Living Picture of London, for 1828 and Stranger's Guide Through the Streets of the Metropolis

Bee, Jon




The persons to be robbed, is the next degree of force employed in street depredation; and is performed either with a stick, which is thrust between the legs, by kicking up the heels, or lastly, by fastening a rope to some post or doorway. Of these, the latter is fallen into disuse. One step farther in violence, is the mode of , termed , with fist, or elbow, applied to the pit of the stomach, or a bludgeon at the head. This latter is seldom or ever heard of in our , but both are practised with extreme ferocity, at the out-skirts, leading to the adjacent towns. So strong and active are the patrol at present, however, that robberies never occur at the hours and places of being on the watch; but then I lament to say, that the arrangements of double patrol in particular, about only for a few hours, leave open certain periods and places to the choice of the rogues, who know the patrols' duty as well as they themselves, when they can escape with impunity. Even the appearance of

a strong body of the patrol,

at a spot that is much infested, defeats its own purpose, by reason of its very strength of ; at least, such an array contributes little to lessen crime in the aggregate, nor that little beyond


the ground it actually covers for a short time. Chapter VII. is devoted to suggestions for a remedy in this and several other cases.

Boys will throw themselves down flat before persons they design to make prey of; and the accomplice pressing forward from behind, precipitates you over the former, who in rising up draws out your watch with the utmost facility. Or, you may be of your money with as little difficulty, while thus bent down, let the fob be ever so tight. When the urchins lie down behind, and the victim is pushed in front, the case is not altered a whit. People waiting together for stage coaches in the street are often times thus annoyed; or, in , when the ground may be slippery, they contrive that the dangerous part alone shall be crossed by unwary passengers. At night, these same little rogues perform the part of , in foggy weather, or when an accident happens to gas or oil lamps, or in front of devastations by fire, &c. These are very likely to act in partnership with thieves. How he will enact his part may be gathered from the link-boy experience of a whole century:-

Though thou art tempted by the link boy's call, Yet trust him not along the lonely wall; In the mid-way he'll quench the flaming brand, And share thy booty with the pilfering band.

Or else, according to the disasters of Dibdin's hero:-

The link boy lighted us clean in the mud, Wiped his heels in the ladies' aprons,- With 'your honour, take care,' Oh d-hislittle blood, With his chip chow.

When women slip down in the street, or faint away (alack) I would advise gentlemen to think twice before they lend assistance to recover any such

lost mutton ;

for, notwithstanding she may possibly turn out what she now (a very respectable person), yet the thieves are so numerous, and constantly upon the alert every where, that it is about twenty to one your officiousness will be rewarded by some or other, in the end. Sometimes it happens that the lady, herself, the soft hearted philanthrope, she having been pushed down, or tripped up and robbed, (make believe,) by one of her own fellows; moreover, this sort of women know how to run plump against such gentlemen [they are good judges of physiognomy], then scramble about as if killed by the collision, and down they go, pulling after them their would-be protector. Looking over again the last few lines, I am apprehensive the advice here given is likely to produce a more misanthropic turn to the minds of my readers, who may be up and down the bustling part of this little world; but there is no help for the who are

in the habit of fainting,

but to keep at home, and leave the and tumbling about our streets to the female pickpockets.

Should a lady, under one's own protection, meet with an accident in the streets, as a slip of the foot, or a complete splashing of mud, &c. take especial care what persons, women or men, lend their assistance in repairing the misfortune. However honest hitherto, it is a great chance but that some one or other among them may find opportunity to be upon , probably for the very first time in their lives, especially if are bad.

are the , and perplexing the contrivances of the dishonest, to come at the property of the unsuspecting and unguarded. The manner of

bringing down

their victim the more securely to rob him, has been effected by numerous stratagems, some assuming to be the effect of accident, and none of them recurring often. Forty years ago, great fear was entertained by of falling into trapdoors, in the streets, and the opinion was too general and deep rooted not to leave on us the impression that that villany had been in practice, though not now relied upon by those monsters who make prey of their fellow creatures' bodies and goods. How often do we not read advertisements and placards of persons



left his home, a gent.


