London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


I have already treated of the street-commerce in such things as are presented to the public in the form in which they are to be cooked, eaten, drank, or used. They have comprised the necessaries, delicacies, or luxuries of the street; they have been either the raw food or preparations ready cooked or mixed for


immediate consumption, as in the case of the street eatables and drinkables; or else they were the proceeds of taste (or its substitute) in art or literature, or of usefulness or ingenuity in manufacture.

All these many objects of street-commerce may be classified in well-known word: they are bought and sold I have next to deal with the sellers of our streets; and in this division perhaps will be found more that is novel, curious, and interesting, than in that just completed.

Mr. Babbage, in his "Economy of Machinery and Manufactures," says, concerning the employment of materials of little value: "The worn-out saucepan and tin-ware of our kitchens, when beyond the reach of the tinker's art, are not utterly worthless. We sometimes meet carts loaded with old tin kettles and worn-out iron coal-skuttles traversing our streets. These have not yet completed their useful course; the less corroded parts are cut into strips, punched with small holes, and varnished with a coarse black varnish for the use of the trunk-maker, who protects the edges and angles of his boxes with them; the remainder are conveyed to the manufacturing chemists in the outskirts, who employ them in combination with pyroligneous acid, in making a black dye for the use of calico-printers."

Mr. Babbage has here indicated portion of the nature of the street-trade in secondhand articles—the application of worn-out materials to a new purpose. But this -hand commerce of the streets—for a street-commerce it mainly is, both in selling and buying—has a far greater extent than that above indicated, and many ramifications. Under the present head I shall treat only of street , unless when a street may be so intimately connected with a street that for the better understanding of the subject it may be necessary to sketch both. Of the STREET-BUYERS and the STREET-FINDERS, or COLLECTORS, both connected with the secondhand trade, I shall treat separately.

In London, where many, in order to live, struggle to extract a meal from the possession of an article which seems utterly worthless, nothing must be wasted. Many a thing which in a country town is kicked by the penniless out of their path even, or examined and left as meet only for the scavenger's cart, will in London be snatched up as a prize; it is money's worth. A crushed and torn bonnet, for instance, or, better still, an old hat, napless, shapeless, crownless, and brimless, will be picked up in the street, and carefully placed in a bag with similar things by class of street-folk—the STREET-FINDERS. And to tempt the well-to-do to their -hand goods, the street-trader offers the barter of shapely china or shining glass vessels; or blooming fuchsias or fragrant geraniums for "the rubbish," or else, in the spirit of the hero of the fairy tale, he exchanges, "new lamps for old."

Of the street sale of -hand articles, with all the collateral or incidental matter bearing immediately on the subject, I shall treat under the following heads, or under such heads as really constitute the staple of the business, dismissing such as may be trifling or exceptional. Of these traffickers, then, there are classes, the mere enumeration of the objects of their traffic being curious enough:—

. , such as knives, forks, and butchers' steels; saws, hammers, pincers, files, screw-drivers, planes, chisels, and other tools (more frequently those of the workers in wood than of other artisans); old scissors and shears; locks, keys, and hinges; shovels, fire-irons, trivets, chimney-cranes, fenders, and fire-guards; warming-pans (but rarely now); flat and Italian irons, curling-tongs; rings, horse-shoes, and nails; coffee and tea-pots, urns, trays, and canisters; pewter measures; scales and weights; bed-screws and keys; candlesticks and snuffers; niggards, generally called niggers (, false bottoms for grates); tobacco and snuff-boxes and spittoons; door-plates, numbers, knockers, and escutcheons; dog-collars and dog-chains (and other chains); gridirons; razors; coffee-mills; lamps; swords and daggers; gun and pistolbarrels and locks (and occasionally the entire weapon); bronze and cast metal figures; table, chair, and sofa castors; bell-pulls and bells; the larger buckles and other metal (most frequently brass) articles of harness furniture; compositors' sticks (the depositories of the type in the instance); the multifarious kinds of tin-wares; stamps; cork-screws; barrel-taps; ink-stands; a multiplicity of culinary vessels and of old metal lids; footmen, broken machinery, and parts of machinery, as odd wheels, and screws of all sizes, &c., &c.

. , such as old sheeting for towels; old curtains of dimity, muslin, cotton, or moreen; carpeting; blanketing for house-scouring cloths; ticking for beds and pillows; sacking for different purposes, according to its substance and quality; fringes; and stocking-legs for the supply of "jobbing worsted," and for re-footing.

