London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street Sale of Seeds.


THE street sale of seeds, I am informed, is smaller than it was , or even years back. reason assigned for this falling off is the superior cheapness of "flowers in pots." At time, I was informed, the poorer classes who were fond of flowers liked to "grow their own mignonette." I told of my informants that I had been assured by a trustworthy man, that in day he had sold penny pots of mignonette: "Not a bit of doubt of it, sir," was the answer, "not a doubt about it; I've heard of more than that sold in a day by a man who set on hands to help him; and that's just where it is. When a poor woman, or poor man either—but its mostly the women—can buy a mignonette pot, all blooming and smelling for , why she won't bother to buy seeds and set them in a box or a pot and wait for them to come into full blow. Selling seeds in the streets can't be done so well now, sir. Any-


how it ain't done as it was, as I've often heard old folk say." The reason assigned for this is that cottages in many parts—such places as Lisson-grove, , , Hackney, or Stepney—where the inhabitants formerly cultivated flowers in their little gardens, are now let out in single apartments, and the gardens—or yards as they mostly are now— were used merely to hand clothes in. The only green thing which remained in some of these gardens, I was told, was horse-radish, a root which it is difficult to extirpate: "And it's just the sort of thing," said man, "that poor people hasn't no great call for, because they, you see, a'n't not overdone with joints of roast beef, nor rump steaks." In the suburbs where the small gardens are planted with flowers, the cultivators rarely buy seeds of the street-sellers, whose stands are mostly at a distance.

None of the street seed-vendors confine themselves to the sale. man, whom I saw, told me that last spring he was penniless, after sickness, and a nurseryman, whom he knew, trusted him worth of seeds, which he continued to sell, trading in nothing else, for or weeks, until he was able to buy some flowers in pots. Though the profit is cent. per cent. on most kinds, a day is accounted "good earnings, on seeds." On wet days there is no sale, and, indeed, the seeds cannot be exposed in the streets. My informant computed that he cleared a week. His customers were principally poor women, who liked to sow mignonette in boxes, or in a garden-border, "if it had ever such a little bit of sun," and who resided, he believed, in small, quiet streets, branching off from the thoroughfares. Of flowerseeds, the street-sellers dispose most largely of mignonette, nasturtium, and the various stocks; and of herbs, the most is done in parsley. of my informants, however, "did best in grass-seeds," which people bought, he said, "to mend their grass-plots with," sowing them in any bare place, and throwing soil loosely over them. Lupin, larkspur, convolvulus, and Venus's looking-glass had a fair sale.

The street-trade, in seeds, would be less than it is, were it not that the dealers sell it in smaller quantities than the better class of shopkeepers. The street-traders buy their seeds by the quarter of a pound—or any quantity not considered retail—of the nurserymen, who often write the names for the costers on the paper in which the seed has to be inclosed. Seed that costs , the street-seller makes into penny lots. "Why, yes, sir," said man, in answer to my inquiry, "people is often afraid that our seeds ain't honest. If they're not, they're mixed, or they're bad, before they come into our hands. I don't think any of our chaps does anything with them."

or years ago, although seeds, generally, were to per cent. dearer than they are now, there was twice the demand for them. An average price of good mignonette seed, he said, was now the quarter of a pound, and it was then to The shilling's worth, is made, by the street-seller, into or pennyworths. An average price of parsley, and of the cheaper seeds, is less than half that of mignonette. Other seeds, again, are not sold to the street-people by the weight, but are made up in sixpenny and shilling packages. Their extreme lightness prevents their being weighed to a customer. Of this class are, the African marigold, the senecios (groundsel), and the china-aster; but of these compound flowers, the street-traders sell very few. Poppy-seed used to be in great demand among the street-buyers, but it has ceased to be so. "It's a fine hardy plant, too, sir," I was told, "but somehow, for all its variety in colours, it's gone out of fashion, for fashion runs strong in flowers."

long-established street-seller, who is well known to supply the best seeds, makes for the weeks or so of the season more than twice the weekly average of ; perhaps ; but as he is a shop as well as a stall-keeper, he could not speak very precisely as to the proportionate sale in the street or the shop. This man laughed at the fondness some of his customers manifested for "fine Latin names." "There are some people," he said, "who will buy antirrhinum, and artemisia, and digitalis, and wouldn't hear of snapdragon, or wormwood, or foxglove, though they're the identical plants." The same informant told me that the railways in their approaches to the metropolis had destroyed many small gardens, and had, he thought, injured his trade. It was, also, a common thing now for the greengrocers and corn-chandlers to sell garden-seeds, which until these or years they did much less extensively.

