London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry

1851

AMONG the present cabdrivers are to be found, as I learned from trustworthy persons, quondam greengrocers, costermongers, jewellers, clerks, broken-down gentlemen, especially turf gentlemen, carpenters, joiners, saddlers, coach-builders, grooms, stable-helpers, footmen, shopkeepers, pickpockets, swellmobs- men, housebreakers, innkeepers, musicians, musical instrument makers, ostlers, some good scholars, a good number of broken-down pawnbrokers, several ex-policemen, draper"s assistants, barmen, scene-shifters, baronet, and as my informant expressed it, "such an uncommon sight of folks that it would be uncommon hard to say what they was." Of the truthfulness of the list of callings said to have contributed to swell the numbers of the cabmen there can be no doubt, but I am not so sure of "the baronet." I was told his name, but I met with no who could positively say that he knew Sir V—— C—— as a cabdriver. This baronet seems a tradition among them. Others tell me that the party alluded to is merely nicknamed the Baron, owing to his being a person of good birth, and having had a college education. The "flashiest" cabman, as he is termed, is the son of a fashionable master-tailor. He is known among cabdrivers as the "Numpareil," and drives of the Hansom cabs. I am informed on excellent authority, a , or, to speak beyond the possibility of cavil, a of the whole number of cabdrivers are "fancy men." These fellows are known in the cab trade by a very gross appellation. They are the men who live with women of the town, and are supported, wholly or partially, on the wages of the women"s prostitution.

These are the fellows who, for the most part, are ready to pay the highest price for the hire of their cabs. swell-mobsman, I was told, had risen from "signing" for cabs to become a cab proprietor, but was now a prisoner in France for picking pockets.

The worse class of cabmen which, as I have before said, are but a of the whole,

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live in , St. Andrew"s Place, and similar localities of the ; in , , &c., of the ; in , and others, of the ; in some unpaved streets that stretch from the to Lock"s Fields; in the worst parts of , in the vicinity of , Whitechapel, and of , and wherever low depravity flourishes. "To get on a cab," I was told, and that is the regular phrase, "is the ambition of more loose fellows than for anything else, as it"s reckoned both an idle life and an exciting ." is full of cabmen, but not wholly of the fancy-man class. The better sort of cabmen usually reside in the neighbourhood of the cab-proprietors" yards, which are in all directions. Some of the best of these men are, or rather have been mechanics, and have left a sedentary employment, which affected their health, for the open air of the cab business. Others of the best description have been connected with country inns, but the majority of them are London men. They are most of them married, and bringing up families decently on earnings of from to a-week. Some few of their wives work with their needles for the tailors.

Some of the cab-yards are situated in what were old inn-yards, or the stable-yards attached to great houses, when great houses flourished in parts of the town that are now accounted vulgar. of those I saw in a very curious place. I was informed that the yard was once Oliver Cromwell"s stable-yard; it is now a receptacle for cabs. There are now long ranges of wooden erections, black with age, each carriage-house opening with large foldingdoors, fastened in front with padlocks, bolts, and hasps. In the old carriage-houses are the modern cabs, and mixed with them are superannuated cabs, and the disjointed or worn-out bodies and wheels of cabs. Above range of the buildings, the red-tiled roofs of which project a yard and more beyond the exterior, are apartments occupied by the stablekeepers and others. Nasturtiums with their light green leaves and bright orange flowers were trained along light trellis-work in front of the windows, and presented a striking contrast to the dinginess around.

