London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Cost and Traffic of the Streets of London.


I HAVE, at page of the present volume, given a brief statement of the annual cost attending the keeping of the streets of the metropolis in working order.

The formation of the streets of a capital like London, the busiest in the world—streets traversed daily by what Cowper, even in his day, described as "the wheels" of commerce—is an elaborate and costly work.

In my former account I gave an estimate which referred to the amount dispensed weekly in wages for the labour of the workmen engaged in laying down the paved roads of the metropolis. This was at the rate of per week; that is to say, calculating the operation of relaying the streets to occupy year in every , there is no less than expended in that time among the workpeople so engaged. The sum expended in labour for the continued repairs of the roads, after being so relaid, appears to be about per week, or, in round numbers, about a year; so that the gross sum annually disbursed to the labourers engaged in the construction of the roads of London would seem to be about , that is to say, for repairing the old roads, and per annum for laying down new ones in their place.

It now remains for me to set forth the gross cost of the metropolitan highways, that is to say, the sum annually expended in both labour and materials, as well for relaying as for repairing the roads.

The granite-built streets cost, when relaid, about the mile, of yards' width, which is at the rate of the square yard, materials and labour included, the granite (Aberdeen) being per ton, and ton of "seveninch" being sufficient to cover about square yards.

The average cost of a macadamized road, materials and labour included, if constructed from the foundation, is about per street mile ( yards wide)— the superficial yard being a fair price for materials and labour.

Wood pavement, on the other hand, costs about a mile of yards' width for materials and labour, which is at the rate of the superficial yard.

The cost of , materials and labour included, is, for granite pavement about per square yard, or the street mile of yards wide; for "Macadam" it is from to , or an average of per superficial yard, which is at the rate of the street mile; while the wood pavement costs about the same for repairs as the granite.

The total cost of repairing the streets of London, then, may be taken as follows:—

 Repairing granite-built streets, per mile of ten yards wide . . 100 
 Repairing macadamized roads, per street mile . . . . . 1320 
 Repairing wood pavement, per street mile . . . . . . 100 

Or, as a total for all London,—

 Repairing 400 miles of granite-built streets, at 100l. per mile . . 40,000 
 Repairing 1350 miles of macadamized streets, at 1320l. per mile . 1,782,000 
 Repairing five miles of wood, at 100l. per mile . . . . 500 
   £ 1,822,500 

The following, on the other hand, may be taken as the total cost of the London streets:—

 Granite-built streets, per mile ten yards wide . . . . . . 11,000 
 Macadamized streets, per street mile 4,400 
 Wood " " . 9,680 

Or, as a total for the entire streets and roads of London,—

 Relaying 400 miles of granite-built streets, at 11,000l. per mile . . 4,400,000 
 Relaying 1350 miles of macadamized streets, at 4400l. per mile . 5,940,000 
 Relaying five miles of wood-built streets, at 9680l. . . . 48,400 
   £ 10,388,400 

But the above refers only to the road, and besides this, there is, as a gentleman to whom I am much indebted for valuable information on the subject, reminds me, the foot paving, granite curb, and granite channel not included. The usual price for is per foot superficial,


when laid—granite curb per foot run, and granite channel per square yard.

Now, presuming that three-fourths of the roads," says my informant, "have paved footpaths on each side at an average width of six feet exclusive of curb, and that one-half of the macadamized roads have granite-channels on each side, and that one-third of all the roads have granite curb on each side; these items for 400 miles of granite road, 1350 macadamized, and 5 miles of wood—together 1755 miles—will therefore amount to £ s. d. Three-fourths of 1755 miles of streets paved on each side, six feet wide, at 8d. per foot superficial . . . . 2,779,392 0 0 One-half of 1350 miles of macadamized roads with one foot of granite channel on each side, at 12s. per yard square . 458,537 4 5 One-third of 1755 miles of road with granite curb on each side, at 1s. 7d. per foot run . 489,060 0 0 -------------- 3,726,989 4 5 Cost of constructing 1755 miles of roadway . . . 10,388,400 0 0 -------------- Total cost of constructing the streets of London . . £ 14,115,389 4 5

Accordingly the original cost of the metropolitan pavements exceeds fourteen millions sterling, and, calculating that this requires renewal every five years, the gross annual expenditure will be at the rate of 2,500,000l. per annum, which, added to 1,822,500l., gives 4,322,500l., or upwards of four millions and a quarter sterling for the entire annual cost of the London roadways.

From rather extensive experience," adds my informant, "in building operations, and consequently in making and paying for roads, I am of opinion that the amount I have shown is under rather than above the actual cost.

