London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Gingerbread- Nuts, &c.


THE sale of gingerbread, as I have previously observed, was much more extensive in the


streets than it is at present. Indeed, what was formerly known in the trade as "toy" gingerbread is now unseen in the streets, except occasionally, and that only when the whole has not been sold at the neighbouring fairs, at which it is still offered. But, even at these fairs, the principal, and sometimes the only, toy gingerbread that is vended is the "cock in breeches;" a formidable-looking bird, with his nether garments of gold. or years ago, "king George on horseback" was popular in gingerbread. His Majesty, wearing a gilt crown, gilt spurs, and a gilt sword, bestrode the gilt saddle of his steed, and was eaten with great relish by his juvenile subjects. There were also sheep, and dogs, and other animals, all adorned in a similar manner, and looking as if they had been formed in close and faithful imitation of children's attempts at cattle drawing. These edible toys were then sold in "white," as well as in "brown" gingerbread, the white being the same in all other respects as the brown, except that a portion of sugar was used in its composition instead of treacle.

There are now only men in London who make their own gingerbread-nuts for sale in the streets. This preparation of gingerbread is called by the street-sellers, after a common elliptical fashion, merely "nuts." From the most experienced man in the street trade I had the following account: he was an intelligent, well-mannered, and well-spoken man, and when he laughed or smiled, had what may be best described as a pleasant look. After he had initiated me into the art and mystery of gingerbread making—which I shall detail separately —he said,

I've been in the 'nut' trade 25 years, or thereabouts, and have made my own nuts for 20 years of that time. I bought of a gingerbread baker at first—there was plenty of them in them days—and the profit a living profit, too. Certainly it was, for what I bought for 5s. I could sell for 16s. I was brought up a baker, but the moment I was out of my time I started in the street nut trade for myself. I knew the profits of it, and thought it better than the slavery of a journeyman baker's life. You've mentioned, sir, in your work, a musical sort of a street-crier of gingerbread (see p. 160), and I think, and indeed I'm pretty certain, that it's the same man as was my partner 20 years back; aye, more than 20, but I can't tell about years." [The reader will have remarked how frequently this oblivion as to dates and periods characterises the statements of street-sellers. Perhaps no men take less note of time.] "At that time he was my partner in the pig trade. Dairy-fed, d'you say, sir? Not in the slightest. The outsides of the hanimals was paste, and the insides on 'em was all mince-meat. Their eyes was currants. We two was the original pigs, and, I believe, the only two pigs in the streets. We often made 15s. between us, in a day, in pigs alone. The musical man, as you call him—poor fellow, he dropped down dead in the street one day as he was crying; he was regular worn out—cried himself into his grave you may say—poor fellow, he used to sing out Here's a long-tailed pig, and a short-tailed pig, And a pig with a curly tail: Here's a Yorkshire pig, and a Hampshire pig, And a pig without e'er a tail.

When I was first in the trade, I sold twice as many nuts as I do now, though my nuts was only 12 a penny then, and they're now 40. A little larger the 12 were, but not very much. I have taken 20s. and 24s. many and many a Saturday. I then made from 2l. to 2l. 10s. a week by sticking to it, and money might have been saved. I've taken between 7l. and 8l. at a Greenwich Fair in the three days, in them times, by myself. Indeed, last Easter, my wife and me—for she works as well as I do, and sells almost as much—took 5l. But gingerbread was money in the old times, and I sold 'lumps' as well as 'nuts;' but now lumps won't go off— not in a fair, no how. I've been in the trade ever since I started in it, but I've had turns at other things. I was in the service of a Customhouse agency firm; but they got into bother about contrabands, and the revenue, and cut off to America—I believe they took money with them, a good bit of it—and I was indicted, or whatever they call it, in the Court of Exchequer—I never was in the Court in my life—and was called upon, one fine day, to pay to the Crown 1,580l., and some odd pounds and shillings besides! I never understood the rights of it, but it was about smuggling. I was indicted by myself, I believe. When Mr. Candy, and other great houses in the City, were found out that way, they made it all right; paid something, as I've heard, and sacked the profits. Well; when I was called on, it wasn't, I assure you, sir—ha, ha, ha!—at all convenient for a servant—and I was only that—to pay the fifteen hundred and odd; so I served 12 months and 2 days in prison for it. I'd saved a little money, and wasn't so uncomfortable in prison. I could get a dinner, and give a dinner. When I came out, I took to the nuts. It was lucky for me that I had a trade to turn to; for, even if I could have shown I wasn't at all to blame about the Exchequer, I could never have got another situation—never. So the streets saved me: my nuts was my bread.

