, some girls and some young men, and some older men, passed me, carrying rakes. I was sitting with three other girls I"d got acquainted with on the road, all Irish girls. The people that passed me said, "We are going half-way to Watford ahaymaking. Go with us?" We all went. Each of those Irish girls soon took up with a mate. I think they had known each other before. I had a fortnight at haymaking. I had a mate at haymaking, and in a few days he ruined me. He told the master that I belonged to him. He didn"t say I was his wife. They don"t call us their wives. I continued with him a long time, living with him as his wife. We next went into Kent harvesting, then ahopping, and I"ve been every summer since. He was kind to me, but we were both passionate—fire against fire—and we fought sometimes. He never beat me but once, for contradicting him. He wasn"t jealous, and he had no reason to be so. I don"t know that he was fond of me, or he wouldn"t have run away. I liked him, and would have gone through trouble for him. I like him still. We never talked about marrying. I didn"t care, for I didn"t think about it. I lived with him, and was true to him, until he ran away in haymaking time in 1848. He ran away from me in Kent, where we were hopping. We hadn"t quarrelled for some days before he started. I didn"t think he was going, for he was kind to me just before. I left him once for a fortnight myself, through some quarrel, but he got me back again. I came up to London in a boat from Gravesend, with other hoppers. I lived on fifteen shillings I had saved up. I lived on that as long as it lasted—more than a week. I lodged near the Dials, and used to go drinking with other women I met with there, as I was fond of drink then. I don"t like it so much now. We drank gin and beer. I kept to myself until my money was gone, and then I looked out for myself. I had no particular friends. The women I drank with were some bad and some good. I got acquainted with a young girl as I was walking along the Strand looking out for my living by prostitution—I couldn"t starve. We walked together. We couldn"t stay in the Strand, where the girls were well-dressed, and so we kept about the Dials. I didn"t think much about the life I was leading, because I got hardened. I didn"t like it, though. Still I thought I should never like to go home. I lodged in a back-street near the Dials. I couldn"t take anybody there. I didn"t do well. I often wanted money to pay my lodgings, and food to eat, and had often to stay out all night perishing. Many a night out in the streets I never got a farthing, and had to walk about all day because I durstn"t go back to my room without money. I never had a fancy man. There was all sorts in the lodging-house— thirty of them—pickpockets, and beggars, and cadgers, and fancy men, and some that wanted to be fancy men, but I never saw one that I liked. I never picked pockets as other girls did; I was not nimble enough with my hands. Sometimes I had a sovereign in my pocket, but it was never there a day. I used to go out a-drinking, treating other women, and they would treat me. We helped one another now and then. I was badly off for clothes. I had no illness except colds. The common fellows in the streets were always jeering at me. Sometimes missionaries, I think they"re called, talked to me about the life I was leading, but I told them, "You mind yourself, and I"ll mind myself. What is it to you where I go when I die?" I don"t steal anything. I swear sometimes now. When I was at home and good, I was shocked to hear such a thing. Me and the other girls used to think it clever to swear hard, and say bad words one to another or to anybody—we"re not particular. If I went into the Magdalen, I know I couldn"t stay there. I have not been there, but I know I couldn"t, from what I"ve heard of it from the other girls, some of whom said they"d been; and I suppose they had, as there was no motive at all for them to tell lies about it. I have been in the casual wards at Holborn and Kensington when I was beat out. It was better than walking the streets. I think, by the life I lead— and without help I must lead it still, or starve —I sometimes get twenty shillings a-week, sometimes not more than five shillings. I would like best to go to Australia, where nobody would know me. I"m sure I could behave myself there. There"s no hope for me here: everybody that knows me despises me. I could take a service in Sydney. I could get rid of my swearing. I only swear now when I"m vexed—it comes out natural-like then. I could get rid of my love of drink. No one— no girl can carry on the life I do without drink. No girl"s feelings would let her. I never met one but what said so, and I know they all told the truth in that. I am strong and healthy, and could take a hard place with country work. That about Australia is the best wish I have. I"m sure I"m sick of this life. It has only drink and excitement to recommend it. I haven"t a friend in the world. I have been told I was a fool not to pick pockets like other girls. I never begged but once, and that was as I was coming to London, and a woman said, "You look better than I do!" so I never begged again—that checked me at once. But I"ve got tickets for the "straw-yards," or the "leather-houses," as some call them (asylums for the houseless). The old women all say it was far better when they were young. I think what a change it is from my country life; but when I get sad, I go and get a glass of gin, if I have the money. I can get a pennyworth in some houses. I can"t do much at my needle. The idleness of the life I lead is terrible. There is nothing to interest me.