In a great many parts of the metropolis the roads are made by the servants of a body of Commissioners appointed for the purpose; and from dear bought experience I can say they are a public nuisance, and would earnestly caution speculating builders against taking building ground or erecting houses in any place where the roads are under their control. The Commissioners are generally old retired tradesmen, and have very little to occupy their attention, and are often quite ignorant of their duties; I have reason to believe, too, that some of them even use their little authority to gratify their dislike to some poor builder in their district, by meddling and quibbling, and while that is going on the houses which have been erected can neither be let nor sold; so that as the bills given for the materials keep running, the builder, when they fall due, is ruined, for his creditors will not take his unlet houses for their debts, and no one else will purchase them until let, for none will rent them without proper accesses. I feel certain that in those parts where the roads are made by Commissioners three times more builders, in proportion to their number, get into difficulties than in the districts where they are permitted to make the roads themselves.

The paved ways and roads of London, then, it appears, cost in round numbers sterling, and require nearly to be expended upon them annually for repairs.

But this is not the sole expense attendant upon the construction of the streets of the metropolis. Frequently, in the formation of new lines of thoroughfare, large masses of property have to be bought up, removed, and new buildings erected at considerable cost. In a return made pursuant to an order of the Court of Common Council, dated , for "An account of all moneys which have been raised for public works executed, buildings erected, or street improvements effected, out of the Coal Duties receivable by the Corporation of London in the character of trustees for administration or otherwise, since the same were made chargeable by Parliament for such purposes in the year ," the following items are given relating to the cost of the formation of new streets and improvements of old ones:—

 Street Improvements forming New Thoroughfares. 
   Amount raised for Public Works, &c. 
   £ s. d. 
 Building the bridge across the river Thames, from Blackfriars, in the city of London, to Upper Ground-street, in the county of Surrey, now called Blackfriars Bridge, and forming the avenues thereto, and embanking the north abutment of the said bridge— (Entrusted to the Corporation of the city of London) . . . . . 210,000 0 0 
 Making a new line of streets from Moorfields, opposite Chiswell-street, towards the east into Bishopsgate-street (now Crown-street and Sun-street), also from the east end of Chiswellstreet westward into Barbican—(Corporation of the city of London) . . 16,500 0 0 
 Making a new street from Crispin-street, near Spitalfields Church, into Bishopsgate-street (now called Union-street), in the city of London and in the county of Middlesex—(Commissioners named in Act 18, George III., c. 78) . 9,000 0 0 
 Opening communications between Wapping-street and Ratcliffe-highway, and between Old Gravel-lane and Virginiastreet, all in the county of Middlesex —(Commissioners appointed under Act 17, Geo. III., c. 22) . . . 1,000 0 0 
 Formation of Farringdon-street, removal of Fleet-market, and erection of Farringdon-market, in the city of London —(Corporation of the city of London). 250,000 0 0 
 Formation of a new street from the end of Coventry-street to the junction of Newport-street and Long acre (Cranbourn-street), continuing the line of street from Waterloo Bridge, already completed to Bow-street (Upper Wellington-street), and thence northward into Broad-street, Holborn, and thence to Charlotte-street, Bloomsbury, extending Oxford-street in a direct line through St. Giles's, so as to communicate with Holborn at or near Southampton-street (New Oxford-street); also widening the northern and Brought forward . . 486,500 0 0 
 southern extremities of Leman-street, Goodman's-fields, and forming a new street from the northern side of Whitechapel to the front of Spitalfields Church (Commercial-street), and forming a new street from Rosemary-lane to East Smithfield, near to the entrance of the London-docks; also formation of a street from the neighbourhood of the Houses of Parliament towards Buckingham Palace, in the city of Westminster (Victoriastreet), all in the county of Middlesex; also formation of a line of new street between Southwark and Westminster Bridges, in the county of Surrey— (Her Majesty's Commissioners of Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues) 665,000 0 0 
 NOTE.—The Commissioners of Her Majesty's Woods have been authorised to raise further moneys on the credit of the duty of 1d. per ton for further improvements in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, but the Chamberlain is not officially cognizant of the amount.       
 Forming a new street from the northern end of Victoria-street, Holborn (formed by the Corporation to Clerkenwellgreen, all in the county of Middlesex) —(Clerkenwell Improvement Commissioners) . . . . . . 25,000 0 0 
 Formation of a new line of streets from King William-street, London Bridge, to the south side of St. Paul's Cathedral, by widening and improving Cannon-street, making a new street from Cannon-street, near Bridge-row, to Queen-street, and another street from the west side of Queen-street, in a direct line to St. Paul's-churchyard, and widening Queen-street, from the junction of the said new street to Southwark Bridge; also improving Holborn Bridge and Field-lane, and effecting an improvement in Gracechurch-street and Ship Tavernpas- sage, all in the city of London—(Corporation of the city of London) . . 500,000 0 0 
 Finishing the new street left incomplete by the Clerkenwell Improvement Commissioners, from the end of Victoriastreet, Farringdon-street, to Coppicerow, Clerkenwell, all in the county of Middlesex—(Corporation of the City of London) . . . . . . 88,000 0 0 
 Total cost of forming the abovemen- tioned new thoroughfares . . . 1,764,500 0 0 
 Improving existing Thoroughfares. 
 Improving existing approaches, and forming new approaches to new London Bridge, viz., in High-street, Tooley-street, Montague-close, Pepper-alley, Whitehorse-court, Chequercourt, Chaingate, Churchyard-passage, St. Saviour's churchyard, Carter-lane, Boar's-head-place, Fryingpan-alley, Green Dragon-court, Joyner-street, Red Lion-street, Counter-street, Three Crown-court, and the east front of the Town Hall, all in the Borough of Southwark; also ground and premises at the north-west foot of London Bridge, Upper Thames-street, Redcross-wharf, Mault's-wharf, High Timber-street and Broken-wharf, Swan-passage, Churchyard-alley, site of Fishmonger's Hall, Great Eastcheap, Little Eastcheap, Star-court, Fish-street-hill, Little Tower-street, Idol-lane, St. Mary-at-hill, Crookedlane, Miles-lane, Three Tun-alley, Warren-court, Cannon-street, Gracechurch-street, Bell-yard, Martin's-lane, Nicholas-lane, Clement's-lane, Abchurch-lane, Sherborne-lane, Swithin's-lane, Cornhill, Lombard-street, Dove-court, Fox Ordinary-court, Old Post Office Chambers, Mansionhouse- street, Princes-street, Coleman-street, Coleman-street-buildings, Moorgatestreet, London Wall, Lothbury, Tokenhouse-yard, King's Arms-yard, Great Bell-alley, Packer's-court, White's-alley, Great Swan-alley, Crown-court, George-yard, Red Lioncourt, Cateaton-street, Gresham-street, Milk-street, Wood-street, King-street, Basinghall-street, Houndsditch, Ladlane, Threadneedle-street, Aldgate High-street, and Maiden-lane, all in the City of London—(Corporation of the City of London) . . . . 1,016,421 18 1 
 Widening and improving the entrance into London near Temple-bar, improving the Strand and Fleet-street, and formation of Pickett-street, and for making a new street from the east end of Snow-hill to the bottom of Holborn-hill, now called Skinnerstreet—(Corporation of the City of London) . . . . . . 246,300 0 0 
 Widening and improving Dirty-lane and part of Brick-lane, leading from Whitechapel to Spitalfields, and for paving Dirty-lane, Petticoat-lane, Wentworth-street, Old Montague-street, Chapel-street, Princes-row, &c., all in the county of Middlesex—(Commissioners appointed by the Act 18, Geo. III., c. 80) . . . . . . 1,500 0 0 
 Widening the avenues from the Minories, through Goodman's-yard into Prescott-street, and through Swanstreet and Swan-alley into Mansellstreet, and from Whitechapel through Somerset-street into Great Mansellstreet, all in the county of Middlesex —(Commissioners named in Act 18, George III., c. 50) . . . . 1,500 0 0 
 Total cost of improving the abovementioned thoroughfares . . . 1,265,721 18 1 
 Paving the road from Aldersgate Bars to turnpike in Goswell-street, in the county of Middlesex—(Commissioners Sewers, &c., of the City of London) . 5,500 0 0 
 Completing the paving of the town borough of Southwark and certain parts adjacent—(Commissioners for executing Act 6, George III., for paving town and borough of Southwark) 4,000 0 0 
 Total cost of paving the abovemen- tioned thoroughfares . . . . 9,500 0 0 