I may here observe that in the street-trade, -hand linen or cotton is often made to pay a double debt. The shirt-collars sold, sometimes to a considerable extent and very cheap, in the street-markets, are made out of linen which has previously been used in some other form; so is it with white waistcoats and other habiliments. Of the street-folk who vend such wares I shall speak chiefly in the division of this subject, viz. the -hand street-sellers of miscellaneous articles.

. , including the variety of bottles, odd, or in sets, or in broken sets; pans, pitchers, wash-hand basins, and other crockery utensils; china ornaments; pier, convex, and toilet glasses (often without the frames); pocket ink-bottles; wine, beer, and liqueur glasses; decanters; glass fishbowls (occasionally); salt-cellars; sugar-basins; and lamp and gas glasses.

. These are such as cannot properly be classed under any of the preceding heads, and include a mass of miscellaneous commodities: Accordions and other musical instruments; brushes of all


descriptions; shaving-boxes and razor-strops; baskets of many kinds; stuffed birds, with and without frames; pictures, with and without frames; desks, work-boxes, tea-caddies, and many articles of old furniture; boot-jacks and hooks; shoe-horns; cartouche-boxes; pocket and opera glasses; rules, and measures in frames; backgammon, and chess or draught boards and men, and dice; boxes of dominoes; cribbageboards and boxes, sometimes with old packs of cards; pope-boards (boards used in playing the game of "Pope," or "Pope Joan," though rarely seen now); "fish," or card counters of bone, ivory, or mother of pearl (an equal rarity); microscopes (occasionally); an extensive variety of broken or faded things, new or long kept, such as magiclanterns, dissected maps or histories, &c., from the toy warehouses and shops; Dutch clocks; barometers; wooden trays; shells; music and books (the latter being often odd volumes of old novels); tee-totums, and similar playthings; ladies' headcombs; umbrellas and parasols; fishing-rods and nets; reins, and other parts of cart, gig, and "-horse" harness; boxes full of "odds and ends" of old leather, such as water-pipes; and a mass of imperfect metal things, which had "better be described," said an old dealer, "as from a needle to an anchor."

. , including the body habiliments, constituting alike men's, women's, boys', girls', and infants' attire: as well as hats, caps, gloves, belts, and stockings; shirts and shirt-fronts ("dickeys"); handkerchiefs, stocks, and neck-ties; furs, such as victorines, boas, tippets, and edgings; beavers and bonnets; and the other several, and sometimes not easily describable, articles which constitute female fashionable or ordinary wear.

I may here observe, that of the wares which once formed a portion of the stock of the streetsellers of the and divisions, but which are now no longer objects of street sale, were, till within the last few years, fans; back and shoulder boards (to make girls grow straight!); several things at time thought indispensable to every well-nurtured child, such as a coral and bells; belts, sashes, scabbards, epaulettes, feathers or plumes, hard leather stocks, and other indications of the volunteer, militia, and general military spirit of the early part of the present century.

Before proceeding immediately with my subject, I may say a few words concerning what is, in the estimation of some, a matter. I allude to the many uses to which that which is regarded, and indeed termed, "offal," or "refuse," or "waste," is put in a populous city. This may be evidenced in the multiform uses to which the "offal" of the animals which are slaughtered for our use are put. It is still more curiously shown in the uses of the offal of the animals which are killed, not for our use, but for that of our dogs and cats; and to this part of the subject I shall more especially confine the remarks I have to make. My observations on the uses of other waste articles will be found in another place.

What in the butcher's trade is considered the offal of a bullock, was explained by Mr. Deputy Hicks, before the last Select Committee of the on Market: "The carcass," he said, "as it hangs clear of everything else, is the carcass, and all else constitutes the offal."