missing, from her friends, in --,

all which proclaim that some has been subtracted; but where it is to be found, even the nearest and dearest friends do not venture to guess, though the bare announcement conveys a surmise


as to the why and the wherefore. Some lost persons are not known to the advertisers:

If the young man, who brought a letter of recommendation, from York, on the 10th of last month, will call again, &c.

proves that, either in despair, or in despite of his reception, he has thrown himself , and that his assumed friends, in town, have been roused by his natural ones, in the country. But, allowing as liberally as we can for the interests taken by the connexions of for their recovery, of whose we seldom hear the result, yet the number of persons , after whom few inquire and none will advertise, of whom if some do think 'tis with no wish for their recovery, must be triple-fold, and infuse appalling thoughts and gloomy notions, that bid us beware of straying along unknown ways or doubtful paths, amid less doubtful dwellings. The stern moralist, who knew the as well as any man who ever lived, tells us, with a fearful admonition, to

Prepare for death, if here at night you roam, And sign your will before you sup from home.

Mighty, though the changes in manners be since, seventy years ago, those lines were written, and different as are the morals of the present age compared with that,-aye, as differing as the metamorphoses of our triple metropole, yet the danger to life is not lessened, whilst property is increased in amount as well as its


in security. If the history of the times proves that the moralist was then fully justified in his caustic advice, no less so in our own is precaution necessary as to whither we direct our steps, not only at

supper time,

but all day long, and every day of the week.

Not four years have elapsed since the Probert, Thurtell, and Hunt conspiracy to entice people into lone houses, for their destruction, was partially practised, discovered, and punished, though two other lost are still unaccounted for. We notice, with affright, the number of children that are constantly placarded as nor does the few that we hear are recovered console us in the least, for many are subtracted and disposed of we hear not how: one, of a few months old, was found in a privy, in Bagnio-court; and about that period (), the same happened to a sailor, in , (rookery,) ; concerning neither of whom could the jury whence or whither.

Found dead

is a most unsatisfactory verdict; since, without this fact being already known, the coroner would not have summoned them together. Persons astray, though they deserve punishment, ought not to forfeit life, therefore; one was thrown out of window, near , in the year , and, since then, another hung himself(?) in despair and drunkenness, at another brothel, near the former. Another estray, more appropriately fortunate, having wandered out of the



up the City-road, into a bad house, in Collingwood-street, was there attacked with small pox, before morning, and confined ten days.

By the way, he is the only full grown sensualist I ever yet heard of being by dint of advertisement and of a ten pound note; and must consider it as money ill bestowed. Upon a casual glance at the inmates, and the horrid aspect of the superintendant beldame, who can doubt that this variolous subject would never have again, but for the circumstance of his having been to the pestilential den, by certain adverse brothellers in the same pestilent neighbourhood. , , Summer.

Many, very many, are the full grown persons (men) who have been advertised as irrecoverably so, as I found upon repeated inquiries after them for the purposes of this book; but the reader will, at once, feel how impossible it would be, and supernecessary too, to record every such case in a volume designed for the pocket. Who, of any long standing about Town, has not heard of the burning down of the brothel in , , in which a certain clergyman was consumed, with much property about him; to come at which, his female companion was more than suspected of having set fire to the curtains, and then left him to the chance of getting away, herself affrighted at the deed she had done!

sometimes takes place. I was once an eye witness of such a violation, as regarded a woman of the town, but without the means, or perhaps the inclination, just then, to interfere effectually. This happened about August or September, , in , ; the perpetrators, about ten in number, were all Jews, one of whom claimed her as his wife: the hour, eleven and a quarter, not many paces from . This same woman and another had been remarked by the inhabitants of , in the dress of quakers, for about three years before; but a short time previous to her catastrophe, this one had become gaudy and cumbrous in her attire as well as big in her person. As usual, she picked pockets, was had up more than once, and on one occasion had thrown the blame on a Jew fellow, her protector or husband, as I afterwards learned. They, therefore, formed a strong party to carry her off, and this they effected, though the watchman looked on, by forcing her into a coach, after a hard struggle and much that ceased in the coach, as if she were gagged. She was never seen more on the pavement!

