Flushing the Sewers
The next step in our inquiry—and that which at present concerns us more than any other—is the mode of removing the solid deposits from the sewers, as well as the condition of the workmen connected with that particular branch of labour. The sewers are the means by which a larger proportion of the wet refuse of the metropolis is removed from our houses, and we have now to consider the means by which the more solid part of this refuse is removed from the sewers themselves. The latter operation is quite as essential to health and cleanliness as the former; for to allow the filth to collect in the channels which are intended to remove it, and there to remain decomposing and vitiating the atmosphere of the metropolis, is manifestly as bad as not to remove it at all; and since the more solid portions of the sewage will collect and form hard deposits at the bottom of each duct, it becomes necessary that some means should be devised for the periodical purgation of the sewers themselves.
The Old-Clothes Man
Fifty years ago the appearance of the street-Jews, engaged in the purchase of second-hand clothes, was different to what it is at the present time. The Jew then had far more of the distinctive garb and aspect of a foreigner. He not unfrequently wore the gabardine, which is never seen now in the streets, but some of the long loose frock coats worn by the Jew clothes’ buyers resemble it. At that period, too, the Jew’s long beard was far more distinctive than it is in this hirsute generation.
In other respects the street-Jew is unchanged. Now, as during the last century, he traverses every street, square, and road, with the monotonous cry, sometimes like a bleat, of “Clo’! Clo’!”
The Mud Lark
There is another class who may be termed river-finders, although their occupation is connected only with the shore; they are commonly known by the name of “mud-larks,” from being compelled, in order to obtain the articles they seek, to wade sometimes up to their middle through the mud left on the shore by the retiring tide.
Among the mud-larks may be seen many old women, and it is indeed pitiable to behold them, especially during the winter, bent nearly double with age and infirmity, paddling and groping among the wet mud for small pieces of coal, chips of wood, or any sort of refuse washed up by the tide.
The Milkmaids Garland
The London Sweep
Or, to check the estimate another way, there are 350 master sweepers throughout London. A master sweeper in a “large way of business” collects, I am informed, one day with another, from 30 to 40 bushels of soot; on the other hand, a small master, or “single-handed” chimney-sweeper is able to gather only about 5 bushels, and scarcely that. One master sweeper said that about 10 bushels a day would, he thought, be a fair average quantity for all the masters, reckoning one day with another; so that at this rate we should have 1,095,500 bushels for the gross quantity of soot annually collected throughout the metropolis.
The London Scavenger
These men, for by far the great majority are men, may be divided, according to the nature of their occupations, into three classes:—
1. The bone-grubbers and rag-gatherers, who are, indeed, the same individuals, the pure-finders, and the cigar-end and old wood collectors.
2. The dredgermen, the mud-larks, and the sewer-hunters.
3. The dustmen and nightmen, the sweeps and the scavengers.
The London Dustman
Were the collection of mud and dust carried on by a number of distinct individuals—that is to say, were each individual dustman and scavenger to collect on his own account, there is no doubt that no one man could amass a fortune by such means—while if the collection of bones and rags and even dogs’-dung were carried on “in the large way,” that is to say, by a number of individual collectors working for one “head man,” even the picking up of the most abject refuse of the metropolis might become the source of great riches.
The Irish Crossing Sweeper
his man, a native of “County Corruk,” has been in England only two years and a half. He wears a close-fitting black cloth cap over a shock of reddish hair; round his neck he has a coloured cotton kerchief, of the sort advertised as “Imitation Silk.” His black coat is much torn, and his broom is at present remarkably stumpy. He waits quietly at the post opposite St. ——’s Church, to receive whatever is offered him. He is unassuming enough in his manner, and, as will be seen, not even bearing any malice against his two enemies, “The Swatestuff Man” and “The Switzer.”
The Crossing sweeper that has been a maid servant
She is to be found any day between eight in the morning and seven in the evening, sweeping away in a convulsive, jerky sort of manner, close to —— square, near the Foundling. She may be known by her pinched-up straw bonnet, with a broad, faded, almost colourless ribbon. She has weak eyes, and wears over them a brownish shade. Her face is tied up, because of a gathering which she has on her head. She wears a small, old plaid cloak, a clean checked apron, and a tidy printed gown.
The Crippled Street Bird Seller
The Boy Crossing Sweepers
The Bone Grubber
The Bone Grubbers go abroad daily to find in the streets, and carry away with them such things as bones, rags, “pure” (or dogs’-dung), which no one appropriates. These they sell, and on that sale support a wretched life.
