London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of Coffee-Stall Keepers.


The vending of tea and coffee, in the streets, was little if at all known years ago, saloop being then the beverage supplied from stalls to the late and early wayfarers. Nor was it until after that the stalls approached to anything like their present number, which is said to be upwards of —the majority of the proprietors being women. Prior to , coffee was in little demand, even among the smaller tradesmen or farmers, but in that year the duty having been reduced from to per lb., the consumption throughout the kingdom in the next years was nearly trebled, the increase being from lbs., in , to lbs., in . In , the duty on coffee, was fixed at , from British possessions, and from foreign countries at

But it was not owing solely to the reduced price of coffee, that the street-vendors of it increased in the year or subsequent to , at least per cent. The great facilities then offered for a cheap adulteration, by mixing ground chicory with the ground coffee, was an enhancement of the profits, and a greater temptation to embark in the business, as a smaller amount of capital would suffice. Within these or years, this cheapness has been still further promoted, by the medium of adulteration, the chicory itself being, in its turn, adulterated by the admixture of baked carrots, and the like saccharine roots, which, of course, are not subjected to any duty, while


foreign chicory is charged per lb. English chicory is not chargeable with duty, and is now cultivated, I am assured, to the yield of between and tons yearly, and this nearly all used in the adulteration of coffee. Nor is there greater culpability in this trade among street-venders, than among "respectable" shopkeepers; for I was assured, by a leading grocer, that he could not mention shops in the city, of which he could say: "You can go and buy a pound of ground coffee there, and it will not be adulterated." The revelations recently made on this subject by the are a still more convincing proof of the dishonesty of grocers.

The coffee-stall keepers generally stand at the corner of a street. In the fruit and meat markets there are usually or coffeestalls, and or in the streets leading to them; in Covent-garden there are no less than coffee-stalls. Indeed, the stalls abound in all the great thoroughfares, and the most in those not accounted "fashionable" and great "business" routes, but such as are frequented by working people, on their way to their day's labour. The best "pitch" in London is supposed to be at the corner of , Oxfordstreet. The proprietor of that stall is said to take full of a morning, in halfpence. stall-keeper, I was informed, when "upon the drink" thinks nothing of spending his or in a week. A party assured me that once, when the stall-keeper above mentioned was away "on the spree," he took up his stand there, and got from to in the course of minutes, at the busy time of the morning.

The coffee-stall usually consists of a springbarrow, with , and occasionally , wheels. Some are made up of tables, and some have a tressel and board. On the top of this are placed or , and sometimes , large tin cans, holding upon an average gallons each. Beneath each of these cans is a small iron fire-pot, perforated like a rushlight shade, and here charcoal is continually burning, so as to keep the coffee or tea, with which the cans are filled, hot throughout the early part of the morning. The board of the stall has mostly a compartment for bread and butter, cake, and ham sandwiches, and another for the coffee mugs. There is generally a small tub under each of the stalls, in which the mugs and saucers are washed. The "grandest" stall in this line is the before-mentioned, as standing at the corner of , (of which an engraving is here given). It is a large truck on wheels, and painted a bright green. The cans are in number, and of bright polished tin, mounted with brass-plates. There are compartments for bread and butter, sandwiches, and cake. It is lighted by large oil lamps, with bright brass mountings, and covered in with an oil-cloth roof. The coffeestalls, generally, are lighted by candle-lamps. Some coffee-stalls are covered over with tarpaulin, like a tent, and others screened from the sharp night or morning air by a clotheshorse covered with blankets, and drawn half round the stall.

Some of the stall-keepers make their appearance at at night, and some not till or in the morning. Those that come out at midnight, are for the accommodation of the "night-walkers"—"fast gentlemen" and loose girls; and those that come out in the morning, are for the accommodation of the working men.

It is, I may add, piteous enough to see a few young and good-looking girls, some without the indelible mark of habitual depravity on their countenances, clustering together for warmth round a coffee-stall, to which a penny expenditure, or the charity of the proprietor, has admitted them. The thieves do not resort to the coffee-stalls, which are so immediately under the eye of the policeman.

The coffee-stall keepers usually sell coffee and tea, and some of them cocoa. They keep hot milk in of the large cans, and coffee, tea, or cocoa in the others. They supply bread and butter, or currant cake, in slices—ham sandwiches, water-cresses, and boiled eggs. The price is per mug, or per half-mug, for coffee, tea, or cocoa; and a slice the bread and butter or cake. The ham sandwiches are (or ) each, the boiled eggs , and the water-cresses a halfpenny a bunch. The coffee, tea, cocoa, and sugar they generally purchase by the single pound, at a grocer's. Those who do an extensive trade purchase in larger quantities. The coffee is usually bought in the berry, and ground by themselves. All purchase chicory to mix with it. For the coffee they pay about ; for the tea about ; for the cocoa per lb.; and for the sugar to For the chicory the price is (which is the amount of the duty alone on foreign chicory), and it is mixed with the coffee at the rate of ozs. to the pound; many use as much as and ozs. The coffee is made of a dark colour by means of what are called "finings," which consist of burnt sugar—such, as is used for browning soups. Coffee is the article mostly sold at the stalls; indeed, there is scarcely stall in a that is supplied with tea, and not more than a dozen in all London that furnish cocoa. The stall-keepers usually make the cake themselves. A lb. cake generally consists of half a pound of currants, half a pound of sugar, ounces of beef dripping, and a quartern of flour. The ham for sandwiches costs or per lb.; and when boiled produces in sandwiches about per lb. It is usually cut up in slices little thicker than paper. The bread is usually " bread;" the butter, salt, at about the pound. Some borrow their barrows, and pay a week for the hire of them. Many borrow the capital upon which they trade, frequently of their landlord. Some get credit for their grocery—some for their bread. If they borrow, they pay about per cent. per week for the loan. I was told of man that makes a practice of lending


money to the coffee-stall-keepers and other hucksters, at the rate of at least per cent. a week. If the party wishing to borrow a pound or is unknown to the money-lender, he requires security, and the interest to be paid him weekly. This money-lender, I am informed, has been transported once for receiving stolen property, and would now purchase any amount of plate that might be taken to him.

