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Posts Tagged ‘Working class’

When horses drew every imaginable wagon in London, crossing sweepers were a common sight. In some areas of town they were regarded a nuisance, for often young boys would pester a pedestrian and sweep a clear path whether that person wanted their help or not. The practice of using crossing sweepers to clean the streets of horse manure, dust, and clinging mud lasted into the early 20th century. In the mid-19th century, Henry Mayhew chronicled the lives of working people in a series of volumes entitled London Labour and the London Poor. Mayhew described a system of cleaning streets, introduced by Charles Cochrane in 1843, that instituted a more orderly system than crossing sweepers, and in which former paupers were hired so that they could support themselves.

Crossing Sweepers, 1856

Crossing Sweepers, 1856

The first demonstration or display of the street orderly system took place in Regent street between the Quadrant and the Regent circus and in Oxford street between Vert street and Charles street The streets were thoroughly swept in the morning and then each man or boy provided with a hand broom and dust pan removed any dirt as soon as it was deposited The demonstration was pronounced highly successful and the system effective in the opinion of eighteen influential inhabitants of the locality who acted as a committee and who publicly and with the authority of their names testified their conviction that the most efficient means of keeping streets clean and more especially great thoroughfares was to prevent the accumulation of dirt by removing the manure within a few minutes after it has been deposited by the passing cattle the same having hitherto remained during several days. - London Labour and the London Poor, p. 259

street sweeper

The groups of orderlies not only swept the street and removed dirt in a particular area of London (500 linear yards of a busy street, 2,000 yards of a quieter section, and 9 men in a busy intersection, like Cheapside), but they also acted as “the watchman of house property shop goods, the guardian of reticule,s pocket books, purses and watch pockets, the experienced observer and detector of pickpockets … more, he is always at hand to render assistance to both equestrian and pedestrian.” The report concluded that the street-orderly system would keep the streets of London and Westminster clean in a most satisfactory way. In return, the street-orderlies would earn a wage of 12s. Although this was a lower living wage than other workmen earned, the money lifted them out of their lives of squalor.

The system did not entirely replace the crossing sweepers, many of whom were depicted in caricatures as hounding pedestrians for services rendered. Read my article on Crossing Sweepers at this link.

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young-girl-of-spirit-constance-hillIn December 1859, Florence Nightingale wrote this letter of recommendation to Parthenope Verney:

My dear [Parthenope Verney]

It occurred to me after writing yesterday if you are going to set up a needlewoman under the housekeeper, Mary Jenkins, Bathwoman, Dr. W. Johnson’s, Great Malvern, has a niece, living at Oxford, a first-rate needlewoman, eldest girl of a very large family, who wants or wanted a place. If she is at all like my good old friend, her aunt, she would be a very valuable servant. Perhaps her needlework would be almost too good for your place. I believe she is a qualified “young lady’s maid,” though when I heard of her, she had never been “out,” i.e., in service. Perhaps she has a place. I think it answers very well in a large house to have as much as possible done at home, as little as possible “put out.”

This domestic job as needlewoman – mending, embroidering, making clothes – sounds benign compared to the custom of the Regency and Victorian eras to overwork seamstresses. While plying the needle was a common domestic activity (Jane Austen was known to possess a particular talent in this direction), working class seamstresses were appallingly overworked and underpaid, especially during the heyday of the Industrial Revolution. Many women toiled for long hours in poor lighting conditions, with some going blind from their employment. An apprentice seamstress in a milliner’s shop worked under slightly better conditions, but during the Season when demand for new and fashionable dresses was high, these women would also be pressed to work into the wee hours of the night to complete an order.

The above illustration of Jane Austen sewing comes from Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends by Constance Hill. In Chapter XX, Constance makes the following observation about Jane Austen’s skill as a needlewoman:

Her needlework was exquisite. We have seen a muslin scarf embroidered by her in satin-stitch, and have held in our hands a tiny housewife of fairy-like proportions, which Jane worked at the age of sixteen as a gift for a friend. It consists of a narrow strip of flowered silk, embroidered at the back, which measures four inches by one and a quarter, and is furnished with minikin needles and fine thread. At one end there is a tiny pocket, containing a slip of paper upon which are some verses in diminutive handwriting with the date “Jany. 1792.” The little housewife, when rolled up, is tied with narrow ribbon. “Having been never used and carefully preserved, it is as fresh and bright as when it was first made.

For more on this topic, click on my other post The Life of a Seamstress.