The Bearded Crossing sweeper at the Exchange
That portion of the London street-folk who earn a scanty living by sweeping crossings constitute a large class of the Metropolitan poor. We can scarcely walk along a street of any extent, or pass through a square of the least pretensions to “gentility,” without meeting one or more of these private scavengers. Crossing-sweeping seems to be one of those occupations which are resorted to as an excuse for begging; and, indeed, as many expressed it to me, “it was the last chance left of obtaining an honest crust.”
The advantages of crossing-sweeping as a means of livelihood seem to be:
1st, the smallness of the capital required in order to commence the business;
2ndly, the excuse the apparent occupation it affords for soliciting gratuities without being considered in the light of a street-beggar;
And 3rdly, the benefits arising from being constantly seen in the same place, and thus exciting the sympathy of the neighbouring householders, till small weekly allowances or “pensions” are obtained.
The Able-Bodied Pauper street sweeper
It seems indeed, from all I could learn on the subject, that pauper street-work, even at the best, is unwilling and slovenly work, pauper workmen being the worst of all workmen. If the streets be swept clean, it is because a dozen paupers are put to the labour of eight, nine, or ten regular scavagers who are independent labourers, and who may have some “pride of art,” or some desire to show their employers that they are to be depended upon. This feeling does not actuate the pauper workman, who thinks or knows that if he did evince a desire and a perseverance to please, it would avail him little beyond the sneers and ill-will of his mates; so that, even with a disposition to acquire the good opinion of the authorities, there is this obstacle in his way, and to most men who move in a circumscribed sphere it is a serious obstacle.
Street Seller of Birds Nests
“I am a seller of birds’-nesties, snakes, slow-worms, adders, ‘effets’—lizards is their common name—hedgehogs (for killing black beetles); frogs (for the French—they eats ’em); snails (for birds); that’s all I sell in the summer-time.
The “Street Orderlies.”—These men present another distinct body. They are not merely in the employment, but many of them are under the care, of the National Philanthropic Association, which was founded by, and is now under the presidency of, Mr. Cochrane. The objects of this society, as far as regards the street orderlies’ existence as a class of scavengers, are sufficiently indicated in its title, which declares it to be “For the Promotion of Street Cleanliness and the Employment of the Poor; so that able-bodied men may be prevented from burthening the parish rates, and preserved independent of workhouse alms and degradation. Supported by the contributions of the benevolent.”
One of the few remaining climbing sweeps
Means of Cleaning Cesspools by pump and hose
Nightmen, or those who remove the contents of the cesspools.
View of a Dust Yard
A dust-heap, therefore, may be briefly said to be composed of the following things, which are severally applied to the following uses:—
1. “Soil,” or fine dust, sold to brickmakers for making bricks, and to farmers for manure, especially for clover.
2. “Brieze,” or cinders, sold to brickmakers, for burning bricks.
3. Rags, bones, and old metal, sold to marine-store dealers.
4. Old tin and iron vessels, sold for “clamps” to trunks, &c., and for making copperas.
5. Old bricks and oyster shells, sold to builders, for sinking foundations, and forming roads.
6. Old boots and shoes, sold to Prussian-blue manufacturers.
7. Money and jewellery, kept, or sold to Jews.
The Street Dog Seller
The live animals sold in the streets include beasts, birds, fish, and reptiles, all sold in the streets of London.
The Rubbish Carter
Technologically there are several varieties of “rubbish,” or rather “dirt,” for such appears to be the generic term, of which “rubbish” is strictly a species. Dirt, according to the understanding among the rubbish-carters, would seem to consist of any solid earthy matter, which is of an useless or refuse character. This dirt the trade divides into two distinct kinds, viz.:—
1. “Soft dirt,” or refuse clay (of which “dry dirt,” or refuse soil or mould, is a variety).
2. “Hard-dirt,” or “hard-core,” consisting of the refuse bricks, chimney-pots, slates, &c., when a house is pulled down, as well as the broken bottles, pans, pots, or crocks, and oyster-shells, &c., which form part of the contents of the dustman’s cart.
The Rat catchers of the Sewers
The live animals sold in the streets include beasts, birds, fish, and reptiles, all sold in the streets of London.
The One-legged sweeper at Chancery Lane
The Groundsel Man
“Chick-weed and Grun-sell!”