The next was a mere girl, who had lost all traces of feminine beauty. There was an impudence in her expression that was utterly repulsive; and even in her most serious moments it was evident that she had the greatest difficulty to restrain her inward levity. Her dress consisted principally of a ragged red and green plaid shawl, pinned tight over her neck, and a torn straw-bonnet, worn back upon her head.

I have a father alive," she said; "I have got no mother. I have been away these three years. I came away with a chap. I was living, sir, when I was at home, with my father in Maidstone. My father was a gardener, and I used to work at shirt-making when I was at home with my father. My mother has been dead eight years, I think. I can"t say how old I was then. I am twenty now. My father, after my mother"s death, married again. She was dead seven years before he got another wife. He didn"t marry again while I was at home. My mother was a very good mother. I was very fond of my mother, for she was a very good mother; but not of my father, for he was a bad father. Why, sir, he used to treat us three girls so ill, my biggest sister was obliged to go to Australia from him. My next sister was younger than me, and I don"t know whether she is at home now; but I don"t believe that she can stop at home, because I have been down as far as Maidstone since I went away with my young man, and I"ve heard that she"s almost dead between the pair of them. By the pair of them, I mean my father and stepmother. My mother-in-law is the worst to my sister. My father was bad before she came; he was such a drunkard. We went to school, where we paid nothing a-week, in Maidstone; it"s a free school. I can read. I can"t write. All the money my father used to earn he used to drink, and leave us without any food. I went to the shirt-making when I was twelve years of age, and that used to bring me about 4d. a-day, and with that I used to buy bread, for we never got a halfpenny from my father to keep us. My father used to work for a gentleman, and got pretty good wages. The young chap that I first took up with was a carpenter. He was apprenticed to the trade. He enticed me away. He told me if I"d come to London with him he"d do anything for me. I used to tell him how badly my father treated me, and he used to tell me not to stop at home. I have been knocking about three years, and I"m twenty now, so I leave you to say how old I was then. No, I can"t say. I"m twenty now, and I"ve been away these three years, and I don"t know how old that would make me. I never learnt any ciphering. My father used to beat us and knock us about when he came home drunk. I liked the young man that came a-courting on me very well. I thought all he said was true, and I thought he would make me much happier than I was at home." [Here she shook her head with apparent regret.] "Yes, sir, he promised he would marry me; but when I came over to London he ruined me, and then ran away and left me. I knew it was wrong to go away and live with him without being married; but I was wretched at home, and he told me he would make me his wife, and I believed him. He brought me up to London with him, into the Borough. He took me to a low lodging-house there. The charge was 6d. a-night for the two of us. There were six sleeping in the same room beside us two. They were men and women. Some of "em were married, and some were not. He had 4s. 6d. when he came up to London with me, and I had none. He stopped with me. He stopped with me in the same house a week. He was 22 years of age, or 23, I can"t say which. While he was with me he was very kind to me: oh, yes, sir, much kinder than my father, and I loved him a great deal more, I"m sure. I hadn"t many clothes when I left my father"s home. I had nothing but what I stood upright in. I had no more clothes when I was at home. When my young man left me there was another young girl in the same lodging-house, who advised me to turn out upon the streets. I went and took her advice. I did like the life for a bit, because I see"d there was money getting by it. Sometimes I got 4s. or 5s. a-day, and sometimes more than that. I still kept at the same house. There were a lot of girls like me at the same place. It was not a bad house, but they encouraged us like. No tramps used to come there, only young chaps and gals that used to go out thieving. No, my young man didn"t thieve, not while he was with me, but I did afterwards. I"ve seen young chaps brought in there by the girls merely to pay their lodgingmoney. The landlady told us to do that; she said I could do better than knocking about with a man. If I hadn"t had enough to pay for my lodging, I couldn"t have had a bed to lie on. We used to be all in the same room, chaps and girls, sometimes