London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Sale of May, Palm, Etc.


THE sale of the May, the fragrant flower of the hawthorn, a tree indigenous to this country— Wordsworth mentions which must have been years old—is carried on by the coster boys (principally), but only in a desultory way. The chief supply is brought to London in the carts or barrows of the costers returning from a country expedition. If the costermonger be accompanied by a lad—as he always is if the expedition be of any length—the lad will say to his master, "Bill, let's have some May to take back." The man will almost always consent, and often assist in procuring the thickly green branches with their white or rose-tinted, and -smelling flowers. The odour of the hawthorn blossom is peculiar, and some eminent botanist—Dr. Withering if I remember rightly — says it may be best described as "fresh." No flower, perhaps, is blended with more poetical, antiquarian, and beautiful associations than the ever-welcome blossom of the may-tree. gardener told me that as the hawthorn was in perfection in June instead of May, the name was not proper. But it must be remembered that the name of the flower was given during the old style, which carried our present month of days into June, and the name would then be more appropriate.

The May is obtained by the costermongers in the same way as the holly, by cutting it from the trees in the hedges. It has sometimes to be cut or broken off stealthily, for persons may no more like their hawthorns to be stripped than their hollies, and an ingenuous lad—as will have been observed—told me of "people's" objections to the unauthorized stripping of their holly-bushes. But there is not a quarter of the difficulty in procuring May that there is in procuring holly at Christmas.

The costermonger, if he has "done tidy" in the country will very probably leave the May at the disposal of his boy; but a few men, though perhaps little more than , I was told, bring it on their own account. The lads then carry the branches about for sale; or if a considerable quantity has been brought, dispose of it to other boys or girls, or entrust them with the sale of it, at "half-profits," or any terms agreed upon. Costermongers have been known to bring home "a load of May," and this not unfrequently, at the request, and for the benefit of a "cracked-up" brother-trader, to whom it has been at once delivered gratuitously.

A lad, whom I met with as he was selling holly, told me that he had brought may from the country when he had been there with a coster. He had also gone out of town a few miles to gather it on his own account. "But it ain't no good;" he said; "you must often go a good way—I never knows anything about how many miles—and if it's very ripe (the word he used) it's soon shaken. There's no sure price. You may get for a big branch or you must take I may have made on a round but hardly ever more. It can't be got near hand. There's some stunning fine trees at the top of the park there (the Regent's Park) the t'other side of the 'logical Gardens, but there's always a cove looking after them, they say, and both night and day."

Palm, the flower of any of the numerous species of the willow, is sold only on Palm Sunday, and the Saturday preceding. The trade is about equally in the hands of the English and Irish lads, but the English lads have a commercial advantage on the morning of Palm Sunday, when so many of the Irish lads are at chapel. The palm is all gathered by the street-vendors. costermonger told me that when he was a lad, he had sold palm to a man who had managed to get half-drunk on a Sunday morning, and who told him that he wanted it to show his wife, who very seldom stirred out, that he'd been taking a healthful walk into the country!

Lilac in flower is sold (and procured) in the same way as May, but in small quantities. Very rarely indeed, laburnum; which is too fragile; or syringa, which, I am told, is hardly saleable in the streets. informant remembered that years ago, when he was a boy, branches of elder-berry flowers were sold in the streets, but the trade has disappeared.

It is very difficult to form a calculation as to the extent of this trade. The best informed give me reason to believe that the sale of all these branches (apart from Christmas) ranges, according to circumstances, from to , the cost being the labour of gathering, and the subsistence of the labourer while at the work. This is independent of what the costers buy in the markets.

I now show the quantity of branches forming the street trade:—


 Holly . . . . 59,040 bunches 
 Mistletoe . . . 56,160 " 
 Ivy and Laurel . . 26,640 " 
 Lilac . . . . 5,400 " 
 Palm . . . . 1,008 " 
 May . . . . 2,520 " 
 Total number of bunches sold in the streets from market-sale . . 150,768   
 Add to quantity from other sources . . 75,000   

The quantity of branches "from other sources" is that gathered by the costers in the way I have described; but it is impossible to obtain a return of it with proper precision: to state it as half of that purchased in the markets is a low average.

I now give the amount paid by street-buyers who indulge in the healthful and innocent tastes of which I have been treating—the fondness for the beautiful and the natural.

