London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Lace.


THIS trade is carried on both by itinerants and at stands, or "pitches." The itinerants, of whom I will treat, are about in number (


women and men). They usually carry their lace in boxes, or cases. It is not uncommon for the women to represent themselves as lacemakers from Marlow, or some other place in Buckinghamshire, or from Honiton, in Devonshire, while the men assert they are from Nottingham. I am informed that there are among these itinerant lacesellers women and man who really have been lacemakers. They all buy their wares at the haberdashery swag-shops.

The lace, which is the principal staple of this trade, is "edgings," or the several kinds of cheap lace used for the bordering of caps and other female requirements. Among street-people the lace is called "driz," and the sellers of it "drizfencers." It gained this slang name, I was informed, many years ago, when it was sold, and often to wealthy ladies, as rare and valuable lace, smuggled from Mechlin, Brussels, Valenciennes, or any foreign place famous, or once famous, for its manufacture. The pretended smuggled lace trade is now unknown in London, and is very little practised in the country. There is, however, still some smuggling connected with laceselling. , and sometimes , female lacesellers are also "jigger-workers." They carry about their persons pint bladders of "stuff," or "jigger stuff" (spirit made at an illicit still). "I used to supply them with it until lately," street-trader told me, "from a friend that kept a 'jigger,' and a tidy sale some of them had. Indeed, I've made the stuff myself. I knew woman, or years back, that did uncommon well at , but she got too fond of the stuff, and drank herself into the work'us. They never carried gin, for brandy was most asked for. They sold the brandy at the pint; rum at ; and whiskey at ; sometimes higher, and always trying for a pint profit, at least. O yes, sir; I know they got the prices I've mentioned, though they seem high; for you must remember that the jigger spirit is above proof, and a pint will make pints of gin-palace stuff. They sold it, I've heard them say, to ladies that liked a drop on the sly; and to some as pretended they bought that way for economy; yes, and to shopkeepers and publicans too. old lady used to give for yards of driz, and it was well enough understood, without no words, that a pint of brandy was part of them yards. But the trade that way is nothing to what it was, and gets less and less every year."

From a middle-aged woman selling laces I had the following account:—

I've been in the trade about six years, sir. Ten years back or more I was in place, and saved a little money, as a servant of all work. I married a house-painter, but trade got bad, and we both had illnesses; and my husband, though he's as good a man as need be, can't stick to anything very long at a time." (A very common failing, by the bye, with the street-folk.) "It seems not in his nature. When we was reduced very low he got on a cab—for he can turn his hand to almost anything—and after that we came to street-selling. He's now on jewellery, and I think it suits him as weil or better than anything he's tried; I do my part, and we get on middling. If we're ever pushed it's no use fretting. We had one child, and he died when he wanted just a month of three years old, and after I'd lost him I said I would never fret for trifles no more. My heart was broke for a long time—it was indeed. He was the loveliest boy ever seen, and everybody said so. I went into lace, because my husband got to know all about it, and I had no tie at home then. I was very shy and ashamed at first to go into houses, but that wears off, and I met with some nice people that bought of me and was very civil, so that encourages one. I sell nothing but lace. I never cleared more than 2s. 6d. in a day, and that only once. I suppose I clear from 3s. 6d. to 4s. 6d. a week now; perhaps, take it altogether, rather more than 4s. I have a connection, and go to the houses in and about the Regent's Park, and all the small streets near it, and sometimes Maida Hill way. I once tried a little millinery made-up things, but it didn't suit somehow, and I didn't stick to it. You see, sir, I sell my lace to very few but servant maids and small shopkeepers' wives and daughters; but then they're a better sort of people than those as has to buy everything ready made like servants has. They can use their own needles to make themselves nice and smart, and they buy of such as me to do it cheap, and they're not often such beaters down as them that buys the ready-made. I can do nothing, or next to nothing, in very wet weather. If I'm in the habit of going into a nice kitchen, perhaps the housemaid flies at me for 'bringing in all that dirt.' My husband says all women is crossest in bad weather, and perhaps servants is.

I buy my lace near Shoreditch. It's a long walk, but I think I'm best used there. I buy generally a dozen yards, from 3 1/2d. to 1s., and sometimes up to 2s. I sell the commoner at 1d. a yard, and three yards 2d.; and the better at 2d. and 3d. a yard. It's a poor trade, but it's doing something. My husband seldom earns less than 12s. a week, for he's a good salesman, and so we pay 2s. rent regular every Monday for an unfurnished room, and has the rest to live on. I have sold in the Brill on a Saturday night, but not often, nor lately I don't like it; I haven't tongue enough.

In addition to the itinerants there are about stationary lace sellers, and not less than on the Saturday evenings. The best pitches are, I am told, near the Borough-market; in Claremar- ket; the New Cut (on Saturday nights); Walworth-road; ; and , . From the best information at my command, it appears that at least half of these traders sell only lace, or rarely anything else. The others sell also net for making caps and "cauls," which are the plain portion at the back, to be trimmed or edged according to the purchaser's taste. Some sell also, with their lace, cap ribbons—plain or worked collars—and muslin, net, or worked undersleeves. Braid and gimp were formerly sold by them, but are now in no demand. The prices run from to for lace articles, and about the same for net, &c. per yard; the lowest priced are most sold.



In this stationary trade are as many men and youths as women and girls. woman, who had known street-selling for upwards of years, said she could not do half so well now as she could years ago, for the cheaper things got the cheaper people would have them. "Why, year ago," she exclaimed, "I bought a lot of 'leno' cheap—it was just about going out of fashion for caps then, I think—and Saturday night in the Cut, I cleared on it. I don't clear that in a fortnight now. I have sold to women of the town, as far as I've known them to be of that sort, but very seldom. It's not often you'll catch using a needle for theirselves. They do use their needles, I know. You can see some of them sewing at their doors and windows in , Waterloo-road, or could lately— for I haven't passed that way for some time—but I believe it's all for money down, for the slopshops. It suits the slop-shops to get work cheap anyway; and it suits the women to have some sort of occupation, which they needn't depend upon for their living."

The stationary lace sellers, for the most part, display their goods on stalls, but some spread them on a board, or on matting on the ground. Some of the men gather an audience by shouting out, " yards a penny, edging!" As at this rate the lace-seller would only clear in a dozen yards, the cry is merely uttered to attract attention. A few who patter at the trade—but far fewer than was once the case—give short measure. man, who occasionally sold lace, told me, that when he was compelled to sell for "next to no profit, and a hungry Sunday coming," he gave good shop measure, full inches to a yard. His yard wand was the correct length, "but I can do it, sir," he said with some exultation, "by palming," and he gave a jerk to his fingers, to show how he caught in the lace, and "clipped it short."

Calculating that persons in this trade each take weekly, the profit being about cent. per cent., we find expended in the streets in lace and similar commodities.

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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