− British Isles 1800–49
Costume of the Lower Orders of London 1820
THE rabbits sold in London are chiefly brought from Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and Cambridgeshire, and the most extensive warren is at Thetford, in the former county. As much as two thousand pounds per annum are frequently given for a rabbit-warren; and thus land, which is totally unproductive on the surface, may become as valuable as the richest soil. The rabbits are brought to London in caravans, and sold in Leadenhall Market by salesmen; the principal are Mr. Fricker, Mr. M’Cabe, and Mr. Usher.
Rabbits are fattened for the tables of the opulent, after an operation has been performed on them similar to oxen; they then increase considerably in size, and are said to be more tender and better food.
The season for rabbits commences about September, and continues so four or five months. The skins of this useful and harmless animal form a very considerable article in the manufacture of hats. After the poulterers have culled the market, the refuse are purchased by the street rabbit-sellers.
THE sale of water-cresses in London is very considerable. They are brought from the neighbouring counties, frequently from a distance of twenty miles, to Covent-Garden Market, and other parts of the town, and are then retailed by the street-criers. The inhabitants use them at breakfast, and they are considered wholesome and stomachic. The number of persons that procure a livelihood by the gathering and selling of this plant is surprising. They are plucked by the diligent hands of simplers from rivulets, and are sold in market-bundles, which the retailers part into smaller ones. Our subject has been in this occupation many years, and if we may judge by his appearance of the profit of his calling, it is a sorry trade.
THE children of the street-venders, through the necessities of their parents, are employed at a very early age in selling apples, nuts, walnuts, &c.
Their purchases are made, principally at Covent-Garden and the Borough Markets, of salesmen.
On market-days, at five in the morning in summer, and between six and seven in the winter, an interesting, and no doubt a novel, scene to many, may be found at Covent-Garden; all is then hurry, bustle, and confusion, between buyers, sellers, porters, and basket-women; the latter are chiefly Irish, and attend for the purpose of carrying the purchases of green-grocers to their habitations. The harmony of the scene is sometimes broken by a battle between these women, affording no small delight to many of the beholders.
The ruddy, wholesome, and healthy look of the countrymen is here finely contrasted to the dissipated, bloated, and emaciated countenances of the spirit-drinkers of the metropolis.
BY a praiseworthy regulation of parishes the inhabitants of London are protected through the night by watchmen. In most parishes they are on watch, in March, from eight in the evening to six in the morning; in April to September, from ten to five; September to November, eight to six; from November to March, the four winter months, there is an early watch from six to twelve, and the established from twelve to seven.
It is the duty of watchmen to walk their rounds, and cry the time every half hour; not to suffer, in the dead of the night, suspicious people to loiter about; to pass distressed or intoxicated persons to their homes or the watch-house. They carry a lantern and thick stick, and have, concealed, a rattle; should any disturbance arise, wherein assistance is necessary, this they spring, which calls other watchmen to their aid.
In addition to these nightly guardians, and as a check to the neglect of them, there are patrols or serjeants; these men are better paid, and are a superior class of watchmen.
THE accompanying prinmt is a representation of the remains of the jollity of ancient times amongst the lower orders of London, on the commencement of May. Jack in the Green is here surrounded by his merry crew; the lady, with a cook’s brass ladle in one hand, and a parasol in the other, with the officious politeness of the clown to assist her in bearing the latter, is a ludicrous inconsistency, and provoked the present representation.
No more distant period than about thirty years since, the merry milk-maids, with garlands composed of expensive plats of different descriptions, enlivened the metropolis with their gambols; this is now quite obsolete, and to the sorrow of the sooty tribe, the generous bounty of Mrs. Montague, of Montague-house, Portman-square, to the chimney-sweepers, is discontinued.
HENRY THRALE was the subject from which this costume was delineated; for the last fifteen years, in Brewer’s-Yard, (commonly Dirty-Lane) in the Strand, this remarkable personage has supported himself by cleaning shoes, &c.; he was born the 25th of June, 1760, was bound apprentice from the workhouse of St. Martin’s, to a hair-dresser in Ratcliff-highway, but through a mutual dislike between him and his master’s wife, he shortly after enlisted in the sea service, and served his King and country, until the time of the commencement of his present occupation. He has been in several engagements under Admiral Barrington, in the American war, and has had the honour of fighting under Admiral Duncan, in the North-sea station, off the coast of Holland. Henry Thrale is an out-pensioner of Greenwich Hospital, and pays an annual visit there, accompanied by his wife, who takes the liberty of receiving and carrying home the pension, knowing it to be too heavy for his pocket.
THE parents of this interesting girl, from conparative independence, are reduced to the necessity of supporting themselves by making and selling matches. They live in an obscure cottage in the Edgware-road, and, if their statement is correct, have seen, and seem to merit, better days.