nine or ten couples in the same room—only little bits of girls and chaps. I have seen girls there 12 years of age. The boys was about 15 or 16. They used to swear dreadful. I fell out with the gal as first told me to go on the streets, and then I got with another at another house. I moved to Paddington. I lived at a little public-house there—a bad house; and I used to go out shoplifting with my pal. I used to take everything I could lay my hands on. We went one night, and I stole two dresses, at a linendraper"s shop, and had two months a-piece for it. Yes, sir, I liked prison very well, because I had such bad clothes; and was glad to be out of the way. Some days we hardly had a bit to put in our mouths. Sometimes we used to get nothing shoplifting; the men, perhaps, would notice—the fly-men, as we called them. They used to be too wide-awake for us. Sometimes we used to make 5s. in the day; but then we used to spend it all in waste —why, spending it in anything. We"d buy fish, and meat, and baked potatoes, and pudding. No, sir, very little drink we had. We didn"t care for gin, nor any liquor at all. There was none among us but one that cared for drink, and she used to pawn all her clothes for it. I dare say there was upwards of twelve or thirteen gals; the kitchen used to be full. The mistress used to treat us well if we paid her; but she used to holler at us if we didn"t. The chaps used to serve her out so. They used to take the sheets, and blankets, and everything away from her. She was deaf. They was mostly all prigs that used to come to see us. They used to go out nailing—that"s thieving. There was one that they used to call Fogerty was transported: another got seven months; and another got a twelvemonth. I had one fancy-man. He was a shoplifter and a pickpocket: he has got two years now. I went to see him once in quod; some calls it "the Steel." I cried a good deal when he got nailed, sir: I loved him. A little time after he went away, I went down into the country; down into Essex. I saw I couldn"t get him off, "cause it was for a watch, and the gentleman went so hard against him. I was with him at the time he stole it, but I didn"t know he"d got it till I saw him run. I got the man down by a saw-mill; he was tipsy. He was a gentleman, and said he would give me five shillings if I would come along with him. My fancy-man always kept near to me whenever I went out of a night. I usen"t to go out to take the men home; it was only to pick them up. My young man used to tell me how to rob the men. I"d get them up in a corner, and then I used to take out of their pockets whatever I could lay my hands on; and then I used to hand it over to him, and he used to take the things home and "fence" them. We used to do a good deal this way sometimes: often we"d get enough to keep us two or three days. At last he got caught for the watch; and when I see"d I couldn"t get him off, I went down into the country—down into Essex, sir. I travelled all parts, and slept at the unions on the road. I met a young girl down in Town Malling, in Kent. I met her, and then we used to go begging together, and tramp it from one union to another. At last we got so ragged and dirty, and our things all got so bad, that we made up our minds to go in for three months into prison, at Battle, down in Sussex. We used to meet a great many on the road boiling their kettle, and sometimes we used to stop and skipper with them of a night. Skippering is sleeping in barns or under hedges, if it"s warm weather. They weren"t gipsies. We usen"t to stop to speak to the gipsies—not much—unless we went to fairs or horse-races. Then we used to sit with them for a little while, if they had their tent. We generally used to steal on the way. If we could see anything, we used to take it. At last, when our clothes got bad, I and the other girl—she still kept with me—determined to break the parson"s windows at Battle. We broke one because the house was good for a cant—that"s some food—bread or meat, and they wouldn"t give it us, so we got savage, and broke all the glass in the windows. For that we got three months. After we got out, the parson sent word for us to come to his house, and he gave us half-a-crown a-piece to take us on our road. He would have given us some clothes—we had no shoes and stockings: we was very bad off; but his wife was in London. So we went on the road tramping again, and I have been tramping it about the country ever since. I was all last winter in Town Malling union with the fever, and when I got well I set off tramping again. I didn"t have no more chaps since I left my fancy-man—I mean, I never took up with no others, not to keep their company. I have been about two years tramping altogether; out of that I had five months in prison for