London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Old Wood Gatherers.


ALL that has been said of the cigar-end finders may, in a great measure, apply to the woodgatherers. No can make a living exclusively by the gathering of wood, and those who gather it, gather as well rags, bones, and bits of metal. They gather it, indeed, as an adjunct to their other findings, on the principle that "every little helps." Those, however, who most frequently look for wood are the very old and feeble, and the very young, who are both unable to travel far, or to carry a heavy burden, and they may occasionally be seen crawling about in the neighbourhood of any new buildings in the course of construction, or old ones in the course of demolition, and picking up small odds and ends of wood and chips swept out amongst dirt and shavings; these they deposit in a bag or basket which they carry for that purpose. Should there happen to be what they call "pulling-down work," that is, taking down old houses, or palings, the place is immediately beset by a number of wood-gatherers, young and old, and in general all the poor people of the locality join with them, to obtain their share of the spoil. What the poor get they take home and burn, but the wood-gatherers sell all they procure for some small trifle.

Some short time ago a portion of the woodpave- ment in the city was being removed; a large number of the old blocks, which were much worn and of no further use, were thrown aside, and became the perquisite of the wood-gatherers. During the repair of the street, the spot was constantly besieged by a motley mob of men, women, and children, who, in many instances, struggled and fought for the wood rejected as worthless. This wood they either sold for a trifle as they got it, or took home and split, and made into bundles for sale as firewood.

All the mudlarks (of whom I shall treat specially) pick up wood and chips on the bank of the river; these they sell to poor people in their own neighbourhood. They sometimes "find" large pieces of a greater weight than they can carry; in such cases they get some other mudlark to help them with the load, and the "go halves" in the produce. The only parties among the street-finders who do not pick up wood are the Pure-collectors and the sewer-hunters, or, as they call themselves, shore-workers, both of whom pass it by as of no value.

It is impossible to estimate the quantity of wood which is thus gathered, or what the amount may be which the collector realizes in the course of the year.

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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