The class of persons usually belonging to the business have been either cab-men, policemen, labourers, or artisans. Many have been bred to dealing in the streets, and brought up to no other employment, but many have taken to the business owing to the difficulty of obtaining work at their own trade. The generality of them are opposed to another. I asked in a small way of business what was the average amount of his profits, and his answer was,—

I usually buy 10 ounces of coffee a night. That costs, when good, 1s. 0 1/2d. With this I should make five gallons of coffee, such as I sell in the street, which would require 3 quarts of milk, at 3d. per quart, and 1 1/2 lb. of sugar, at 3 1/2d. per lb., there is some at 3d. This would come to 2s. 2 3/4d.; and, allowing 1 1/4d. for a quarter of a peck of charcoal to keep the coffee hot, it would give 2s. 4d. for the cost of five gallons of coffee. This I should sell out at about 1 1/2d. per pint; so that the five gallons would produce me 5s., or 2s. 8d. clear. I generally get rid of one quartern loaf and 6 oz. of butter with this quantity of coffee, and for this I pay 5d. the loaf and 3d. the butter, making 8d.; and these I make into twenty-eight slices at 1/2d. per slice; so the whole brings me in 1s. 2d., or about 6d. clear. Added to this, I sell a 4 lb. cake, which costs me 3 1/2d. per lb. 1s. 2d. the entire cake; and this in twentyeight slices, at 1d. per slice, would yield 2s. 4d., or 1s. 2d. clear; so that altogether my clear gains would be 4s. 4d. upon an expenditure of 2s. 2d.—say 200 per cent.

This is said to be about the usual profit of the trade. Sometimes they give credit. person assured me he trusted as much as that morning, and out of that he was satisfied there was , at least, he should never see. Most of the stalls are stationary, but some are locomotive. Some cans are carried about with yokes, like milk-cans, the mugs being kept in a basket. The best district for the night-trade is the City, and the approaches to the bridges. There are more men and women, I was told, walking along , , , and . In the latter place a good trade is frequently done between at night and in the morning. For the morning trade the best districts are , , City-road, New-road (from end to the other), the markets, especially Covent Garden, , Newgate, and the Borough. There are no coffee-stalls in . The reason is that the drovers, on arriving at the market, are generally tired and cold, and prefer sitting down to their coffee in a warm shop rather than drink it in the open street. The best days for coffee-stalls are market mornings, viz. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On these days the receipts are generally half as much again as those of the other mornings. The best time of the year for the business is the summer. This is, I am told, because the workpeople and costermongers have more money to spend. Some stall-keepers save sufficient to take a shop, but these are only such as have a "pitch" in the best thoroughfares. who did a little business informed me that he usually cleared, including Sunday, — last week his gains were ; the week before that he could not remember. He is very frequently out all night, and does not earn sixpence. This is on wet and cold nights, when there are few people about. His is generally the night-trade. The average weekly earnings of the trade, throughout the year, are said to be The trade, I am assured by all, is overstocked. They are half too many, they say. " of us," to use their own words, "are eating man's bread." "When coffee in the streets came up, a man could go and earn," I am told, "his a night at the very lowest; but now the same class of men cannot earn more than " Some men may earn comparatively a large sum, as much as or , but the generality of the trade cannot make more than per week, if so much. The following is the statement of of the class:—

I was a mason's labourer, a smith's labourer, a plasterer's labourer, or a bricklayer's labourer. I was, indeed, a labouring man. I could not get employment. I was for six months without any employment. I did not know which way to support my wife and child (I have only one child). Being so long out of employment, I saw no other means of getting a living but out of the streets. I was almost starving before I took to it—that I certainly was. I'm not ashamed of telling anybody that, because it's true, and I sought for a livelihood wherever I could. Many said they wouldn't do such a thing as keep a coffee-stall, but I said I'd do anything to get a bit of bread honestly. Years ago, when I was a boy, I used to go out selling water-cresses, and apples, oranges, and radishes, with a barrow, for my landlord; so I thought, when I was thrown out of employment, I would take to selling coffee in the streets. I went to a tinman, and paid him 10s. 6d. (the last of my savings, after I'd been four or five months out of work) for a can, I didn't care how I got my living so long as I could turn an honest penny. Well; I went on, and knocked about, and couldn't get a pitch anywhere; but at last I heard that an old man, who had been in the habit of standing for many years at the entrance of one of the markets, had fell ill; so, what did I do, but I goes and pops into his pitch, and there I've done better than ever I did afore. I get 20s. now where I got 10s. one time; and if I only had such a thing as 5l. or 10l., I might get a good living for life. I cannot do half as much as the man that was there before me. He used to make his coffee down there, and had a can for hot water as well; but I have but one can to keep coffee and all in; and I have to borrow my barrow, and pay 1s. a week for it. If I sell my can out, I can't do any more. The struggle to get a living is so great, that, what with one and another in the coffee-trade, it's only those as can get good 'pitches' that can get a crust at it.

As it appears that each coffee-stall keeper on an average, clears a week, and his takings may be said to be at least double that sum, the yearly street expenditure for tea, coffee, &c., amounts to The quantity of coffee sold annually in the streets, appears to be about gallons.

To commence as a coffee-stall keeper in a moderate manner requires about capital. The truck costs , and the other utensils and materials The expense of the cans is near upon each. The stock-money is a few shillings.

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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