Fourteen or fifteen years ago, although seeds, generally, were fifteen to twenty per cent. dearer than they are now, there was twice the demand for them. An average price of good mignonette seed, he said, was now 1s. the quarter of a pound, and it was then 1s. 2d. to 1s. 6d. The shilling’s worth, is made, by the street-seller, into twenty or twenty-four pennyworths. An average price of parsley, and of the cheaper seeds, is less than half that of mignonette. Other seeds, again, are not sold to the street-people by the weight, but are made up in sixpenny and shilling packages. Their extreme lightness prevents their being weighed to a customer. Of this class are, the African marigold, the senecios (groundsel), and the china-aster; but of these compound flowers, the street-traders sell very few.
The life of the coster-girls is as severe as that of the boys. Between four and five in the morning they have to leave home for the markets, and sell in the streets until about nine. Those that have more kindly parents, return then to breakfast, but many are obliged to earn the morning’s meal for themselves. After breakfast, they generally remain in the streets until about ten o’clock at night; many having nothing during all that time but one meal of bread and butter and coffee, to enable them to support the fatigue of walking from street to street with the heavy basket on their heads. In the course of a day, some girls eat as much as a pound of bread, and very seldom get any meat, unless it be on a Sunday.
The Coster Boy and Girl Tossing the pieman
The itinerant trade in pies is one of the most ancient of the street callings of London. The meat pies are made of beef or mutton; the fish pies of eels; the fruit of apples, currants, gooseberries, plums, damsons, cherries, raspberries, or rhubarb, according to the season—and occasionally of mince-meat. A few years ago the street pie-trade was very profitable, but it has been almost destroyed by the “pie-shops,” and further, the few remaining street-dealers say “the people now haven’t the pennies to spare.” Summer fairs and races are the best places for the piemen.
To “toss the pieman” is a favourite pastime with costermongers boys and all that class; some of whom aspire to the repute of being gourmands, and are critical on the quality of the comestible. If the pieman win the toss, he receives 1d. without giving a pie; if he lose, he hands it over for nothing.
The Blind Boot-Lace Seller
The Baked Potato Man
“Baked ’taturs! All ’ot, all ’ot!”
The baked potato trade, in the way it is at present carried on, has not been known more than fifteen years in the streets. Before that, potatoes were sometimes roasted as chestnuts are now, but only on a small scale. The trade is more profitable than that in fruit, but continues for but six months of the year.
The Wallflower Girl
For the flowers of commoner or easier culture, the root-seller receives from 1d. to 3d. These are primroses, polyanthuses, cowslips (but in small quantities comparatively), daisies (single and double,—and single or wild, daisies were coming to be more asked for, each 1d.), small early wallflowers, candy-tufts, southernwood (called “lad’s love” or “old man” by some), and daffodils, (but daffodils were sometimes dearer than 3d.).
The Street Stationer
These street-sellers are a numerous body, and the majority of them show a greater degree of industry and energy than is common to many classes of street-folk. They have been for the most part connected with the paper, newspaper, or publishing trade, and some of them have “known better days.”
The Street Seller of Walking sticks
The trade is a summer and a Sunday trade. The best localities are the several parks, and the approaches to them,
The Street Seller of Nutmeg Graters
Many of those who have lost an arm, or a leg, or a hand, turn showmen, or become sellers of small metal articles, as knives or nutmeg-graters; and many who have been born cripples may be seen in the streets struggling for self-support. But all who are driven to the streets have not been physically disabled for labour. Some have been reduced from their position as tradesmen or shopmen; others, again, have been gentlemen’s servants and clerks; all, dragged down by a series of misfortunes, sometimes beyond their control, and sometimes brought about by their own imprudence or sluggishness
The Street Seller of Grease Removing composition
The persons engaged in this trade carry it on with a regular patter. One man’s street announcement is in the following words: “Here you have a composition to remove stains from silks, muslins, bombazeens, cords, or tabarets of any kind or colour. It will never injure nor fade the finest silk or satin, but restore it to its original colour. For grease on silks, &c., only rub the composition on dry, let it remain five minutes, then take a clothes’ brush and brush it off, and it will be found to have removed the stains. For grease in woollen cloths spread the composition on the place with a piece of woollen cloth and cold water; when dry rub it off, and it will remove the grease or stain. For pitch or tar use hot water instead of cold, as that prevents the nap coming off the cloth. Here it is. Squares of grease-removing composition, never known to fail, only 1d. each.”