A moderate degree of circumspection only is requisite to keep out of most of those . For example sake: we have no doubt that more than once we were marked out for destruction or some grievous bodily injury, which it required no conjuration to avoid.


Every page of this book, or any thing of the sort, would be likely to call up a foe in some detected offender or other. In the case of the malefactor, , of , detected and captured by the same hand that holds this pen, and alluded to at pages 47 and 55, the threats of his gang were distinct and intelligible; but those gentry have other fish to fry, generally, notwithstanding we believed them sincere, and , especially during dark nights: they might, if agreeable, see the at any time, and hear the every evening at closing the doors; sure indications, these, of a bloody warm reception, whenever they might come up to the pitch, be it said without a pun, as 'tis without irreverence. Another, and more recent case, arose out of an article emitted by this pen, and well known to the community of scribes about Town, entitled, "." Poor took it so much to heart, that he took the writer to task, lingually, in no measured terms; but finding this made little , he would needs send a pressing invitation to what he calls a or merry dinner. Neither did this avail him; as a misgiving flitted across the mind, that might happen, besides that the company was not appropriate. Moreover, we should ever submit to a common-sense rule, in such cases;

Never give a chance away,

is a good maxim of 's, and fit to be stored up in the mind of every man in Town, whether versed in


its wicked ways or not. Nor would any man in his senses, under any circumstances, except drunkenness or temporary delusion, do otherwise, it is presumed; but when, at any time, he has so far forgot himself as to get into bad clutches, a good and efficacious mode of preventing ulterior fatal mischief will be found in setting up the pretence, that some overweening friend had watched you into the very company of whom you are actually in dread for your life. Fear of detection, in case crime be contemplated, keeps the rogues in check; the subject, just spoken of, would never have emerged alive, but that he had been

viewed in

as before observed. Men recover their understandings, as it were, by a single glimpse, under the worst circumstances; but if they really retain no cunning whatever under the influence of liquor, they are no longer worthy of friendship or care in this life: where are the to be bought of sufficient length and strength to guide a full grown fool to his grave?

I rely much upon receiving attention to what is here advanced for his instruction and safeguard, and presume that every man has fortitude and courage to a certain degree; else he had better never go abroad alone, or out of the beaten track, never stir without his nurse by day, nor appear abroad after dark. With those qualities, however, he cannot well come to harm. , every body knows, or


will be told shortly, what danger attends traversing the outskirts of town at the northern and eastern outlets. Yet did one of our family walk three nights a-week between and London, during a whole winter and spring, without experiencing interruption of any sort. Sometimes he performed his task an hour after the patrol had duty; and this, although he always traversed the garden-lanes, and crossed over fields, without other arms than a stick, or any light, natural or artificial, for the greater number of times. The reader would do well not to follow the example generally, seeing that this gentleman, in addition to much personal courage, was withal so well skilled in the art of manual defence, as to seek an encounter rather than avoid it ; [1]  although the well-known called lies but a short distance from the path. Of this place it is a sufficient character to tell, that the constables dared not enter it, to execute a warrant, in the usual way by two or three, but were compelled to augment their numbers, in


order to overcome a stout repulse; and yet the place could not muster above forty men, about a third of whom might deserve a good character. Alas, the day ! what are we not destined to suffer ? Since the foregoing lines were written, the cupidity of builders has induced them to hem in the obnoxious spot with new streets, to abridge the extent of their wooden huts, and to erect a fine gothic church facing their pigsties ! The remote consequences of which must stare our authorities in the face ; namely, the annihilation of the pestiferous neighbourhood, and loss of caste to its night-work inhabitants. Already did the thieves, who usually and as it were legitimately congregate hereabout, betake themselves to depredate on and on , when the rendered themselves formidable by numerous malefactions, but were broken up in the midst of fancied impunity, at Michaelmas, . To this fact I alluded higher up, (page 18,) and now request the reader to keep in mind that, notwithstanding the ancient may pass away, similarly disposed persons will assemble, with the same views and the same hopes, at other spots, that may seem to offer their persons a temporary security.

