London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Shopkeepers and Dealers supplied with the following Articles:—


CLOCKS—American, French, German, and English eightday dials.

WATCHES—Gold and Silver.

MUSICAL BOXES—, , , and Airs.

WATCH-GLASSES—Common Flint, Geneva, and Lunettes.

MAIN-SPRINGS—Blue and Straw-colour, English and Geneva.

WATCH MATERIALS—Of every description.

JEWELLERY—A general assortment.

SPECTACLES—Gold, Silver, Steel, Horn, and Metal Frames, Concave, Convex, Coloured, and Smoked Eyes.

TELESCOPES—, , and draws.


COMBS—Side, Dressing, Curl, Pocket, Ivory, Small- Tooth, &c.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS—Violins, Violincellos, Bows, &c., Flutes, Clarionets, Trombones, Ophoclides, Cornopeans, French-Horns, Post-Horns, Trumpets, and Passes, Violin Tailboards, Pegs, and Bridges.

ACCORDIONS—French and German of every size and style.

It must not be thought that swag-shops are mainly repositories of "fancy" articles, for such is not the case. I have described only the "windows" and outward appearances of these places— the interior being little demonstrative of the business; but the bulkier and more useful articles of swag traffic cannot be exposed in a window. In the miscellaneous (or Birmingham and Sheffield) shops, however, the useful and the "fancy" are mixed together; as is shown by the following extracts from the Circular of of the principal swag-houses. I give each head, with an occasional statement of prices. The firm describe themselves as "Wholesale, Retail, and Export Furnishing Ironmongers, General Hardwaremen, Manufacturers of Clocks, Watches, and Steel Pens, and Importers of Toys, Beads, and other Foreign Manufactures."

 Table Cutlery. 
   s. d. 
 Common knives and forks, per doz. .......... 2 0 
 Ivory-handle table knives and fork, per set of fifty-pieces ................................ 30 0 
 Tables, per doz. ............................ 15 0 
 Desserts, per doz. ........................... 11 3 
 Carvers, per pair ............................. 4 0 
 Strong wrought-iron for kitchens, per set 2s. to 6 0 
 Ditto for parlours or libraries, bright pans, 4s. 6d. to .................................. 7 0 
 Kitchen fenders, 3 ft. long, with sliding bar .. 3 0 
 Green ditto, brass tops, for bed rooms ........ 1 8 

"Britannia Metal Goods" (tea-pots, &c.), "German Silver Goods" (tea-spoons, to per dozen, &c.).

 Kitchen, each........................... 10d. to 2 0 
 Parlour ditto, brass pipes and nails.... 2s 3d. to 3 0 

Japanned goods, brass goods, iron saucepans, oval iron pots, iron tea-kettles, &c., iron stew-pans, &c. The prices here run very systematically:—

   s. d. 
 One quart .................................. 1 2 
 Three pints .................................. 1 8 
 Two quarts .................................. 2 0 
 Three quarts ................................ 3 0 
 Four quarts ................................ 3 9 
 Five quarts .................................. 4 0 

Patent enamelled saucepans, oval tin boilers, tin saucepans, tea-kettles, coffee-pots. In all these useful articles the prices range in the same way as in the iron stew-pans. Copper goods (kettles, coal-scoops, &c.), tin fish-kettles, dish-covers, rosewood workboxes, glass, brushes (tooth, hair, clothes, scrubbing, stove, shoe, japanned hearth, banister, plate, carpet, and dandy), tools, plated goods (warranted silver edges), snuffers, beads, musical instruments (accordions from to , &c.). Then come dials and clocks, combs, optics, spectacles, eye-glasses, telescopes, opera glasses, each to , China ornaments, lamps, sundries (these I give verbatim, to show the nature of the trade), crimping and goffering-machines, from , looking-glasses, pictures, &c., beads of every kind, watch-guards, shaving-boxes, guns, pistols, powder-flasks, belts, percussion caps, &c., corkscrews, to , nut-cracks, to , folding measures, each to , silver spoons, haberdashery, skates per pair to , carpet bags, each to , egg-boilers, tapers, flat and box irons, Italian irons and heaters, earthenware jugs, metal covers, tea-pots, plaited straw baskets, sieves, wood pails, camera-obscuras, medals, amulets, perfumery and fancy soaps of all kinds, mathematical instruments, steel pens, silver and German silver patent pencil-cases and leads, snuffboxes "in great variety," strops, ink, slates, metal eyelet-holes and machines, padlocks, braces, belts, Congreves, lucifers, fuzees, pocket-books, bill-cases, bed-keys, and a great variety of articles too numerous to mention.