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William Henry Pyne (1769 – 1843)

Many of the illustrations of London and the working class that we see of the regency era can be atttibuted to the artist and writer, William Henry Pyne. W.H. Pyne, the son of a leather seller and weaver, chronicled the working class in The Costumes of Great Britain. In his heyday he created a series of books for the publisher Rudolph Ackermann. Unfortunately, like James Gillray, Mr. Pyne’s illustrations ceased to be popular towards the end of his life, and he died in poverty.

    To learn more about W.H. Pyne, click on these links:

  • The World in Miniature: England, Scotland, and Ireland, edited by W.H. Pyne, containing a description of the character, manners, customs, dress, diversions, and other peculiarities of the inhabitants of Great Britain. In Four Volumes; illustrated with eighty-four coloured engravings, Volume 1, London, 1827, Printed for R. Ackermann, Repository of Arts, Strand.

Illustrations by Pyne: Blue Coat Boy, and Mail Coach from the Microcosm of London. Illustration of Bill Sticker from the World in Miniature.

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Genealogy and census records record the life in 19th century England in remarkable detail. Take Appleby, for example, a village in Leicestershire which has been occupied since the iron age. The 1841 census provides a complete record of how the inhabitants of this small village made their living at that precise time, including farmers, tradesmen, drapers and dressmakers, people in domestic service, and professional people. Descriptions for each group follow a similar pattern to this one for skilled workers:

There was always a demand for skilled workers in the agricultural world and this is reflected in the large number of craftsmen supporting the farming community.Many were concerned with horses, the main means of providing power and transport.The particular men performing jobs which required skills relating to the agricultural world were:

  • 5 blacksmiths – shoeing horses and making wrought iron products for farm and home
  • 2 farriers – shoeing smiths also acting as horse doctors
  • 1 harness maker
  • 2 wheelwrights – making carts, wheels with their iron tyres (often fitted by the blacksmith)
  • 2 gamekeepers – looking after the squire’s game
  • 1 gardener employed in the new hall grounds
Parish of Gorleston

An inventory of goods during the 18th century recorded the possessions of established and prosperous middling farmers in such precise detail as: In ye dairy & kittchin, potts, kettles, one Copper, Barrills & tubes, In ye Chamber over ye house, one bed & Beding, Curtaines, chairs & table, In ye Chamber over ye dairy, 2 beds & beding, 2 bolsters & linnin, etc. I would imagine that history students and authors of history and historical romances would find such authentic descriptions invaluable in their research.

The extract for Appleby in 1835 states that “letters arrive every morning at half-past ten, and are despatched every afternoon at three”, and that James Hatton was the Post Master. These details make history come alive again. Amazingly, records on almost every parish in England still exist. I’ve listed a few more below:

 

Raunheim, Sleeping Kitchen Maid, 1850, Wikimedia Commons
St. Michael’s Church, Appleby (Upper image)


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In romance novels footmen are depicted as tall, dark, and handsome men in fancy livery, preferably matched in height. Surprisingly, this description of these statuesque men, who were as much a status symbol as servant, is true. According to Daniel Pool in What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, footmen wore:

“livery,” or household uniform of fancy coat, knee breeches, stockings, and powdered hair, a costume that endured to the end of th 1800s. Because of their appearance at dinner and in public with the family, footmen were supposed to be the most “presentable” of the male servants. They were evaluated on the basis of the appearance of their calves in silk stocking, and they often gave their height when advertising for positions in the paper–it was considered absurd to have a pair of footmen who didn’t match in height. (Poole, p. 221)

In olden days, footmen traditionally ran alongside carriages or to obtain items of importance, or raced other footmen of great houses in order to win bets for their masters. The Chamber Book of Days relates these stories of legend:

For example: the Earl of Home, residing at Hume Castle in Berwickshire, had occasion to send his foot-man to Edinburgh one evening on important business. Descending to the hall in the morning, he found the man asleep on a bench, and, thinking he had neglected his duty, prepared to chastise him, but found, to his surprise, that the man had been to Edinburgh (thirty-five miles) and back, with his business sped, since the past evening. As another instance: the Duke of Landerdale, in the reign of Charles II, being to give a large dinner-party at his castle of Thirlstane, near Lander, it was discovered, at the laying of the cloth, that songe additional plate would be required from the Duke’s other seat of Lethington, near Haddington, fully fifteen miles distant across the Lammirmuir hills. The running footman instantly darted off, and was back with the required articles in time for dinner!

Footmen acquired their names from their running duties, accompanying their masters or mistresses alongside carriages or horses. They carried a long cane containing a mixture of eggs and white wine for sustenance, but many accounts talk of thin, gaunt footmen who became too old before their time.