To proceed with the mode of do-when the victim is , and his wind well knocked out of him, imprecations and oaths, and threats of vengeance, in case of resistance,


immediately follow, accompanied by a most active ransack for the property, while they cover his mouth, kneel on his body, or beat him, or him, as the case seems to them to require. The voice is generally in an under tone, or a kind of vociferated whisper; and many of these fellows are really so savage that they will inflict further punishment, if dissatisfied with the booty they may find. Sometimes a laugh is set up, loud enough to drown the cries of the victim, at others they pretend to be friends

helping the drunken man upon his legs.

They assume that some runaway hath done the deed, and they do but assist him in his trouble. At any rate this was the case in the sanguinary attack on , of , under the there; the very fellow ( or ) who first knocked him down, pretended that he only had

taken the old gentleman's part,

and this with so much coolness and apparent candour as nearly to deceive , of , who had promptly crossed over to his assistance. repeated , and the fellow then escaped. He was soon after taken, however, tried, and sentenced to be hung, and though he would not on his accomplices, three in number, got off with transportation, contrary to my wishes. While on the ground, though deprived of , defended his breast-coat-pocket and preserved his property at the expense


of much beating about the head, ribs, &c. and having a forefinger nearly severed from his hand, by means of the small blade fastened to a ring, as described at page 34; all this while the prostrate old gentleman busily fought, crying out as loud as his various injuries permitted.

Not to leave the same district, it will be remembered that in those same fields, beyond


did and his gang attempt to murder the servant-girl, whose master they had robbed in , because she could recognise one of the villains whom she had at , and dodged as far as the , whence they dragged her to a pond and threw her over the rail. Since 's death on the gallows, his lot have taken up abode in , , I observe.

The reader, especially if he be a stranger to the ways of town, should not ramble about in lanes, or by-ways, especially at dusk; and the less so, if he is conscious his appearance is such as to promise an easy conquest or a good booty. Therefore, people should never carry into such situations, nor seem puzzled at the route they should take, nor their distrust at the appearance of the rogues, but stare them in the face, as if for the purpose of recognition.

Now as to these, and all other personal robberies, , I would advise a sort of


knowing circumspection, on which I made some remarks before. Suppose, for a moment, that you were to bustle through the crowd in the streets, shoving about the people; thus, in order to avoid the pickpockets, assuming yourself to be one, to all external appearance ? It is not probable you would be attacked by them, upon the old and sure principle, that will not eat . So, if you stare them well in the face (not sheepishly), eye them downwards, the shabbiest part of their dress,-and, if a is begun, you join in the phrases used, as

go it ;

now, d--n his eyes;

what are you at ?

now for it;

go it my jumbo!

repeating, whatever may be said upon the occasion, you would certainly increase the chances of getting clear. This phrase is what I always repeat:



only of getting clear of their clutches

are increased by following these precautions; for no one can be at a certainty; as I have known a police officer (, of , in ) to be stopped and robbed on the highway, when wellarmed, and an eminent magistrate who had his pocket picked at the theatre, during the O.P. row.

As one test of the truth of what I have said, you may invariably discover in the person whose pocket has been picked , something that points him out as a proper object of attack: he is easily to be found out as an one; he is either a silly looking chap, or an unwieldy one, or a manifest


new-come, or a , with his watch-chain and seals and the fogle, hanging temptingly forth. In making this distinction of walking I beg to claim the full force of the word; for, as to picking pockets in a crowd, it is quite a different sort of matter,-there, every body goes to wreck. The reader of any discernment, then, will see the propriety of keeping out of crowds; for in them nothing can help him, but strength to get to the outer verge as soon as possible; and that will scarcely be in his power, if he is wedged in by eight or ten desperadoes, who keep ramming him up whilst carefully concealing their faces.

Need a word be said of the necessity of keeping the handkerchief concealed, if you mean to preserve it? An outside or slip pocket, in which the handkerchief is visible, is sure to part with its contents at noon-day, even, though you should not walk half the length of the Strand. The hanging out this inviting flag of flatness would be most likely to bring its owner into further trouble; as so careless a mode of placing the handkerchief marks him out to s for one of the ones, he would be followed and further pilfered, as certainly as that he has a nose. and the prisoner was discharged.