Last spring, I was told, there were not more than persons, in London, selling only seeds. The "root-sellers," of whom I have treated, generally deal in seeds also, but the demand does not extend beyond or weeks in the spring, though there was "a straggling trade that way" or weeks longer. It was computed for me, that there were fully persons selling seeds (with other things) in the streets, and that each might average a profit of weekly, for a month; giving expended in seeds, with profit to the costers. Seeds are rarely hawked as flowers are.

It is impossible to give as minutely detailed an account of the street-sale of seeds as of flowers, as from their diversity in size, weight, quantity in a pennyworth, &c., no calculation can be prepared by weight or measure, only by Thus, I find it necessary to depart somewhat from the order hitherto observed. seedsman, acquainted with the street-trade from his dealings with the vendors, was of opinion that the following list and proportions were as nice an approximation as could be arrived at. It was found necessary to give it in proportions of -fifths; but it must be borne in mind that the in ths of parsley, for exam-


ple, is more than double that of ths of mignonette. I give, in unison, seeds of about equal sale, whether of the same botanical family or not. Many of the most popular flowers, such as polyanthuses, daisies, violets, and primroses, are not raised from seed, except in the nursery gardens:—
 Seeds. Twenty-fifths. Value. 
 Mignonette . . . Three . . . . £ 24 
 Stocks (of all kinds) Two . . . . . 16 
 Marigolds (do.). . One . . . . . 8 
 Convolvulus (do.) . " . . . . . 8 
 Wallflower . . . . " . . . . . 8 
 Scarlet-beans and Sweet-peas . . " . . . . . 8 
 China-asters and Venus' looking-glass " . . . . . 8 
 Lupin and Larkspur " . . . . . 8 
 Nasturtium . . . " . . . . . 8 
 Parsley . . . . . Two . . . . . 16 
 Other Pot-herbs . . One . . . . . 8 
 Mustard and Cress, Lettuce, and the other vegetables . Two . . . . . 16 
 Grass . . . . . One . . . . . 8 
 Other seeds . . . Seven . . . . 56 
 Total expended annually on street-seeds . £ 200 