The Street Seller of Dogs Collars
Two of the most profitable pitches for the sale of these articles are in the neighbourhood of the Old Swan Pier, off Thames-street, and at a corner of the Bank. Neither of these two traders confines his stock to dog-collars, though they constitute the most valuable portion of it. The one sells, in addition to his collars, key-rings, keys and chains, dog-whistles, stamps with letters engraved upon them, printer’s type, in which any name or initials may be set up, shaving-brushes, trowser-straps, razors, and a few other light articles.
The Street Seller of Crockery Ware
The goods are carried in baskets on the head, the men having pads on the cloth caps which they wear—or sometimes a padding of hay or wool inside the cap—while the women’s pads are worn outside their bonnets or caps, the bonnet being occasionally placed on the basket. The goods, though carried in baskets on the head to the locality of the traffic, are, whilst the traffic is going on, usually borne from house to house, or street to street, on the arm, or when in large baskets carried before them by the two hands.
The Street Rhubarb and Spice Seller
The Oyster StallThe trade in oysters is unquestionably one of the oldest with which the London—or rather the English—markets are connected; for oysters from Britain were a luxury in ancient Rome.
Oysters are now sold out of the smacks at Billingsgate, and a few at Hungerford. The more expensive kind such as the real Milton, are never bought by the costermongers, but they buy oysters of a “good middling quality.” At the commencement of the season these oysters are 14s. a “bushel,” but the measure contains from a bushel and a half to two bushels, as it is more or less heaped up. The general price, however, is 9s. or 10s., but they have been 16s. and 18s.
The Lucifer Match Girl
The lucifer-match boxes, the most frequent in the street-trade, are bought by the poor persons selling them in the streets, at the manufacturers, or at oil-shops, for a number of oilmen buy largely of the manufacturers, and can “supply the trade” at the same rate as the manufacturer. The price is 2¼d. the dozen boxes, each box containing 150 matches. Some of the boxes (German made) are round, and many used to be of tin, but these are rarely seen now. The prices are proportionate. The common price of a lucifer box in the streets is ½d., but many buyers, I am told, insist upon and obtain three a penny, which they do generally of some one who supplies them regularly. The trade is chiefly itinerant.
The London CostermongerThe number of costermongers,—that it is to say, of those street-sellers attending the London “green” and “fish markets,”—appears to be, from the best data at my command, now 30,000 men, women, and children.
The London Coffee Stall
The coffee-stall keepers generally stand at the corner of a street. In the fruit and meat markets there are usually two or three coffee-stalls, and one or two in the streets leading to them; in Covent-garden there are no less than four coffee-stalls. Indeed, the stalls abound in all the great thoroughfares, and the most in those not accounted “fashionable” and great “business” routes, but such as are frequented by working people, on their way to their day’s labour.
The Irish Street-seller
The fruit-sellers, meaning thereby those who deal principally in fruit in the season, are the more intelligent costermongers. The calculation as to what a bushel of apples, for instance, will make in half or quarter pecks, puzzles the more ignorant, and they buy “second-hand,” or of a middle-man, and consequently dearer. The Irish street-sellers do not meddle much with fruit, excepting a few of the very best class of them, and they “do well in it,” I was told, “they have such tongue.”
Long Song Seller
“Long songs” first appeared between nine and ten years ago.
The long-song sellers did not depend upon patter—though some of them pattered a little—to attract customers, but on the veritable cheapness and novel form in which they vended popular songs, printed on paper rather wider than this page, “three songs abreast,” and the paper was about a yard long, which constituted the “three” yards of song. Sometimes three slips were pasted together. The vendors paraded the streets with their “three yards of new and popular songs” for a penny.
Hindoo Tract Seller
The sellers of religious tracts are now, I am informed, at the least, about 50, but they were at one time, far more numerous. When penny books were few and very small, religious tracts were by far the cheapest things in print. It is common, moreover, for a religious society, or an individual, to give a poor person, children especially, tracts for sale. A great many tract sellers, from 25 to 35 years ago, were, or pretended to be, maimed old soldiers or sailors. The traffic is now in the hands of what may be called an anomalous body of men. More than one half of the tract sellers are foreigners, such as Malays, Hindoos, and Negros
Dr Bokanky The Street Herbalist
“Now then for the Kalibonca Root, that was brought from Madras in the East Indies. It’ll cure the toothache, head-ache, giddiness in the head, dimness of sight, rheumatics in the head, and is highly recommended for the ague; never known to fail; and I’ve sold it for this six and twenty year. From one penny to sixpence the packet. The best article in England.”