Walking, from the time of dusk to that of


the patrol's coming on duty, a little before or a little after, is more replete with danger as the are worse. Men who only rob occasionally are thereby driven to desperation; and they then sally forth to commit depredations on the persons of the unwary, which we, upon mature reflection, (after detection of the offenders,) frequently consider to partake in a small degree of insanity. Their necessities blind their judgements on such occasions; they mistake the object, and get into trouble, from which they are released only by a Such a mistake may be compared to the old story of

catching a tartar.

Therefore, it is advisable, to keep a good look out, and especially avoid fellows who are running hard, or who follow you step by step for any length of way. Pull up all at once, regard the motions of the foe, and resolve upon a stout resistance, if you are likely to obtain help in a space, by calling out while you parry the blows, or the endeavour to get you down. If help is not at hand, so as to come up to your assistance in that time, you bad better give it in with a good grace, and submit to your fate; for they will but increase their brutality as you rise in your opposition -in case they are not interrupted, or likely to be.

But mark this: provided you make good use of your lungs, as did , noticed at page 86, and also make a decent stir


before you get with hand or stick, I'll them to in a jiffy; for those sort of gentry have a maxim,

never to give a chance away;

and most of them are rank cowards; they, on such occasions, put a question to themselves, and that is,


is to be off the first ?

since he that remains to the last is likeliest to be taken, and when any one is thus left to his fate he is said to be

put in the hole

by his companions.

These statements are exemplified often: First, the robbery of , near the , now the , by three bakers (), one of whom proposed to murder him, because he made so much noise, is a proof of one part of the above proposition; for, although the place is much frequented, yet no one was nigh enough to alarm them from their purpose. These fellows were named , , and , the latter of whom became approver of evidence for the King, and the first two were hung. It seems they had seen draw forth his money at the , , and followed him thence to the -the fool! I had almost called him a as well as fool; for he thereby made three honest fellows rogues, and sent two of them to the gallows. Secondly, another part of the above statement was proved under our own observation while yet we were writing it (January, ). A , cloth-presser, of , , was


followed from the meeting-house in , along , by two of a gang who inhabit thereabout: they were short and stout; Mr. F. being a little lame in one leg, gave them good reason to expect an easy conquest, as his appearance did a good booty. At the turning into , (no one at that moment coming up it,) one of the rogues ran up to , pushed a leg between his, and brought him to the ground; instantly putting his hand into his waistcoat-pocket, he had but just time to extract a few shillings, when his accomplice became alarmed at the vociferations of the prostrate gentleman (though he already knelt upon him)-and ran away. They could not be overtaken, nor was the occurrence known beyond the circle of his own friends. It was an operation of about half a minute.

Here it will be noted that the was chosen; and hence it may be concluded that such would be always preferred, even though I did not know that before-hand. Indeed, it will scarcely be expected that I should adduce instances, or proofs, of any proposition I lay down, seeing that every word comes from actual experience, either personally, or by immediate information from the real actors in the scenes I describe. Well, then, I have to inform you, Reader, that the corner, or opposite the corner of a lane, or other avenue, is always fixed upon by the knowing ones; and the moment is that in which they come to take


a glance down it, to see that it is clear of interruption. Sometimes an accomplice runs on before, to find the turning that will suit the purpose; he then goes into it a yard or two, and turns about just in time to contribute his assistance to the plundering; perhaps to receive into his arms the victim who has been knocked towards him, and to complete the of the unfortunate person.

Few such cases are brought before the magistrates, by reason of the utter inability of the sufferers to give any account of the persons; but I repeat it, they happen oftener than would readily be supposed. On that account it is, I have dwelt upon particulars so long, in order that my readers may learn to avoid the dangers that thus surround them. To which permit me to add, - let them look out sharp upon hearing a whistling or calling, even although the latter should be but a person's name, (man or woman,) or, the former the ingenious imitation of the black-bird's call to its mate. Very late at night, and in lonely situations, the adopting a whistle that resembles the thieves' is a puzzle for them not easily unravelled. The fag-end of a song is a preferable signal sometimes; though the words may not be appropriate, they convey a meaning previously agreed upon, and are as intelligible to each other as Greek to a Greek, or the sign and countersign to the guard that visits a military out-post.