The carcass may be briefly termed the quarters, whereas the offal then comprises the hide, which in the average-sized bullock that is slaughtered in London is worth ; but with the hide are sold the horns, which are worth about to the comb-makers, who use them to make their "tortoise-shell" articles, and for similar purposes. The hoofs are worth to the gluemakers, or prussiate of potash manufacturers. What "comes out of a bullock," to use the trade term, is the liver, the lights (or lungs), the stomach, the intestinal canal (sometimes yards when extended), and the gall duct. These portions, with the legs (called "feet" in the trade), form what is styled the tripe-man's portion, and are disposed of to him by the butcher for Separately, the value of the liver is , of the lights, (both for dogs'--meat), and of the legs which are worked into tooth-brush handles, dominoes, &c., The remaining is the worth of the other portion. The heart averages rather more than ; the kidneys the same; the head, ; the blood (which is "let down the drain" in all but the larger slaughtering houses) ; (being for gallons); the tallow ( stone) ; and the tail, I was told, "from nothing to ," averaging about ; the tongue, Thus the offal sells, altogether, hand, for

I will now show the uses to which what is far more decidedly pronounced "offal," and what is much more "-hand" in popular estimation, viz., a dead horse, is put, and even a dead horse's offal, and I will then show the difference in this curious trade between the Parisian and London horse offal.

The greatest horse-slaughtering establishments in France are at Montfaucon, a short distance from the capital. When the animal has been killed, it is "cut up," and the choicer portions of the flesh are eaten by the work-people of the establishment, and by the hangers--on and jobbers who haunt the locality of such places, and are often men of a desperate character. The rest of the carcass is sold for the feeding of dogs, cats, pigs, and poultry, a portion being also devoted to purposes of manure. The flesh on a horse of average size and fatness is lbs., which sells for But this is only of the uses of the dead animal.

The skin is sold to a tanner for The hoofs to a manufacturer of sal ammonia, or similar preparations, or of Prussian blue, or to a comb or toy-maker, for The old shoes and the shoe-nails are worth The hair of the mane and tail realizes The tendons are disposed of, either fresh or dried, to glue-makers for — a pound of dried tendons (separated from the muscles) being about the average per horse. The


bones are bought by the turners, cutlers, fanmakers, and the makers of ivory black and sal ammoniac, lbs. being an average weight of the animal's bones, and realizing The intestines wrought into the different preparations required of the gut-makers, or for manure, are worth

The blood is used by the sugar-refiners, and by the fatteners of poultry, pigeons, and turkeys (which devour it greedily), or else for manure. When required for manure it is dried— lbs. of dried blood, which is the average weight, being worth The fat is removed from the carcass and melted down. It is in demand for the making of gas, of soap, and (when very fine) of— bear's grease; also for the dubbing or grease applied to harness and to shoe-leather. This fat when consumed in lamps communicates a greater portion of heat than does oil, and is therefore preferred by the makers of glass toys, and by enamellers and polishers. A horse at Montfaucon has been known to yield lbs. of fat, but this is an extreme case; a yield of lbs. is the produce of a horse in fair condition, but at these slaughterhouses there are so many lean and sorry jades that lbs. may be taken as an average of fat, and at a value of per lb. Nor does the list end here; the dead and putrid flesh is made to teem with life, and to produce food for other living creatures. A pile of pieces of flesh, inches in height, layer on layer, is slightly covered with hay or straw; the flies soon deposit their eggs in the attractive matter, and thus maggots are bred, the most of which are used as food for pheasants, and in a smaller degree of domestic fowls, and as baits for fish. These maggots give, or are supposed to give, a "game flavour" to poultry, and a very "high" flavour to pheasants. horse's flesh thus produces maggots worth The total amount, then, realized on the dead horse, which may be , is as follows:—

   £ s. d. 
 The flesh . . . 1 12 6 
 The skin . . . 0 10 6 
 The hoofs . . . 0 1 4 
 The shoes and nails . 0 0 2 1/2 
 The mane and tail . . 0 0 1 1/2 
 The tendons . . 0 0 3 
 The bones . . . 0 2 0 
 The intestines . . 0 0 2 
 The blood . . . 0 1 9 
 The fat . . . 0 4 0 
 The maggots . . . 0 1 5 
   £ 2 14 3 

The carcass of a French horse is also made available in another way, and which relates to a subject I have lately treated of—the destruction of rats; but this is not a regularly-accruing emolument. Montfaucon swarms with rats, and to kill them the carcass of a horse is placed in a room, into which the rats gain access through openings in the floor contrived for the purpose. At night the rats are lured by their keenness of scent to the room, and lured in numbers; the openings are then closed, and they are prisoners. In room were killed in weeks. The Paris furriers gave from to francs for skins, so that, taking the average at of our money, rat-skins would return

In London the uses of the dead horse's flesh, bones, blood, &c., are different.