In the eighteenth century [footmen] were frequently matched to run against horses and carriages One of the last recorded contests was in 1770 between a famous running footman and the Duke of Marlborough, the latter wagering that in his phaeton and four he would beat the footman in a race from Windsor to London. His Grace won by a very small margin. The poor footman worn out by his exertions and much chagrined by his defeat, died, it was said, of over fatigue. In the north of England the running footman was not quite extinct till well into the middle of the nineteenth century. So recently as 1851, on the opening of an assize court, there the sheriff and judges were preceded by two running footmen. About the same date the carriage of the High Sheriff of Northumberland on its way to meet the judges of assize, was attended by two pages on foot holding on to the door handles of the carriage and running beside it. A Handy Book of Curious Information: Comprising Strange Happenings in the … By William Shepard Walsh, 1913

By the 18th century, footmen began to work under the supervision of a butler, taking on such duties as “carrying coals up to rooms, cleaning boots, trimming lamps, laying the table for meals, answering the front door and, at Erddig, sleeping in the butler’s pantry to ensure nobody stole the family silver” (Willes, page 18). The footman’s life was not an easy one. He arose at the crack of dawn and worked until 11 p.m. at night almost without pause. Frederick John Gorst, a former footman at the turn of the 20th century tells of the day he fainted:

Dr. Burton asked me how much time I had off for rest and recreation, and I told him that I had not had a day off since I began to work at Ashton-Hayes six months ago. Moreover, I had not had a holiday nor seen my family in more than three years. He shook his head in disbelief, and said:

“John, this is a very serious matter. How old are you?”

“I’m almost eighteen, Dr. Burton,” I said.

“You are very tall for your age, and your pale complexion leads me to believe that you need some sunshine and fresh air.”

To gain some insights into a footman’s day and duties, click on the following links:

The Footman: A Servant’s Day in London

Dear FRIEND,
Since I am now at leisure,
And in the Country taking Pleasure,
If it be worth your while to hear
A silly Footman’s Business there,
I’ll try to tell, in easy Rhyme,
How I in London spend my Time.And first,
As soon as Laziness will let me,
To cleaning Glasses, Knives, and Plate,
And such-like dirty Work as that,
Which (by the bye) is what I hate.
This done; with expeditious Care,
To dress myself I strait prepare;
I clean my Buckles, black my Shoes;
Powder my Wig, and brush my Cloaths;
Take off my Beard, and wash my Face,
And then I’m ready for the Chace.Down comes my Lady’s Woman strait:
Where’s Robin? Here. Pray take your Hat,
And go—and go—and go—and go—;
And this—and that desire to know.
The Charge receiv’d, away run I,And here, and there, and yonder fly,
With Services, and How-d’ye’does,
Then Home return full fraught with News.Here some short Time does interpose,
‘Till warm Efflucia’s greet my Nose,
Which from the Spits and Kettles fly,
Declaring Dinner-time is nigh.
To lay the Cloth I now prepare,
With Uniformity and Care;
In Order Knives and Forks are laid,
With folded Napkins, Salt, and Bread:
The Side-boards glittering too appear,
With Plate, and Glass, and China-ware.
Then Ale, and Beer, and Wine decanted,
And all Things ready which are wanted,
The smoaking Dishes enter in
To Stomachs sharp a grateful Scene;
Which on the Table being plac’d,
And some few Ceremonies past,
They all sit down, and fall to eating,
Whilst I behind stand silent waiting.

This is the only pleasant Hour
Which I have in the Twenty-four;
For whilst I unregarded stand,
With ready Salver in my Hand,
And seem to understand no more
Than just what’s call’d for, out to pour;
I hear, and mark the courtly Phrases,
And all the elegance that passes;
Disputes maintain’d without Digression,
With ready Wit, and fine Expression;
The Laws of true Politeness stated,
And what Good-breeding is, debated:
Where all unanimously exclude
The vain Coquet, the formal Prude,
The Ceremonious, and the Rude.
The flattering, fawning, praising Train;
The fluttering, empty, noisy, vain;
Detraction, Smut, and what’s prophane.

This happy Hour elaps’d and gone,
The Time of drinking Tea comes on.
The Kettle fill’d, the Water boil’d,
The Cream provided, Biscuits pil’d,
And Lamp prepar’d; I strait engage
The Lilliputian Equipage
Of Dishes, Saucers, Spoons, and Tongs,
And all th’ Et cetera which thereto belongs.
Which rang’d in order and Decorum,
I carry in, and set before ‘em;
Then pour or Green, or Bohea out,
And, as commanded, hand about.