If two persons are in company, it is the safest


method, at late hours and in dangerous places, to walk at some distance from each other, say, from six to eight yards; it would require double numbers to attack both at once, besides the chance there would be of one of you running away and making a , if both attacks did not take place simultaneously. Moreover, strangers to town in particular, should be careful not to let others know what money or valuables they carry about them; and the townbred knowing ones, too, had better profit by the advice, and not submit to be drawn of their secret by the offers of preposterous wagers, the usual method of coming at a knowledge of the contents of their pockets. I verily some street robberies proceed from this very cause, and are perpetrated by the supposed friends or companions of the sufferers themselves, who probably commit no other offence during their lives.

In these, and still more doubtful terms, I formerly spoke of the probability of apparent friends robbing the drunken and too-confiding bearers of money: even whilst we print, we for a fresh proof: one Densham dines with Watkins and a party at the , , and, while he is sleeping, his steal his pocket-book with £300 contents: three find bail.

At this distance of time (nine years) it is impossible to recollect the precise cause of these doubts operating on my mind; but apprehend I must have fixed my thoughts too


intensely upon the robberies of , unaccountable by any other means, but never sufficiently proved against any one. The drunkenness, the stupidity, the late hours, that contributed towards the loss must have been brought about by assumed friends; and who so likely as these to take advantage of their own doings, though these may not have been put in practice with previously dishonest views ? Numerous cases fell within my knowledge in which none but the companions of his last night's spree could be charged with the taking the drunkard's money, either by force or stratagem; hence I should advise that, in all such cases of , the parties in company should give a good account of themselves and of each other, noting always that the most talkative is the most guilty. The conviction of , the (respectable-looking) landlord, for easing the tax-gatherer of his load of , opened the eyes of the undisceraing, and conduced to the discovery of several similar cases, including restoration of the property in several others. Yet is the landlord of a public-house, of respectable aspect, a good depository, , of any property a heedless chap may carry about him: his licenses, his beneficial lease, and the publicity of his person are good assurances to you that he will not bolt for a hundred or two; taking good care, however, to count over the sum left, and to obtain a written memorandum of the amount; for very


few can refrain from nibbling, to pay themselves beforehand (like bankers) for commission, agency, and clerkship. I have known the thing to be done, without the possibility of the injured party having the power to .

Of all rent-collectors, was, perhaps, the most flashing cove with his money that ever came under animadversion; and the more remarkable he, inasmuch as his careful father contrived to make Charley an attorney, the better to guard his large property in Lottery-insurance-place! But was not an even-tempered fool: he did not lose blunt by

flashing his screeves;

for, at his Michaelmas collection, , finding himself and companion declared drunk and noisy in the vicinity of the Charter-house, they deposited the total in the hands of , at ; and, after getting sober and groping their fobs, found Cy's memorandum, and all was again next morning; but

never stood a mag's worth.

Another rent-collector, still less wise, but seven years before that period, by name, of , had completed a day's audit among his tenants near , when he would needs take a parting glass or two with one , a , who was a trading constable, general dealer, and something besides-inscrutable but profitable. In order to evince his gratitude to his employer, after many suitable parleys, he calls a coach,


into which he thrusts He would have gone with him, but he had doubts so, to avoid that imputation, he contrives, whilst dragging the drunken man into the coach, to draw the whole of the rent, and his watch also. He denied the fact; but the waiter's sharp eyes touted the transaction ; and, upon application at the constable's house, the identical watch was found, but no cash. Shortly after this, Mr. Collis got a few weeks' incarceration for being in some similar job, including malversation of his office of constable.

Although I again disclaim to treat of those offences and evils that have ceased, yet we should be guilty of a dereliction of duty were we to omit noticing the better defined (cavalier)










[1] I could not help thinking this rather "fool-hardy:" though every gentleman should be prepared to defend himself at arms, he ought not to seek encounter. In October, 1805, Turpin, the pipe-maker, was attacked, near the Rosemary-branch, by a footpad, armed with a knife. It was eleven, and the place solitary; but, at the order to stop, the pipe-maker threw away his stick and set-to with his fists. At close quarters he caught a cut across the left breast, and might have paid forfeit, had the fellow stood up to his man.