London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Markets and Trade Rights of the Costerongers, and of the Laws Affecting Them.


The next point of consideration is what are the legal regulations under which the several descriptions of hawkers and pedlars are allowed to pursue their occupations.

The laws concerning hawkers and pedlars, ( Geo. III., c. , and Geo. IV., c. ,) treat of them as identical callings. The "hawker," however, is, strictly speaking, who sells wares by them in the streets of towns, while the travels through the country with his wares, not publicly proclaiming them, but visiting the houses on his way to solicit private custom. Until the commencement of the present century—before the increased facilities for conveyance—the pedlars were a numerous body in the country. The majority of them were Scotchmen and some amassed considerable wealth. Railways, however, have now reduced the numbers to insignificance.

Hawkers and pedlars are required to pay yearly for a license, and an additional for every horse or ass employed in the conveyance of wares. The hawking or exposing for sale of fish, fruit, or victuals, does not require a license; and further, it is lawful for any "being the maker of any home manufacture," to expose it for sale in any fair or market, without a warrant. Neither does anything in either of the acts in question prohibit "any tinker, cooper, glazier, plumber, harness-mender, or other person, from going about and carrying the materials proper to their business."

The right of the costermongers, then, to "hawk" their wares through the streets is plainly inferred by the above acts; that is to say, nothing in them extends to prohibit persons "going about," unlicensed, and at their own discretion, and selling fish, vegetables, fruit, or provisions generally.

The law acknowledges none of the street "markets." These congregatings are, indeed, in antagonism to the municipal laws of London, which provide that no market, or public place where provisions are sold, shall be held within miles of the city. The law, though it permits butchers and other provisionmongers to hire stalls and standings in the flesh and other markets, recognised by custom or usage, gives no such permission as to street-trading.

The right to sell provisions from stands in the streets of the metropolis, it appears, is merely permissive. The regulation observed is this: where the costermongers or other street-dealers have been in the habit of standing to sell their goods, they are not to be disturbed by the police unless on complaint of an adjacent shopkeeper or other inhabitant. If such a person shows that the costermonger, whose stand is near his premises, is by his improper conduct a nuisance, or that, by his clamour or any peculiarity in his mode of business, he causes a crowd to gather


and obstruct the thoroughfare, the policeman's duty is to remove him. If the complaint from the inhabitants against the street-sellers be at all general the policemen of the beat report it to the authorities, taking no steps until they receive instructions.

It is somewhat anomalous, however, that the law now recognises—inferentially it is true— the right of costermongers to carry about their goods for sale. Formerly the stands were sometimes tolerated, but not the itinerancy.

The enactments of the Common-council from the time of Elizabeth are stringent against itinerant traders of all descriptions, but stringent to no purpose of prevention. In , a Common-council enactment sets forth, that "many People of badd and lewde Condicon daylie resorte from the most Parte of this Realme to the said Cyttie, Suburbes, and Places adjoininge, procuringe themselves small Habytacons, namely, Chamber-Roome for a poore Forreynor and his Familye, in a small Cottage with some other as poore as himself in the Cyttie, Suburbes, or Places adjacente, to the great Increase and Pestringe of this Cyttie with poore People; many of them proovinge Shifters, lyvinge by Cozeninge, Stealinge, and Imbeazellinge of Mens Gooddes as Opportunitye may serve them, remoovinge from Place to Place accordinglye; many Tymes runninge away, forsakinge their Wives and Children, leavinge them to the Charge of the said Cyttie, and the Hospitalles of the same."

It was towards this class of men who, by their resort to the capital, recruited the numbers of the street-sellers and public porters and others that the jealousy of the Corporation was directed. The city shop-keepers, centuries ago, complained vehemently and continuously of the injuries inflicted on their trade by itinerant dealers, complaints which led to bootless enactments. In Elizabeth's reign the Court of Common Council declared that the streets of the city should be used, as in ancient times, for the common highway, and not for the traffic of hucksters, pedlars, and hagglers. But this traffic increased, and in another enactment was accounted necessary. Oyster-wives, herbwives, tripe-wives, and all such "unruly people," were threatened with the full pains and penalties of the outraged law if they persevered in the prosecution of their callings, which are stigmatised as "a way whereby to live a more easie life than by labour." In the streetsellers were menaced with the punishments then deemed suitable for arrant rogues and sturdy beggars—whipping; and that remedy to be applied alike to males and females!

The tenor of these Vagrant Laws not being generally known, I here transcribe them, as another proof of the "wisdom" and mercy of our "ancestors" in "the good old times!"

In the year the English Parliament enacted, that, while the impotent poor should receive licenses from the justices of the peace to beg within certain limits, all men and , "being whole and mighty in body, and able to labour," if found vagrant and unable to give an account as to how they obtained their living, should be apprehended by the constables, tied to the tail of a cart , and beaten with whips through the nearest market-town, or hamlet, "till their bodies be bloody by reason of such whipping!" years afterwards it was added, that, if the individual had been once already whipped, he or she should not only be whipped again, but "also shall have the upper part of the gristle of his ear clean cut off, so as it may appear for a perpetual token hereafter that he hath been a contemner of the good order of the commonwealth." And finally, in , it was directed that any beggar convicted of being a vagabond should, after being grievously whipped, be burnt through the gristle of the right ear "with a hot iron of the compass of an inch about," unless some person should agree to take him as a servant—of course without wages —for a year; then, that if he twice ran away from such master, he should be adjudged a felon; and that if he ran away a time, he should "suffer pains of death and loss of land and goods as a felon, without benefit of clergy or sanctuary."

The only acts now in force which regulate the government of the streets, so to speak, are those best known as Michael Angelo Taylor's Act, and the & Vic., best known as the Police Act.

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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