London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry

1851

Chalker on Flag-Stones.

 

A SPARE, sad-looking man, very poorly dressed, gave me the following statement. He is wellknown by his coloured drawings upon the flagstones:—

I was usher in a school for three years, and had a paralytic stroke, which lost me my employment, and was soon the cause of great poverty. I was fond of drawing, and colouring drawings, when a child, using sixpenny boxes of colours, or the best my parents could procure me, but I never had lessons. I am a self-taught man. When I was reduced to distress, and indeed to starvation, I thought of trying some mode of living, and remembering having seen a man draw mackerel on the flags in the streets of Bristol 20 years ago, I thought I would try what I could do that way. I first tried my hand in the New Kentroad, attempting a likeness of Napoleon, and it was passable, though I can do much better now; I made half-a-crown the first day. I saw a statement in one of your letters that I was making 1l. a-day, and was giving 14d. for a shilling. I never did: on the contrary, I"ve had a pint of beer given to me by publicans for supplying them with copper. It doesn"t hurt me, so that you need not contradict it unless you like. The Morning Chronicle letters about us are frequently talked over in the lodging-houses. It"s 14 or 15 years since I started in the New Kentroad, and I"ve followed up "screeving," as it"s sometimes called, or drawing in coloured chalks on the flag-stones, until now. I improved with practice. It paid me well; but in wet weather I have made nothing, and have had to run into debt. A good day"s work I reckon 8s. or 10s. A very good day"s work? I should be glad to get it now. I have made 15s. in a day on an extraordinary occasion, but never more, except at Greenwich fair, where I"ve practised these 14 years. I don"t suppose 1 ever cleared 1l. a-week all the year round at screeving. For 1l. a-week I would honestly work my hardest. I have a wife and two children. I would draw trucks or be a copying clerk, or do anything for 1l. a-week to get out of the streets. Or I would like regular employment as a painter in crayons. Of all my paintings the Christ"s heads paid the best, but very little better than the Napoleon"s heads. The Waterloobridge- road was a favourite spot of mine for a pitch. Euston-square is another. These two were my best. I never chalked "starving" on the flags, or anything of that kind. There are two imitators of me, but they do badly. I don"t do as well as I did 10 years ago, but I"m making 15s. a-week all the year through.

 
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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