Horse-flesh is not—as yet—a portion of human food in this country. In a recent parliamentary inquiry, witnesses were examined as to whether horse-flesh was used by the sausage-makers. There was some presumption that such might be the case, but no direct evidence. I found, however, among butchers who had the best means of knowing, a strong conviction that such the case. highly-respectable tradesman told me he was as certain of it as that it was the month of June, though, if called upon to produce legal evidence proving either that such was the sausagemakers' practice, or that this the month of June, he might fail in both instances.

I found among street-people who dealt in provisions a strong, or, at any rate, a stronglyex- pressed, opinion that the tongues, kidneys, and hearts of horses were sold as those of oxen. man told me, somewhat triumphantly, as a result of his ingenuity in deduction, that he had thoughts at time of trying to establish himself in a cats'--meat walk, and made inquiries into the nature of the calling: "I'm satisfied the 'osses' arts," he said, "is sold for beastesses'; 'cause you see, sir, there's nothing as'ud be better liked for favourite cats and pet dogs, than a nice piece of 'art, but ven do you see the 'osses' 'arts on a barrow? If they don't go to the cats, vere does they go to? Vy, to the Christians."

I am assured, however, by tradesmen whose interest (to say nothing of other considerations) would probably make them glad to expose such practices, that this substitution of the equine for the bovine heart is not attempted, and is hardly possible. The bullock's heart, kidneys, and tongue, are so different in shape (the heart, more especially), and in the colour of the fat, while the rough tip of the ox's tongue is not found in that of the horse, that this -hand, or offal kind of animal food could not be palmed off upon any who had ever purchased the heart, kidneys, or tongue of an ox. "If the horse's tongue be used as a substitute for that of any other," said butcher to me, "it is for the dried reindeer's— a savoury dish for the breakfast table!" Since writing the above, I have had convincing proof given me that the horses' tongues are cured and sold as "neats." The heart and kidneys are also palmed, I find, for those of oxen!! Thus, in respect, there is a material difference between the usages, in respect of this food, between Paris and London.

tradesman, in a large way of business— with many injunctions that I should make no allusion that might lead to his being known, as he said it might be his ruin, even though he never slaughtered the meat he sold, but was, in fact, a dead salesman or a vendor of meat consigned to him— tradesman, I say, told me that he fancied there was an objection to the eating of horse-flesh among us. The horse was


quite as dainty in his food as the ox, he was quite as graminivorous, and shrunk more, from a nicer sense of smell, from anything pertaining to a contact with animal food than did the ox. The principal objection lies in the number of diseased horses sold at the knackers. My informant reasoned only from analogy, as he had never tasted horse-flesh; but a great-uncle of his, he told me, had relished it highly in the peninsular war.

The uses to which a horse's carcass are put in London are these:—The skin, for tanning, sells for as a low average; the hoofs, for glue, are worth ; the shoes and nails, ; the mane and tail, ; the bones, which in London (as it was described to me) are "cracked up" for manure, bring ; the fat is melted down and used for cart-grease and common harness oil; person acquainted with the trade thought that the average yield of fat was lbs. per horse ("taking it low"), another that it was lbs. ("taking it square"), so that if lbs. be accepted as an average, the fat, at per lb., would realize Of the tendons no use is made; of the blood none; and no maggots are reared upon putrid horse-flesh, but a butcher, who had been years a farmer also, told me that he knew from experience that there was nothing so good as maggots for the fattening of poultry, and he thought, from what I told him of maggotbreeding in Montfaucon, that we were the French in this respect.

Thus the English dead horse—the vendor receiving on an average from the knacker,— realizes the following amount, without including the knacker's profit in disposing of the flesh to the cats'--meat man; but computing it merely at we have the subjoined receipts:—

   £ s d. 
 The flesh (averaging 2 cwt., sold at 2 1/2d. per lb. . . 2 0 0 
 The skin . . . . 0 6 0 
 The hoofs . . . . 0 0 2 
 The shoes and nails . . 0 0 1 1/2 
 The bones . . . 0 1 6 
 The fat . . . . 0 1 10 
 The tendons . . . 0 0 0 
 The tongue, &c. . . --------? 
 The blood . . . . 0 0 0 
 The intestines . . . 0 0 0 
   £ 2 9 7 1/2 

The French dead horse, then, is made a source of nearly higher receipt than the English. On my inquiring the reason of this difference, and why the blood, &c., were not made available, I was told that the demand by the Prussian blue manufacturers and the sugar refiners was so fully supplied, and over-supplied, from the great cattle slaughter-houses, that the private butchers, for the trifling sum to be gained, let the blood be wasted. bullock slaughterer in Fox and Knot-yard, who kills cattle in a week, receives only for the blood of the whole number, which is received in a well in the slaughter-house. The amount paid for blood a few year's back was more than double its present rate. Under these circum- stances, I was told, it would be useless trying to turn the wasted offal of a horse to any profitable purpose. There is, I am told, on an average, horses slaughtered every week in London, and this, at each animal, would make the value of the dead horses of the metropolis amount to per annum.