 Bunches of per bunch     
 65,280 Violets . . . . at 1/2d. . £ 136 
 115,200 Wallflowers . . . " 1/2d. . 240 
 86,400 Mignonette . . . " 1d. . 360 
 1,632 Lilies of the Valley " 1/2d. . 3 
 20,448 Stocks . . . . " 1/2d. . 42 
 316,800 Pinks and Carnations " 1/2d. each 660 
 864,000 Moss Roses . . . " 1/2d. " 1,800 
 864,000 China ditto . . . " 1/2d. " 1,800 
 296,640 Lavender . . . " 1d. . 1,236 
 Total annually . . . . £ 6,277 
     per root     
 24,000 Primroses . . . . at 1/2d. . £ 50 
 34,560 Polyanthuses . . . " 1d. . 144 
 28,800 Cowslips . . . . . " 1/2d. . 60 
 33,600 Daisies . . . . . " 1d. . 140 
 46,080 Wallflowers . . . . " 1d. . 192 
 28,800 Candy-tufts . . . . " 1d. . 120 
 28,800 Daffodils . . . . . " 1/2d. . 60 
 38,400 Violets . . . . . " 1/2d. . 80 
 30,380 Mignonette . . . . " 1/2d. . 63 
 23,040 Stocks . . . . . " 1d. . 96 
 19,200 Pinks and Carnations " 2d. . 160 
 3,456 Lilies of the Valley . " 1d. . 14 
 12,960 Pansies . . . . . " 1d. . 54 
 660 Lilies . . . . . . " 2d. . 5 
 850 Tulips . . . . . " 2d. . 7 
 7,704 Balsams . . . . . " 2d. . 64 
 3,180 Calceolarias . . . . " 2d. . 26 
 253,440 Musk Plants . . . " 1d. 1,056 
 11,520 London Pride . . . " 1d. . 48 
 25,595 Lupins . . . . . " 1d. . 106 
 9,156 China-asters . . . " 1d. . 38 
 63,360 Marigolds . . . " 1/2d. . 132 
 852 Dahlias . . . . . " 6d. . 21 
 13,356 Heliotropes . . . . " 2d. . 111 
 1,920 Poppies . . . . . " 2d. . 16 
 6,912 Michaelmas Daisies . " 1/2d. . 14 
 Total annually . . . . £ 2,877 
 Bunches of per bunch     
 59,040 Holly . . . . . . at 3d. £ 738 
 56,160 Mistletoe . . . . . " 3d. . 702 
 26,640 Ivy and Laurel. . . " 3d. . 333 
 5,400 Lilac . . . . . . " 3d. . 67 
 1,008 Palm . . . . . . " 3d. . 12 
 2,520 May . . . . . " 3d. . 31 
 Total annually from Markets . . £ 1,883 
 Add one-half as shown . . . . 591 
       £ 2,474 
     each root     
 9,576 Firs (roots) at 3d. . . . . £ 119 
 1,152 Laurels . . " 3d. . . . . . 14 
 23,040 Myrtles . " 4d. . . . . . 384 
 2,160 Rhododendrons 9d. . . . . . 81 
 2,304 Lilacs . . " 4d . . . . . 38 
 2,880 Box . . . " 2d. . . . . . 24 
 21,888 Heaths . . " 4d. . . . . . 364 
 2,880 Broom . . " 1d. . . . . . 12 
 6,912 Furze . . " 1d. . . . . . 28 
 6,480 Laurustinus " 8d. . . . . . 216 
 25,920 Southernwood " 1d. . . . . . 108 
 Total annually spent . . . . £ 1,388 
     per pot     
 38,880 Moss Roses . . . . at 4d. £ 648 
 38,880 China ditto . . . . " 2d. . 324 
 38,800 Fuschias . . . . . " 3d. . 485 
 12,850 Geraniums and Pelargoniums (of all kinds) . . . . 3d. . 160 
 Total annually . . . . . £ 1,617 

The returns give the following aggregate amount of street expenditure:—

 Trees and shrubs . . . . . . . . 1,388 
 Cut Fowers . . . . . . . . . . 6,277 
 Flowers in pots . . . . . . . . 1,667 
 Flower roots . . . . . . . . . 2,867 
 Branches . . . . . . . . . . 2,774 
 Seeds . . . . . . . . . . . . 200 
   £ 15,173 

From the returns we find that of "cut flowers" the roses retain their old English favouritism, no fewer than being annually sold in the streets; but locality affects the sale, as some dealers dispose of more violets than roses, because violets are accounted less fragile. The cheapness and hardihood of the musk-plant and marigold, to say nothing of their peculiar odour, has made them the most popular of the "roots," while the myrtle is the favourite among the "trees and shrubs." The heaths, moreover, command an extensive sale, —a sale, I am told, which was unknown, until or years ago, another instance of the "fashion in flowers," of which an informant has spoken.

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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