London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street-Sellers of Snails, Frogs, Worms, Snakes, Hedgehogs, Etc.
I CLASS together these several kinds of live creatures, as they are all "gathered" and sold by the same persons—principally by the men who supply bird-food, of whom I have given accounts in my statements concerning groundsel, chickweed, plaintain, and turf-selling.
The principal , however, are the turf-cutters, who are young and active men, while the groundsel-sellers are often old and infirm and incapable of working all night, as the necessities of the snail-trade often require. Of turf-cutters there were, at the time of my inquiry last winter, in London, and of these full - are regular purveyors of snails, such being the daintier diet of the caged blackbirds and thrushes. These men obtain their supply of snails in the marketgardens, the proprietors willingly granting leave to any known or duly recommended person who will rid them of these depredators. -eighths of the quantity gathered are sold to the bird-dealers, to whom the price is a quart. The other is sold on a street round at from to the quart. A quart contains at least snails, not heaped up, their shells being measured along with them. man told me there were " snails to a fair quart."
When it is moonlight at this season of the year, the snail gatherers sometimes work all night; at other times from an hour before sunset to the decline of daylight, the work being resumed at the dawn. To gather quarts in a night, or a long evening and morning, is accounted a prosperous harvest. Half that quantity is "pretty tidy." An experienced man said to me:—
I am informed that the snail gatherers on the average gather dozen quarts each in a year, which supplies a total of quarts, or individually, snails. The labourers in the gardens, I am informed, may gather somewhat more than an equal quantity,—all being sold to the bird-shops; so that altogether the supply of snails for the caged thrushes and blackbirds of London is about millions and a half. Computing them at quarts, and only at a quart, the outlay is per annum.
The sold by street-people are, at the rate of about dozen a year, disposed of in equal proportion to University and King's Colleges. Only men collect the frogs, for each hos-
|pital. They are charged each:—"I've sometimes," said of the frog-purveyors, "come on a place where I could have got or dozen in a day, but that's mostly been when I didn't want them. At other times I've gone days without collaring a single frog. I only want them times a year, and or dozen at a time. The low part of Hampstead's the best ground for them, I think. The doctors like big fellows. They keep them in water 'til they're wanted to dissect." man thought that there might be more frogs or upwards ordered yearly, through the birdshops, for experiments under air-pumps, &c. This gives about frogs sold yearly by the streetpeople. year, however, I was told, the supply was larger, for a Camberwell gentleman ordered frogs to stock a watery place at the foot of his garden, as he liked to hear and see them.|
The trade is almost a nonentity. man, who was confident he had as good a trade in that line as any of his fellows, told me that last year he only supplied toad; in year, he forgot the precise time, he collected . He was confident that from to a year was now the extent of the toad trade, perhaps . There was no regular price, and the men only "work to order." "It's just what the shopkeeper, mostly a herbalist, likes to give." I was told, from to according to size. "I don't know what they're wanted for, something about the doctors, I believe. But if you want any toads, sir, for anything, I know a place between Hampstead and Willesden, where there's real stunners."
are collected in small quantities by the street-sellers, and very grudgingly, for they are to be supplied gratuitously to the shopkeepers who are the customers of the turf-cutters, and snail and worm collectors. "They expects it as a parquisite, like." man told me that they only gathered ground worms for the bird-fanciers.
Of the and I have already spoken, when treating of the collection of birds'nests. I am told that some few are collected.