Hence the aggregate expense of the preceding improvements has been upwards of sterling.

I have now, in order to complete this account of the cost of paving and cleansing the thoroughfares of the metropolis, only to add the following statement as to the traffic of the principal thoroughfares in the city of London, for which I am indebted to Mr. Haywood, the City Surveyor.

By the subjoined Return it will be seen that there are tides as it were in the daily current of locomotion in the City—the being at its flood at o'clock A.M., after which it falls gradually till o'clock, when it is at its lowest ebb, and then begins to rise, gradually till o'clock, when it reaches its flood, and then begins to decline once more. The point of greatest traffic in the City is London-bridge, where the conveyances passing and repassing amount to in the course of hours.


Of these it would appear, that consist of onehorse vehicles and equestrians, of twohorse conveyances, and only of vehicles drawn by more than horses. The -horse vehicles would seem to be between and times as many as the -horse, which form about - of the whole, while those drawn by more than horses constitute about onesixtieth of the entire number.

The Return does not mention the state of the weather on the several days and hours at which the observations were made, nor does it tell us whether there was any public event occurring on those days which was likely to swell or diminish the traffic beyond its usual proportions. The table, moreover, it should be remembered, is confined to the observations of only day in each locality, so that we must be guarded in receiving that which records a mere accidental set of circumstances as an example of the general course of events. It would have been curious to have extended the observations throughout the night, and so have ascertained the difference in the traffic; and also to have noted the decrease in the number of vehicles passing during a continuously wet as well as a showery day. The observations should be further carried out to different seasons, in order to be rendered of the highest value. Mr. Haywood and the City authorities would really be conferring a great boon on the public by so doing.


[] At p. 183 the sum of 18,225l. is said to be expended in repairs annually; it should have been weekly.

[] At p. 185 the traffic of London Bridge is stated to be 13,000 conveyances per hour, instead of per 12 hours.

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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