At this present time, sir, if I make, the year through, 9s. a week, and my wife 1s. or 2s. less, that's the extent. When the Queen opened Parliament, the two on us took 10s. The Queen's good for that, anyhow, in person. If the opening was by proclamation" [so he called it, three or four times], "it wouldn't have been worth while going to—not at all. If there's not a crowd, the police interfere, and 'move on!' is the order. The Queen's popular with me, for her opening Parliament herself. I count it her duty. The police are a great trouble. I can't say they disturb me in the place (never mind mentioning it, sir) where you've seen me, but they do in other places. They say there's no rest for the wicked; but, in the streets, there's no rest for a man trying to make an honest living, as I'm sure I do. I could pitch anywhere, one time.

My chief dependence is on working-men, who buys my nuts to take home to their young 'uns. I never sell for parties, or desserts, that I know of. I take very little from boys—very little. The women of the town buy hardly any of me. I used to sell a good many pigs to them, in some of the streets about Brunswick-square; kept misses, and such like—and very pleasant customers they was, and good pay: but that's all over now. They never 'bated me—never.

To make about lbs. of the gingerbread-nuts sold by my informant, takes lbs. of treacle, ; lbs. of flour, ; lb. of ginger, ; and lb. of allspice, From to dozen of small nuts go to the pound. This quantity, at a penny, reckoning dozen to a pound, realises about per pound; or about for an outlay of The expense of baking, however, and of "appurtenances," reduces the profit to little more than cent. per cent.

The other nut-sellers in the streets vend the "almond nuts." Of these vendors there are not less than ; of them, buy their goods of the bakers (what they sell for costing them ), and the other make their own. The materials are the same as those of the gingerbread, with the addition of lbs. of butter, per lb.; lb. of almonds, ; and lbs. of volatile salts, Out of this material, lbs. of "almond nuts" may be made. A split almond is placed in the centre of each of these nuts; and, as they are times as large as the gingerbread nuts, a penny is the price. To sell dozen a day—and so clearing —is accounted a "very tidy day's work." With the drawback of wet weather, the average weekly earnings of the almond nut-sellers are, perhaps, the same as the gingerbread nut man's— weekly. These almond nut-sellers are, for the most part, itinerant, their localities of sale being the same as in the "cake and tart" line. They carry their goods, neatly done up in paper, on trays slung from the shoulder. The gingerbreadnuts are carried in a large basket, and are ready packed in paper bags.

Some of the "almond" men call at the public-houses, but the sale in such places is very small. Most of those who make their own nuts have been brought up as bakers—a class of workmen who seem to resort and adapt themselves to a street trade more readily than others. The nuts are baked in the usual way, spread on tin trays. To erect a proper oven for the purpose costs about , but most of the men hire the use of .

I have already specified the materials required to make lb. of gingerbread nuts, the cost being To that, the capital required to start in the business must be added, and this consists of basket, ; baize cloth, ; pan for dough, ; rolling-pin, , and baking-tins, In all about To begin in a small way in the "almond" line, buying the nuts ready made, requires as capital: tray, ; leather strap, ; baize, ; stock-money, —in all The sale is prosecuted through the year, but hot weather is unfavourable to it, as the nuts then turn soft.

Calculating that of these street-dealers take each weekly (clearing ), we find spent yearly in "spice" nuts in the streets of London.

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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