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 Title Page
 The Street-Folk: Of Wandering Tribes in General
 Of the Wandering Tribes of this Country
 Of the London Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Varieties of Street-Folk in General, and Costermongers in Particular
Of Costermongering Mechanics
Ancient Calling of Costermongers
Of the Obsolete Cries of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers 'Economically' Considered
The London Street Markets on a Saturday Night
The Sunday Morning Markets
Habits and amusements of Costermongers
Gambling of Costermongers
'Vic Gallery'
The Politics of Costermongers.-- Policemen
Marriage and Concubinage of Costermongers
Religion of Costermongers
Of the Uneducated State of Costermongers
Language of Costermongers
Of the Nicknames of Costermongers
Of the Education of Costermongers' Children
The Literature of Costermongers
Of the Honesty of Costermongers
Of the Conveyances of the Costermongers and Other Street-Sellers
Of the 'Smithfield Races'
Of the Donkeys of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers' Capital
Of the 'Slang' Weights and Measures
Of Half Profits
Of the Boys of the Costermongers, and their Bunts
Of the Juvenile Trading of the Costermongers
Of the Education of the 'Coster-Lads'
The Life of a Coster-Lad
Of the 'Penny Gaff'
Of the Coster-Girls
The Life of a Coster Girl
Of Costermongers and Thieves
Of the More Provident Costermongers
Of the Homes of the Costermongers
Of the Dress of the Costermongers
Once Try You'll Come Again
Of the Diet and Drink of Costermongers
Of the Cries, Rounds, and Days of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers on their Country Rounds
Of the Earnings of Costermongers
Of the Capital and Income of the Costermongers
Of the Providence and Improvidence of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers in Bad Weather and During the Cholera
Of the Costermongers' Raffles
Of the Markets and Trade Rights of the Costerongers, and of the Laws Affecting Them
Of the Removals of Costermongers From the Streets
Of the Tricks of Costermongers
Of the Street-Sellers of Fish
Of Sprat-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Fruit and Vegetables
Of the Stationary Street-Sellers of Fish, Fruit, and Vegetables
Of the Street-Irish
Of the Street-Sellers of Game, Poultry (Live and Dead), Rabbits, Butter, Cheese, and Eggs
Of the Sellers of Trees, Shrubs, Flowers (Cut and In Pots), Roots, Seeds, and Branches
Street-Sellers of Green Stuff
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Pea-Soup and Hot Eels
Of the Experience of a Hot-Eel and Pea-Soup Man
Of the Street-Sellers of Pickled Whelks
Of the Customers, Etc., of Pickled Whelk-Sellers
Of the Street Sellers, and of the Preparation of Fried Fish
Of the Experience of a Fried Fish- Seller, and of the Class of Customers
Of the Preparation and Quantity of Sheep's Trotters, and of the Street-Sellers
Statements of Sheep's Trotter Women
Of the Street Trade in Baked Potatoes
Of 'Trotting,' or 'Hawking' Butchers
Of the Experience of a Hawking Butcher
Of the Street-Sellers of Ham-Sandwiches
Of the Experience of a Ham Sandwich- Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Bread
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Green Peas
Of the Experience of a Hot Green Pea Seller
Of Cats' and Dogs'--Meat Dealers
Of the Street-Sale of Drinkables
Of Coffee-Stall Keepers
Of the Street Sale of Ginger-Beer, Sherbet, Lemonade, &c
Of the Experience and Customers of A Ginger-Beer Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Elder Wine
Of the Street Sale of Peppermint-Water
Of Milk Selling in St. James's Park
Of the Street Sale of Milk
Of the Street-Sale of Curds and Whey
Of the Street-Sellers of Rice-Milk
Of Water-Carriers
Of the Street-Sellers of Pastry and Confectionary
Of Street Piemen
Of the Street-Sellers of Boiled Puddings
Of the Street-Sellers of Plum 'Duff' or Dough
Of the Street-Sellers of Cakes, Tarts, &c.
Of Other Cake-Sellers in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Gingerbread- Nuts, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot-Cross Buns, and of Chelsea Buns
Of Muffin and Crumpet-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street Sale of Sweet-Stuff
Of the Customers of the Sweet-Stuff Street-Sellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Cough Drops and of Medical Confectionary
'Lohoch de farfara,' the Lohoch of Coltsfoot
Of the Street-Sellers of Ices and of Ice Creams
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Capital, or Stock in Trade, of the Street- Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Income, or 'Takings,' of Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, &c.
Of the Former and Present Street- Patterers
Of the Habits, Opinions, Morals, and Religion of Patterers Generally
Of the Publishers and authors of Street-Literature
Of Long Song-Sellers
Of Running Patterers
Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Recent Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Chaunters
Of the Experience of a Chaunter
Of the Death and Fire Hunters
Of the Sellers of Second Editions
Of the Standing Patterers
Experience of a Standing Patterer
Of Political Litanies, Dialogues, etc.
Of 'Cocks,' Etc.
Of 'Strawing'
Of the Sham indecent Street-Trade
Of Religious Tract Sellers
Of a Benefit Society of Patterers
Of the Abodes, Tricks, Marriage, Character, and Characteristics of the Different Grades of Patterers
Of the Low Lodging-Houses of London
Of the Filth, Dishonesty, and Immorality of Low Lodging-Houses
Of the Children in Low Lodging- Houses
Of the Low Lodging-Houses Throughout the Country
Of the Street Stationers, and the Street Card-Sellers
Of the Seller of the Penny Short-Hand Cards