stealing and breaking windows. I like the tramping life well enough in the summer, "cause there"s plenty of victuals to be had then, but it"s the winter that we can"t stand. Then we generally come to London, but we can"t call at house to house here as we do in the country, so we make but a poor thing of it. I never was so bad off as I am now, excepting when I was at Battle, for I had no shoes or stockings then. The police is too sharp for us in London. I"m very fond of going through the country in fine weather. Sometimes we don"t make much freedom with the chaps in the union, and sometimes we do. They tells us to go along with them, for they knows good houses to call at. What you make is all according to whether you"re in a lonesome road. I"ve travelled a day, and not seen a house that I could get anything at. Some days I"ve got a shilling given to me, and some days as much as half-a-crown. We can always get plenty of bread and meat, for countryfolks is very good. If I had some good things— that is, good boots—I should like to go into the country again. Sometimes we gets so much scran we sells it among ourselves. I should sell my lot to some travellers on the road. They gives us 3d. or 4d., but we must give them a good lot for that. I can"t say which is the best of the unions now, for they are all shut up. They used to be good at one time, but the Irish ruined them; they came in such swarms, the people, I knew, would never stand it. We used often to say of a night that them Irish Greeks would ruin the business. They are much better beggars than we are, though they don"t get as much as the English, because they go in such swarms up to the door. Now, down in Hawkhurst, there used to be a twopenny loaf allowed to everybody that called at the parson"s house, little and big; it was allowed by a lady, till the pigs of Irish came in such lots, that they spoilt all the game. The parson won"t give it to no one now, except eight travelling-men in the morning. I know all the good houses, and the tidy grubbikens, — that"s the unions where there"s little or nothing to do for the food we gets. We walk mostly eleven miles a-day. If it"s hot we walk only six miles, and turn in under a hedge if we"ve got our things with us to make a tent. We go all right round the country, up to Yorkshire, and as far as Northumberland. We don"t try Warwick gaol, because the shilling they used to give on being discharged is stopped, excepting to those that"s not been there before, and there"s very few of the trampers, boys or girls, that hasn"t. Then there"s the twopenny-house down in High- field, in Kent. I"m blowed if they ain"t been and stopped that! I can"t tell what"s come to the country of late. It"s got very bad and scaly, there"s no hospitality going on. I"ve been two years at the business, and I"ve seen it grow worse and worse, meaner and meaner, every day before my very eyes. I don"t know, I"m sure, what poor trampers will do if it gets any worse. Some do talk of the good old times, when there was plenty of money-getting in them days. I shouldn"t like to give it up just yet. I do like to be in the country in the summer-time. I like haymaking and hopping, because that"s a good bit of fun. Still, I"m sick and tired of what I"m doing now. It"s the winter that sickens me. I"m worn out now, and I often sits and thinks of the life that I"ve led. I think of my kind, dear mother, and how good I would have been if my father had taught me better. Still, if I"d clothes I"d not give up my present life. I"d be down in the country now. I do love roving about, and I"m wretched when I"m not at it. After my mother died I never liked to be at home. I"ve seen many an unhappy day since I"ve been away; still, I wouldn"t go back to my home, because it"s no home to me.

 
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 Title Page
collapseChapter I: The Destroyers of Vermin
collapseOur Street Folk - Street Exhibitors
collapseChapter III: - Street Musicians
collapseChapter IV: - Street Vocalists
collapseChapter V: - Street Artists
collapseChapter VI: - Exhibitors of Trained Animals
collapseChapter VII: Skilled and Unskilled Labour - Garret-Masters
collapseChapter VIII: - The Coal-Heavers
collapseChapter IX: - Ballast-Men
collapseChapter X: - Lumpers
collapseChapter XI: Account of the Casual Labourers
 Chapter XII: Cheap Lodging-Houses
collapseChapter XIII: On the Transit of Great Britain and the Metropolis
collapseChapter XIV: London Watermen, Lightermen, and Steamboat-Men
collapseChapter XV: London Omnibus Drivers and Conductors
collapseChapter XVI: Character of Cabdrivers
collapseChapter XVII: Carmen and Porters
collapseChapter XVIII: London Vagrants
 Chapter XIX: Meeting of Ticket-of-Leave Men
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