London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Mud of the Streets.


THE dirt yielded by a macadamized road, no matter what the composition, is always termed by the scavengers "" what is yielded by a granite-paved way is always "" Mixed mud and "mac" are generally looked upon as useless.

I inquired of man, connected with a contractor's wharf, if he could readily distinguish the difference between "mac" and other street or mixed dirts, and he told me that he could do so, more especially when the stuff was sufficiently dried or set, at a glance. "If mac was darker," he said, "it always looked brighter than other street-dirts, as if all the colour was not ground out of the stone." He pointed out the different kinds, and his definition seemed to me not a bad , although it may require a practised eye to make the distinction readily.

Street-mud is only partially mud, for mud is earthy particles saturated with water, and in the composition of the scavenger's street-mud are dung, general refuse (such as straw and vegetable remains), and the many things which in poor neighbourhoods are still thrown upon the pavement.

In the busier thoroughfares of the metropolis— apart from the City, where there is no macadamization requiring notice—it is almost impossible to keep street "mac" and mud distinct, even if the scavengers cared more to do so than is the case at present; for a waggon, or any other vehicle, en-


tering a street paved with blocks of wrought granite from a macadamized road must convey "mac" amongst mud; both "mac" and mud, however, as I have stated, are the most valuable separately.

In a Report on the Supply of Water, Appendix No. III., Mr. Holland, Upper , Waterloo-road, is stated to have said, in reply to a question on the subject:—"Suppose the inhabitants of parish are desirous of having their streets in good order and clean: unless the adjoining districts concur, a great and unjust expense is imposed upon the cleaner parish; because every vehicle which passes from a dirty on to a clean street carries dirt from the former to the latter, and renders cleanliness more difficult and expensive. The inhabitants of London have an interest in the condition of other streets besides those of their own parish. Besides the inhabitants of , for instance, all the riders in the vehicles that daily pass through that great thoroughfare are affected by its condition; and the inhabitants of , who have to bear the cost of keeping that street in good repair and well cleansed, , may fairly feel aggrieved if they do not experience the benefits of good and clean streets when they go into other districts."

In the admixture of street-dirt there is this material difference—the dung, which spoils good "mac," makes good mud more valuable.

After having treated so fully of the roadpro- duce of "mac," there seems no necessity to say more about mud than to consider its quantity, its value, and its uses.

In the , which is about an of a mile in length, and yards in width, a load and a half of street-mud is collected daily (Sundays excepted), take the year through. As a farmer or market-gardener will give a load for common street-mud, and cart it away at his own cost, we find that were all this mud sold separately, at the ordinary rate, the yearly receipt for street alone would be This public way, however, furnishes no criterion of the general mud-produce of the metropolis. We must, therefore, adopt some other basis for a calculation; and I have mentioned the merely to show the great extent of street-dirt accruing in a largely-frequented locality.

But to obtain other data is a matter of no small difficulty where returns are not published nor even kept. I have, however, been fortunate enough to obtain the assistance of gentlemen whose public employment has given them the best means of forming an accurate opinion.

The street mud from the , it has been positively ascertained, is load each wet day the year through. , , , , the "off" parts of St. Paul's Church-yard, , , , the free bridges, with many other places where locomotion never ceases, are, in proportion to their width, as productive of street mud as the .

Were the a mile in length, it would supply, at its present rate of traffic, to the scaven- ger loads of street mud daily, or loads for the scavenger's working week. In this yield, however, I am assured by practical men, the is times in excess of the average streets; and when compared with even "great business" thoroughfares, of a narrow character, such as , , Old-change, and other thoroughfares off and , the produce of the is from to per cent. in excess.

I am assured, however, and especially by a gentleman who had looked closely into the matter —as he at time had been engaged in preparing estimates for a projected company purposing to deal with street-manures—that the miles of the City may be safely calculated as yielding daily load of street mud per mile. Narrow streets— for instance, which is about -quarters of a mile long—yield from to loads daily, according to the season; but a number of off-streets and open places, such as Longalley, Alderman's-walk, , Monument-yard, , Austin-friars, and the like, are either streets without horsethorough- fares, or are seldom traversed by vehicles. If, then, we calculate that there are miles of paved streets adjoining the City, and yielding the same quantity of street mud daily as the above estimate, and more miles in the less central parts of the metropolis, yielding only half that quantity, we find the following daily sum during the wet season:—

 150 miles of paved streets, yielding 1 1/2 load of street mud per mile . . . . 225 
 200 miles of paved streets, yielding 3/4 load of street mud per mile . . . . 150 
 Weekly amount of street mud during the wet season . . . . . 2,250 
 Total ditto for six months in the year 58,500 
 63,000 loads of street mud, at 3s. per load . . . . . . . £ 8775 

The great sale for this mud, perhaps -twentieths, is from the barges. A barge of street-manure, about - (more or less) "mac," or rather "mac" mixed with its street proportion of dung, &c., and -fourths mud, dung, &c., contains from to tons, or as many loads. These manure barges are often to be seen on the Thames, but nearly -fourths of them are found on the canals, especially the Paddington, the Regent's, and the Surrey, these being the most immediately connected with the interior part of the metropolis. A barge-load of this manure is usually sold at from to Calculating its average weight at tons, and its average sale at , the price is rather more than a load. "Common street mud," I have been informed on good authority, "fetches per load from the farmer, when he himself carts it away."

The price of the barge-load of manure is tolerably uniform, for the quality is generally the same.


Some of the best, because the cleanest, street mud —as it is mixed only with horse-dung—is obtained from the wood streets, but this mode of pavement is so circumscribed that the contractors pay no regard to its manure produce, as a general rule, and mix it carelessly with the rest. Such, at least, is the account they themselves give, and they generally represent that the street manure is, owing to the outlay for cartage and boatage, little remunerative to them at the prices they obtain; notwithstanding, they are paid to remove it from the streets. Indeed, I heard of contractor who was said to be so dissatisfied with the demand for, and the prices fetched by, his streetmanure, that he has rented a few acres not far from the Regent's Canal, to test the efficacy of street dirt as a fertilizer, and to ascertain if to cultivate might not be more profitable than to sell.

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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