London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Traffic of London.


I HAVE shown (at p. , vol. ii.) that the number of miles of streets included in the Inner District of the Metropolitan Police is .

Mr. Peter Cunningham, in his excellent "Handbook of Modern London," tells us that "the streets of the Metropolis, if put together, would measure miles in length;" but he does not inform us what limits he assigns to the said metropolis; it would seem, however, that he refers to the Outer Police District: and in another place he cites the following as the extent of some of the principal thoroughfares:—

 New-road . . 5115 yds. long, or nearly 3 miles. 
 Oxford-street . 2304 " " 1 1/2 " 
 Regent-street . 1730 " " 1 " 
 Piccadilly . . 1690 " 
 City-road . . 1690 " 
 Strand . . . 1396 " 

Of the great lines of streets parallel to the river, the extending along , , , , and Whitechapel to the Regent's-canal, Mile-end, is, says Mr. McCulloch, "above miles in length;" while that which stretches from along , the , Pall-mall East, the Strand, Fleetstreet, , , , and so on by Ratcliffe-highway to the , is, according to the same authority, about equal in length to the other. Mr. Weale asserts, as we have already seen, that the greatest length of street from east to west is about miles, and from north to south about miles. The number of streets in London is said to be , though upon what authority the statement is made, and within what compass it is meant to be applied, I have not been able to ascertain. It is calculated, however, that there are miles of gas "mains" laid down in London and the suburbs; so that adopting the estimate of the Commissioners of Police, or miles of streets, within an area of about square miles, we cannot go far wrong.

Now, as to the amount of that takes place daily over this vast extent of paved road, it is almost impossible to predicate anything definitely. As yet there are only a few crude facts existing in connection with the subject. All we know is, that the London streets are daily traversed by omnibuses—such was the number of drivers licensed by the Metropolitan Commissioners in —and about cabs—the number of drivers licensed in was , but many "cabs" have a day and night driver as well, and the Return from the Stamp and Tax Office cited below, represents the number of licensed cabriolets, in , at : besides these public conveyances, there are the private carriages and carts, so that the metropolitan vehicles may be said to employ altogether upwards of horses.

In the I said, when treating of the London omnibus-drivers and conductors: —"The average journey, as regards the distance travelled by each omnibus, is miles, and that distance is, in some cases, travelled times a day, or as it is called, ' there and back.' Some omnibuses perform the journey only times a day, and some, but a minority, a less number of times. Now, taking the average distance travelled by each omnibus at between and miles a day—and this, I am assured, on the best authority, is within the mark, while miles a day might exceed it—and computing the omnibuses running daily at , we find 'a travel,' as it was worded to me, of upwards of miles daily, or a yearly 'travel' of more than miles; an extent which is upwards of a times more than the circumference of the earth; and that this estimate in no way exceeds the truth is proved by the sum annually paid to the Excise for 'mileage,' which amounts on an average to each 'bus' per month, or collectively to per annum, and this, at per mile (the rate of duty charged), gives miles as the aggregate distance travelled by the entire number of omnibuses every year through the London streets."

The distance travelled by the London cabs may be estimated as follows:—Each driver may be said to receive on an average a day all the year through. Now, the number of licences prove that there are cab-drivers in London, and as each of these must travel at the least miles in order to obtain the daily , we may safely assert that the whole go over miles of ground a day, or, in round numbers, miles in the course of the year.



According to a return obtained by Mr. Charles Cochrane from the Stamp and Tax Office, , there were in the metropolis, in -, the following number of horses:—

 Private carriage, job, and cart horses (in London) . . . . . . 3,683 
 Ditto . . . (in Westminster) 6,339 
 Cabriolets licensed 2846 (having two horses each) . . . . . 5,692 
 Omnibuses licensed 1350 (four horses each) . . . . . . 5,500 
 Total number of horses in the metropolis 21,214 

I am assured, by persons well acquainted with the omnibus trade, that the number of omnibus horses here cited is far too low—as many proprietors employ horses to each "bus," and none less than . Hence we may fairly assume that there are at the least horses at work every day in the streets of London. Besides the horses above mentioned, it is estimated that the number daily coming to the metropolis from the surrounding parts is ; and calculating that each of the , which may be said to be at work out of the entire number, travels miles a day, the aggregate length of ground gone over by the whole would amount to miles per diem, or about miles throughout the year. There are, as we have seen, upwards of miles of streets in London. It follows, therefore, that each piece of pavement would be traversed no less than times per annum, or upwards of a times a day, by some horse or vehicle.

As I said before, the facts that have been collected concerning the absolute traffic of the several parts of London are of the most meagre description. The only observations of any character that have been made upon the subject are—as far as my knowledge goes—those of M. D'Arcey, which are contained in a French report upon the roads of London, as compared with those of Paris.

This gentleman, speaking of the relative number of vehicles passing and repassing over certain parts of the capitals, says:—"The Boulevards of Paris are the parts where the greatest traffic takes place. On the there pass, every hours, horses drawing carriages; on the , ; , ; , ; , : general average of the above, . , ; , . At London, in , opposite Her Majesty's Theatre, there pass at least carriages every hour. On London-bridge the number of vehicles passing and repassing is not less than every hour. On Westminster-bridge the annual traffic amounts to horses at the least. By this it will be seen that the traffic in Paris does not amount to -half of what it is in the streets of London."

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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