London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry

1851

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:—

The best snail grounds, sir, you may take my word for it, is in Putney and Barnes. It's the 'greys' we go for, the fellows with the shells on 'em; the black snails or slugs is no good to us. I think snails is the slowest got money of any. I don't suppose they get's scarcer, but there's good seasons for snails and there's bad. Warm and wet is best. We don't take the little 'uns. They come next year. I may make 1l. a year, or a little more, in snails. In winter there's hardly anything done in them, and the snails is on the ground; in summer they're on the walls or leaves. They'll keep six months without injury; they'll keep the winter round indeed in a proper place.

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-

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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.

 
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 Title Page
 INTRODUCTION
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
Crossing-Sweepers