The Lecture
'I perish with hunger'
Of the Sellers of Race Cards and Lists
Of the Street-Sellers of Gelatine, of Engraved, and of Playing Cards, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Experience of a Street- Stationer
Of a 'Reduced' Gentlewoman, and a 'Reduced' Tradesman, as Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Street-Sale of Memorandum- Books and Almanacks
Of the Street-Sale of Pocket-Books and Diaries
Of the Street-Sellers of Songs
Of the Street 'Pinners-up,' or Wall Song-Sellers
Of Ancient and Modern Street Ballad Minstrelsy
Of Street 'Ballads on a Subject'
Of the Street Poets and Authors
Of the Experience of a Street Author, or Poet
Of the Street-Sellers of Broad-Sheets
Of the 'Gallows' Literature of the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Conundrums
Of the Street-Sellers of Comic Exhibitions, Magical Delusions, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Play-Bills
Of the Street-Sellers of Periodicals, Pamphlets, Tracts, Books, Etc.
Of the Street-Sale of Back Numbers
Of the Sale of Waste Newspapers at Billingsgate
Of the Sale of Periodicals on the Steam- Boats and Steam-Boat Piers
Of the Sale of Newspapers, Books, &c., at the Railway Stations
Of the Street Booksellers
Of the Character of Books of the Street-Sale
Of the Experience of a Street Book- Seller
Of Street Book-Auctioneers
Of the Street-Sale of Song-Books, and of Children's Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Account-Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Guide-Books, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Fine Arts
Of Street Art
Of the Street-Sellers of Engravings, Etc., in Umbrellas, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pictures in Frames
Of the Street-Sellers of Manuscript and Other Music
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Capital or Value of the Stock-in-Trade of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature and the Fine Arts
Income, or Average Annual 'Takings,' of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
An Epitome of the Pattering Class
Of the 'Screevers,' or Writers of Begging-Letters and Petitions
'God Save the Queen'
Of the Probable Means of Reformation
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles in Metal
Of the Cheap Johns, or Street Han- Sellers
'The Original Cheap John'
The Crippled Street-Seller of Nut- Meg-Graters
Of the Swag-Shops of the Metropolis
Shopkeepers and Dealers Supplied with the Following Articles --
Of the Life of a Cheap-John
The Street-Sellers of Cutlery
Of the Blind Street-Sellers of Tailors' Needles, etc.
The Public-House Hawkers of Metal Spoons, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Jewellery
Of the Pedlar-Jewellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Card-Counters, Medals, Etc.
The Construction is of Iron and of Glass, 1848 Feet Long. about Half is 456 Wide. the Remainder 408 Feet Wide, and 66 Feet High; Site, Upwards of 20 acres. Josh. Paxton, archt.
Of the Street-Sellers of Rings and Sovereigns For Wagers
Of the Street-Sellers of Children's Gilt Watches
Of the Street-Sellers of Tinware
Of the Life of a Tin-Ware Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Dog-Collars
Of the Life of a Street-Seller of Dog- Collars
Of the Street-Sellers of Tools
Of the Beggar Street-Sellers
Pike's Patent Cotton. 120 Yards
'The Lace-Makers' Appeal'
'ALLEN, Printer, Long-row, Nottingham'
Of the 'House of Lords,' a Street-Seller's Defunct Club
Of the Street-Sellers of Crockery and Glass-Wares
Of the 'Swag,' Crockery, and Glass Shops
Of the Street-Sellers of Spar and China Ornaments, and of Stone Fruit
Of the Street-Sellers of Textile Fabrics
Of the Haberdashery Swag-Shops
Of Hawkers, Pedlars, and Petty Chapmen
Of the Packmen, or Hawkers of Soft Wares
Statement of a Packman
Of the Tally Packman
Of the 'Duffers' or Hawkers of Pretended Smuggled Goods
Of the Street-Sellers of 'Small-Ware,' or Tape, Cotton, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Lace
Of the Street-Sellers of Japanned Table- Covers
Of the Street-Sellers of Braces, Belts, Hose, Trowser-Straps, and Waistcoats
Of the Street-Sellers of Boot and Stay- Laces, &c.
Of a Blind Female Seller of 'Small-Wares'
The Blind Street-Seller of Boot-Laces
Of the Life of a Blind Boot-Lace Seller
Of the Low Lodging-Houses
Statement of a Young Pickpocket
Statement of a Prostitute
Statement of a Beggar
Meeting of Thieves
Of the Country Lodging-Houses
Of the Street-Sellers of Chemical Articles of Manufacture
Of the Street-Sellers of Blacking, Black Lead, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of French Polish
Of the Street-Sellers of Grease-Removing Compositions
Of the Street-Sellers of Corn-Salve
Of the Street-Sellers of Glass and China Cement, and of Razor Paste
Of the Street-Seller of Crackers and Detonating Balls
Of the Street-Sellers of Lucifer-Matches
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigar Lights, or Fuzees
Of the Street-Sellers of Gutta-Percha Heads
Of the Street-Sellers of Fly-Papers and Beetle-Wafers
Of the Street-Sellers of Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Walking-Sticks
Of the Street-Sellers of Whips, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pipes, and of Snuff and Tobacco Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigars
Of the Street-Sellers of Sponge
Of the Street-Sellers of Wash-Leathers
Of the Street-Sellers of Spectacles and Eye-Glasses
Of the Street-Sellers of Dolls
Of the 'Swag-Barrowmen,' and 'Lot- Sellers'
Of the Street-Sellers of Roulette Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Poison For Rats
Of the Street-Sellers of Rhubarb and Spice
Of the Hawking of Tea
Of the Women Street-Sellers
Of the Children Street-Sellers of London