Of the cabdrivers there are several classes, according to the times at which they are employed. These are known in the trade by the names of the "long-day men," "the morningmen," the "long-night men," and the "shortnight men," and "the bucks." The long-day man is the driver who is supposed to be driving his cab the whole day. He usually fetches his cab out between and in the morning, and returns at or , or even or , the next morning; indeed it is no matter at what hour he comes in so long as he brings the money that he signs for; the long-day men are mostly employed for the contractors, though some of the respectable masters work their cabs with long-day men, but then they leave the yard between and and are expected to return between and . These drivers when working for the contractors sign for a-day in the season, as before stated, and out of the season; and when employed by the respectable masters, they are expected to bring home or , according to the season of the year. The long-day men are the parties who mostly employ the "bucks," or unlicensed drivers. They are mostly out with their cabs from to hours, so that their work becomes more than they can constantly endure, and they are consequently glad to avail themselves of the services of a buck for some hours at the end of the day, or rather night. The morning man generally goes out about in the morning and returns to the yard at in the evening. Those who contract sign to bring home from to per day in the season, and for the rest of the year, while those working for the better class of masters are expected to give the proprietor a-day, and or according to the time of the year. The morning man has only horse found him, whereas the long-day man has , and returns to the yard to change horses between and in the afternoon. The long-night man goes out at in the evening and returns at in the morning. He signs when working for contractors for or per night, at the best time of the year, aud or at the bad. The rent required by the good masters differs scarcely from these sums. He has only horse found him. The short-night man fetches his cab out at in the evening and returns at in the morning, bringing with him in the season and or out of it. The contractors employ scarcely any short-night men, while the better masters have but few long-day or long-night men working for them. It is only such persons as the masters who like the horses or the men to be out so many hours together, and they, as my informant said, "don"t care what becomes of either, so long as the day"s money is brought to them." The bucks are unlicensed cabdrivers, who are employed by those who have a license to take charge of the cab while the regular drivers are at their meals or enjoying themselves. These bucks are generally cabmen who have been deprived of their license through bad conduct, and who now pick up a living by "rubbing up" (that is, polishing the brsss of the cabs) on the rank, and "giving out buck" as it is called amongst the men. They usually loiter about the watering-houses (the public-houses) of the cab-stands, and pass most of their time in the tap-rooms. They are mostly of intemperate habits, being generally "confirmed sots." Very few of them are married men. They have been fancy-men in their prime, but, to use the words of of the craft, "got turned up." They seldom sleep in a bed. Some few have a bedroom in some obscure part of the town, but the most of them loll about and doze in

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the tap-rooms by day, and sleep in the cabs by night. When the watering-houses close they resort to the night coffee-shops, and pass the time there till they are wanted as bucks. When they take a job for a man they have no regular agreement with the driver, but the rule is that they shall do the best they can. If they take they give the driver and keep the other for themselves. If they usually keep only The men have generally got their regular bucks, and these mostly take to the cab with the horse and do all the night-work. At or in the morning they meet the driver at some appointed stand or watering-place. in the Strand, or , are the favourite places of rendezvous of the men, and then they hand over to the long-day man "the stuff" as they call it. The regular driver has no check upon these men, but unless they do well they never employ them again. For "rubbing up" the cabs on the stand these bucks generally get in the season, and for this they are expected to dishclout the whole of the panels, clean the glasses, and polish the harness and brasses, the cabdriver having to do these things himself or having to pay for it. Some of the bucks in the season will make from to a-day by rubbing up alone, and it is difficult to say what they make by driving. They are the most extortionate of all cab-drivers. For a shilling fare they will generally demand and for a fare they will get or , according to the character of the party driven. Having no licenses, they do not care what they charge. If the number of the cab is taken, and the regular driver of it summoned, the party overcharged is unable to swear that the regular driver was the individual who defrauded him, and so the case is dismissed. It is supposed that the bucks make quite as much money as the drivers, for they are not at all particular as to how they get their money. The great majority, indeed out of , have been in prison, and many more than once, and they consequently do not care about revisiting gaol. It is calculated that there are at least or bucks, hanging about the London cab-stands, and these are mostly regular thieves. If they catch any person asleep or drunk in a cab, they are sure to have a dive into his pockets; nor are they particular if the party belong to their own class, for I am assured that they steal from another while dozing in the cabs or tap-rooms. Very few of the respectable masters work their cabs at night, except those who do so merely because they have not stable-room for the whole of their horses and vehicles at the same time. Some of the cabdrivers are the owners of the vehicles they drive. It is supposed that out of the drivers in London, at least , or very nearly half, are small masters, and they are amongst the most respectable men of the ranks. Of the other half of the cabdrivers about are long-day men, and about long-night men (there are only a few yards, and they are principally at , that employ long-night men). Of the morning-men and the short-night men there are, as near as I can learn, about belonging to each class, in addition to the small masters.

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