Match-selling is in general an excuse for begging, and frequently a cloak to dishonesty; but the innocent countenance of our present subject induces us to hope this is, with others, an exception, and may, by the assistance of her matches, kindle a flame in the bosom of some honest youth above her present station in life.
These venders are always on the look-out for bones, nails, rags, &c., which they collect together with great industry, the sale of which adds a few pence to their daily exertions.
Kennel-raking, one step below, if possible, match-selling, is the occasional employment of match-sellers. The sight of a fellow-creature, thus engaged, never fails to wound the feelings of the thoughtful and benevolent.
THIS costume was taken from a man belonging to St. Pancras; he is represented carrying the dust, by resting his basket on a flapped hat slouched over the neck and shoulders*. They carry with them a large bell, the sound of which is well understood by the inhabitants. The commissioners of the parishes of the metropolis dispose of the ashes, &c., to individuals by yearly contract, which gives the contractors the exclusive right to the dust of the respective parishes. At convenient places the ashes are sifted, by which process the bones, rags, nails, &c., are separated, and of course disposed of to the best advantage. The breeze is sold for brick-making and manure, and the cinders for heating kilns, the bones to make china and hartshorn, and the rags to the manufacturers of paper. Thus we find every part of that which appears rubbish to the housekeeper, is property of no little value to the Dustman.
It is not unusual for the sifters to find, through the negligence of servants, &c., silver spoons, and other valuables; when this happens, some contractors allow one half to their sifters, the other part they consider their right.
* These hats are the peculiar costume of coal-heavers and dustmen.
THIS Costume was delineated from WILLIAM MEAD, foreman of the HOPE, a well established and respectable Insurance Company. To an Act in the reign of Queen Anned, for preventing of fire, the public are indebted for the security given by Insurance Establishments. Each are allowed thirty men, who must be free of the Watermen and Lightermen’s Company. The principal offices in London are the Sun, Phœnix, Royal Exchange, London Union, Hand-in-Hand, Westminster, Globe, Imperial, British, Albion, Hope, Eagle, Atlas, County, Norwich Union, and National Union. In every direction of the metropolis engines are kept, and men are always on the alrt, to afford assistance, which is often done with the most intrepid and surprising dexterity, at the risk of their lives. From six in the eve to six the next morning there is a Sun Fire Patrol stationed at different parts of London, viz., Swallow-street, corner of Fleet-market, Ratcliff-highway, Horsleydown, and the Commercial-road, Lambeth; it is their duty to watch the elements, and, in case of fire, to give an immediate alarm.
THE utility of these apparently deplorable individuals is great; by their exertions fires are often prevented, manure improved, and cleanliness assisted, in the metropolis. It is much to be lamented that no mechanical substitute has yet been invented entirely to supersede the necessity of using boys in this dangerous and cruel employment, the misery of which is often increased by their masters’ severity.
The unequal lot of human beings in this world forcibly strikes the reflecting mind, on contemplating and comparing the hardships of these unfortunate boys, with those blest by the paternal and maternal care of rich, kind, and indulgent parents.
Fatherless and motherless children are apprenticed to this employ, by parish officers, at a very early age. We ought not, however, after expatiating rather fully on the dark side of the picture, to omit noticing their gala day, the first of May, when they enter, with all the spirit of those more happily situated, into this their yearly festival.
TO a well-regulated system at the General Post Office, Lombard-street, the public are indebted for the convenience of punctually receiving communications from, and conveying them to, nearly all parts of the habitable world, at a moderate expense.
The mails leave London every evening, Sunday excepted*, at eight o’clock, and arrive early in the morning; the contents of the bags are then sorted with surprising expedition, and delivered to the Postmen of the respective districts; it is their duty to be at the Post Office by six in the morning, and to deliver the letters between ten and one.
As men are generally just, honest, and regular, in proportion to the necessity, the almost universal respectability of these men in those respects is readily accounted for, as the least deviation from right would be their ruin. Each Postman finds two securities of forty pounds each; their wages are fourteen shillings per week, with the perquisite of the pence given with the letters delivered between fix and six, for which purpose they walk several times round their district ringing a bell.
THE existence of these individuals depends on the lower orders, as few persons of respectability are disposed to purchase, from a delicate association of ideas. Bull-baiting, dog and cock-fighting, boxing matches, and even public executions, are harvests for the Pieman. It would be well for the rising generation if these men were less numerous, for gambling, pilfering, and various other vices, are carried on and much encouraged by them.
It is not uncommon for Piemen to be surrounded by groups of idle men and boys gambling for the pies; disputes often happen, and improper language ensues, to the contamination of the by-standers.
In baskets similar to the annexed representation, the pies (mutton, veal, pork, and fruit) are kept hot by the heat of a small charcoal fire at the bottom of the basket. In a tiny can a savoury liquor is kept, and each purchaser is indulged with a little; what the pies and liquid is composed of seems not in the least to concern the Pieman’s customers; if they are satisfied, all is well.