Notwithstanding the specific character and arrangement of the "Circulars with prices," it is common enough for the swag-shop proprietors to intimate to any likely to purchase that those prices are not altogether to be a guidance, as per cent. discount is allowed on the amount of a ready-money purchase. of the largest "swags" made such an allowance to a street-seller last week.

The swag-shops (of which I state the numbers in a parenthesis) are in (their principal locality) (), (), Whitechapel (), Ratcliffe-highway (), (), Longlane, (), Fleet-lane (), Holywellstreet, Strand (), (), Comptonstreet, Soho (), Hatton-garden (), Clerkenwell (), , Borough (), New-cut (), (), (), Londonroad (), Borough-road (), Waterloo-road ()— in all ; but a person who had been upwards of years a frequenter of these places counted up others, many of them in obscure courts and alleys near , Ratcliffe Highway, &c., &c. These "outsiders" are generally of a smaller class than those I have described; "and I can tell you, sir," the same man said, "some of them—ay, and some of the big ones,


too—are real -shops still,—partly so, that is; you understand me, sir." The word "swag," I should inform my polite readers, means in slang language, "plunder."

It may be safely calculated, then, that there are swag-shops to which the different classes of street-sellers resort for the purchase of stock. Among these establishments are pot swag, stationery swag, haberdashery swag, jewellery swag, and miscellaneous swag—the latter comprise far more than half of the entire number, and constitute the warehouses which are described by their owners as "Birmingham and Sheffield," or "English and Foreign," or "English and German." It is in these last-mentioned "swags" that the class I now treat of—the street-sellers of metal manufactures—find the commodities of their trade. To this, however, there is exception. Tins for household use are not sold at the general swagshops; but "fancy tins," such as japanned and embellished trays, are vended there extensively. The street-sellers of this order are supplied at the "tin-shops,"—the number of the wholesale tinmen supplying the street-sellers is about . The principle on which the business is conducted is precisely that of the more general swag-shop; but I shall speak of them when I treat of the street-sellers of tins.

An intelligent man, who had been employed in different capacities in some of the principal swagshops, told me of which had been carried on by the same family, from father to son, for more than years. In the largest of the "swags" about "hands" are employed, in the various capacities of salesmen, buyers, clerks, travellers, unpackers, packers, porters, &c., &c. On some mornings large packages — some of small articles entirely — are received from the carriers. In week, when my informant assisted in "making up the books," the receipts were upwards of "In my opinion, sir," he said, "and it's from an insight into the business, Mr. ——'s profit on that was not less than per cent.; for he's a great capitalist, and pays for everything down upon the nail; that's more than profit in a week. Certainly it was an extra week, and there's the hands to pay,—but that wouldn't range higher than , indeed, not so high; and there's heavy rent and taxes, and rates, no doubt, and he (the proprietor is a Jew); a fair man to the trade, and not an uncharitable man—but he will drive a good bargain where it's possible; so considering everything, sir, the profits must be very great, and they are mostly made out of poor buyers, who sell it to poor people in the streets, or in small shops. It's a wonderful trade."

From the best information I could obtain I come to the conclusion that, including small and large shops, yearly is the average receipt of each—or, as it is most frequently expressed, that sum is "turned over" by the swag-shop keepers yearly. There is great competition in the trade, and much of what is called "cutting," or tradesman underselling another. The profit consequently varies from to and (rarely) per cent. Sometimes a swag-shop proprietor is "hung-up" with a stock the demand for which has ceased, and he must dispose of it as "a job lot," to make room for other goods, and thus is necessarily "out of pocket." The smaller swag-shops do not "turn over" a year. The calculation I have given shows an outlay, yearly, of at the swag-shops of London; "but," said a partner in of these establishments, "what proportion of the goods find their way into the streets, what to the shops, what to the country, and what for shipping, I cannot form even a guess, for we never ask a customer for what purpose he wants the goods, though sometimes he will say, 'I must have what is best for such or such a trade.' Say half a million turned over in a year, sir, by the warehousemen who sell to the street-people, among others, and you're within the mark."

I found the street-sellers characterize the "swags" as hard and grinding men, taking every advantage "in the way of trade." There is, too, I was told by a man lately employed in a swagshop, a constant collision of clamour and bargaining, not to say of wits, between the smarter streetsellers—the pattering class especially—and the swag-men with whom they are familiar.

The points in which the "swag-shops" resemble the "slaughter-houses," are in the traffic in work-boxes, desks, and dressing-cases.

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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