London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry

1851

Of the Street-Sellers of Sand.

kinds of sand only are sold in the streets, scouring or floor sand, and bird sand for birds. In scouring sand the trade is inconsiderable to what it was, saw-dust having greatly superseded it in the gin-palace, the tap-room, and the butcher's shop. Of the supply of sand, a man, who was working at the time on Hampstead-heath, gave the following account:—"I've been employed here for -and- years, under Sir Thomas Wilson. Times are greatly changed, sir; we used to have from to carts a day hawking sand, and taking or men to fill them every morning; besides large quantities which went to brass-founders, and for cleaning dentists' cutlery, for stone-sawing, lead and silver casting, and such like. This heath, sir, contains about every kind of sand, but Sir Thomas won't allow us to dig it. The greatest number of carts filled now is or a day, which I fill myself. Sir Thomas has raised the price from to a load, of about tons. Bless you, sir, some years ago, might go into St. Luke's, and sell or cart-loads of housesand a week; now, a man may roar himself hoarse, and not sell a load in a fortnight. Sawdust is used in all the public-houses and ginpalaces. People's sprung up who don't use sand at all; and many of the old people are too poor to buy it. The men who get sand here now are old customers, who carry it all over the town, and round Holloway, , and such parts. year ago I would have taken here or in a morning, to-day I have only taken Fine weather is greatly against the sale of house-sand; in wet, dirty weather, the sale is greater."

street sand-seller gave the following account of his calling:—

I have been in the sand business, man and boy, for 40 years. I was at it when I was 12 years old, and am now 52. I used to have two carts hawking sand, but it wouldn't pay, so I have just that one you see there. Hawking sand is a poor job now. I send two men with that'ere cart, and pay one of'em 3s. 4d. and the other 3s. a day. Now, with beer-money, 2s. a week, to the man at the heath, and turnpike gates, I reckon every load of sand to cost me 5s. Add to that 6s. 4d. for the two men, the wear and tear, and horse's keep (and, to do a horse justice, you cannot in these cheap times keep him at less than 10s. a week, in dear seasons, it will cost 15s.), and you will find each load of sand stands me in a good sum. So suppose we get a guinea a load, you see we have no great pull. Then there's the licence, 8l. a year. Many years ago we resisted this, and got Mr. Humphreys to defend us before the magistrates at Clerkenwell; but we were 'cast,' several hawkers were fined 10l., and I was brought up before old Sir Richard Birnie, at Bow-street, and had to find bail that I would not sell another bushel of sand till I took out a licence. Soon after that Sir Thomas Wilson shut up the heath from us; he said he would not have it cut about any more, for that a poor animal could not pick up a crumb without being in danger of breaking its leg. This was just after we took out our licences, and, as we'd paid dearly for being allowed to sell the sand, some of us, and I was one, we waited upon Sir Thomas, and asked to be allowed to work out our licences, which was granted, and we have gone on ever since. My men work very hard for their money, sir; they are up at 3 o'clock of the morning, and are knocking about the streets, perhaps till 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening.

The yellow house-sand is also found at Kingsland, and at the Kensington Gravel-pits; but at the latter place street-sellers are not supplied. The sand here is very fine, and mostly disposed of to plasterers. There is also some of this kind of sand at Wandsworth. In the street-selling of house-sand, there are now not above men employed, and few of these trade on their own account. Reckoning the horses and carts employed in the trade at the same price as our Camden-town informant sets on his stock, we have horses, at each, and carts, at each, with baskets to each, at apiece, making a total of of capital employed in the carrying machinery of the street-selling of sand. Allowing a day for each man, the wages would amount for men to weekly; and the expenses for horses' keep, at a head, would give, for horses, weekly, making a total of weekly, or an annual expenditure for man and horse of Calculating the sale at a load per day, for each horse and cart, at a load, we have annually expended in the purchase of house or floor-sand.

or the fine and dry sand required for the use of cage-birds, is now obtained altogether of a market gardener in Hackney. It is sold at the barrow-load; as much being shovelled on to a coster's barrow "as it will carry." A good-sized barrow holds bushels; a smaller size, bushels, and the buyer is also the shoveller. -fourths of the quantity conveyed by the street-sellers from Hackney is sold to the bird-shop keepers at for pecks. The remainder is disposed of to such customers as purchase it in the street, or is delivered at private houses, which receive a regular supply. The usual charge to the general public is a halfpenny or a penny for sand to fill any vessel brought to contain it. A penny a gallon is perhaps an average price in this retail trade.

A man, "in a good way of business," disposes of a barrow-load once a week; the others once a fortnight. In wet or windy weather great care is necessary, and much trouble incurred in supplying this sand to the street-sellers, and again in their vending it in the streets. The street-vendors are the same men as supply the turf, &c., for cagebirds, of whom I have treated, p. , vol. i. They are in number, and although they do not all supply sand, a matter beyond the strength of the old and infirm, a few costermongers convey a barrow-load of sand now and then to the birdsellers, and this addition ensures the weekly supply of barrow-loads. Calculating these at the wholesale, or bird-dealer's price— a barrow being an average—we find yearly expended in this sand. What is vended at costs but at the wholesale price; but the profit is hardly earned considering the labour of wheeling a heavy barrow of sand for miles, and the trouble of keeping over night what is unsold during the day.

 
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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