Were it not that I might be dwelling too long on the subject, I might point out how the offal of the skins was made to subserve other purposes from the tan-yards; and how the parings and scrapings went to the makers of glue and size, and the hair to the builders to mix with lime, &c., &c.

I may instance another thing in which the worth of what in many places is valueless refuse is exemplified, in the matter of "waste," as waste paper is always called in the trade. Paper in all its glossiest freshness is but a reproduction of what had become in some measure "waste," viz. the rags of the cotton or linen fabric after serving their original purpose. There is a body of men in London who occupy themselves entirely in collecting waste paper. It is no matter of what kind; a small prayer-book, a once perfumed and welcome love-note, lawyers' or tailors' bills, acts of parliament, and double sheets of the , form portions of the waste dealer's stock. Tons upon tons are thus consumed yearly. Books of every description are ingredients of this waste, and in every language; modern poems or pamphlets and old romances (perfect or imperfect), Shakespeare, Molière, Bibles, music, histories, stories, magazines, tracts to convert the heathen or to prove how easily and how immensely our national and individual wealth might be enhanced, the prospectuses of a companies, each certain to prove a mine of wealth, schemes to pay off the national debt, or recommendations to wipe it off, auctioneers' catalogues and long-kept letters, children's copybooks and last century ledgers, printed effusions which have progressed no further than the unfolded sheets, uncut works and books mouldy from age— all these things are found in the insatiate bag of the waste collector, who of late has been worried because he could not supply enough! "I don't know how it is, sir," said waste collector, with whom I had some conversation on the subject of street-sold books, with which business he was also connected, "I can't make it out, but paper gets scarcer or else I'm out of luck. Just at this time my family and me really couldn't live on my waste if we had to depend entirely upon it."

I am assured that in no place in the world is this traffic carried on to anything approaching the extent that it is in London. When I treat of the street-buyers I shall have some curious information to publish on the subject. I do but allude to it here as strongly illustrative of "-hand" appliances.

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 Title Page
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Of the Streets of London
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Sweepers of Old, and the Climbing Boys
Of the Chimney-Sweepers of the Present Day
Of the General Characteristics of the Working Chimney-Sweepers
Sweeping of the Chimneys of Steam-Vessels
Of the 'Ramoneur' Company
Of the Brisk and Slack Seasons, and the Casual Trade among the Chimney- Sweepers
Of the 'Leeks' Among the Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Inferior Chimney-Sweepers -- the 'Knullers' and 'Queriers'
Of the Fires of London
Of the Sewermen and Nightmen of London
Of the Wet House-Refuse of London
Of the Means of Removing the Wet House-Refuse
Of the Quantity of Metropolitan Sewage
Of Ancient Sewers
Of the Kinds and Characteristics of Sewers
Of the Subterranean Character of the Sewers
Of the House-Drainage of the Metropolis as Connected With the Sewers
Of the London Street-Drains
Of the Length of the London Sewers and Drains
Of the Cost of Constructing the Sewers and Drains of the Metropolis
Of the Uses of Sewers as a Means of Subsoil Drainage
Of the City Sewerage
Of the Outlets, Ramifications, Etc., of the Sewers
Of the Qualities, Etc., of the Sewage
Of the New Plan of Sewerage
Of the Management of the Sewers and the Late Commissions
Of the Powers and Authority of the Present Commissions of Sewers
Of the Sewers Rate
Of the Cleansing of the Sewers -- Ventilation
Of 'Flushing' and 'Plonging,' and Other Modes of Washing the Sewers
Of the Working Flushermen
Of the Rats in the Sewers
Of the Cesspoolage and Nightmen of the Metropolis
Of the Cesspool System of London
Of the Cesspool and Sewer System of Paris
Of the Emptying of the London Cesspools by Pump and Hose
Statement of a Cesspool-Sewerman
Of the Present Disposal of the Night-Soil
Of the Working Nightmen and the Mode of Work