This Business over, presently
The Hour of visiting draws nigh;
The Chairman strait prepare the Chair,
A lighted Flambeau I prepare;
And Orders given where to go,
We march along, and bustle thro’
The parting Crouds, who all stand off
To give us Room. O how you’d laugh!
To see me strut before a Chair,
And with a stirdy Voice, and Air,
Crying—By your Leave, Sir! have a Care!
From Place to Place with speed we fly,
And Rat-tatat the Knockers cry:
Pray is your Lady, Sir, within?
If no, go on; if yes, we enter in.

Then to the Hall I guide my Steps,
Amongst a Croud of Brother Skips,
Drinking Small-beer, and talking Smut,
And this Fool’s Nonsence puting that Fool’s out.
Whilst Oaths and Peals of Laughter meet,
And he who’d loudest, is the greatest Wit.
But here amongst us the chief Trade is
To rail against our Lords and Ladies;
To aggravate their smallest Failings,
T’expose their Faults with saucy Railings.
For my Part, as I hate the Practice,
And see in them how base and black ’tis,
To some bye Place I therefore creep,
And sit me down, and feign to sleep;
And could I with old Morpheus bargain,
‘Twou’d save my Ears much Noise and Jargon.
But down my Lady comes again,
And I’m released from my Pain.
To some new Place our Steps we bend,
The tedious Evening out to spend;
Sometimes, perhaps, to see the Play,
Assembly, or the Opera;
Then home and sup, and thus we end the Day.

Norton Anthology: Robert Dodsley Poem: The Footman, 18th Century

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Louis Simond, a Frenchman who lived in the United States, landed in Falmouth on Christmas Eve, 1809 to begin a twenty-one month journey of the British Isles. During his tour, Louis set down his observations, which resulted in a well-received book, Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain during the Years 1810 and 1811 by a Native of France with Remarks on the Country, its Arts Literature, and Politics, and on the Manners and Customs of its Inhabitants. The following passage in the book describes the custom of drinking milk in London:

In the morning all is calm–not a mouse stirring before ten o’clock; the shops then begin to open. Milk-women, with their pails perfectly neat, suspended at the extremities of a yoke, carefully shaped to fit the shoulders, and surrounded with small tin measures of cream, ring at every door, with reiterated pulls, to hasten the maid-servants, who come half asleep to receive a measure as big as an egg, being the allowance of a family; for it is necessary to explain, that milk is not here either food or drink, but a tincture–an elixir exhibited in drops, five or six at most, in a cup to tea, morning and evening. It would be difficult to say what taste or what quality these drops may impart; but so it is; and nobody thinks of questioning the propriety of the custom.– Louis Simond, An American in Regency England, The History Book Club, London, 1968, p 29-30.

The doling out of tiny portions of milk in the early nineteenth century could be explained by the Corn Laws, which protected the cultivation of land. Because of this law, less land became available for grazing cattle, resulting in a reduction of milk. (Liquid Pleasures: A Review). Milk prices must have risen steeply as well. Regardless of the available supply, milkmaids would walk through London, aiming their cries at the servants of the house, who worked belowstairs:

Milk Below Maids! Will you buy any milk today Mistress? Any milk today Mistress? Will you have any milk maids? Milk Below!

Many of the estimated 8,000 milk cows were housed in dairy buildings scattered throughout this densely populated city. One can imagine that the conditions were anything but sanitary. (Cries of London – Milkmaids, Regency World). Cows also grazed in the meadows and grasslands of parks and pleasure gardens, such as Vauxhall. They were milked at noon, and the warm, fresh milk was sold for a penny a mug. (Parks and Pleasure Gardens of Regency London, JASA)

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…dirt accumulated faster than all measures to contain it: Cattle were still driven through the streets to and from Smithfield Market until the mid-nineteenth century and horse-drawn vehicles added to the labours of the sweepers stationed at street crossings. Smoke from brick kilns and thousands of sea coal fires polluted the air. In 1813 Henry Austen’s new home above his offices at No. 10 Henrietta Street appeared to Jane to be ‘all dirt & confusion.’ – Jane Austen in Context, Edited by Janet Todd, p 207-208

During Jane Austen’s time and into the earliest days of the twentieth century, crossing sweepers made a living sweeping pedestrian crossings, stoops, and sidewalks of horse manure and litter. Before motorized transport, London boasted over 100,000 horses traversing its streets daily, each one eating a fibrous diet. The crossing sweeper’s job was to shovel the muck, keeping the streets clean for ladies whose long dresses and delicate slippers might get soiled and for gentlemen in their fine raiments.


During “Boney’s” time of terror (Napoleonic Wars), the job of crossing sweeper was often strenuous, and it was said that crossing sweepers could build up a considerable fortune to dig a “channel of viscous mud, a foot deep, through which, so late as the time when George the Third was king, the carts and carriages had literally to plough their way.” In those days, the crossing sweeper had to dig trenches to allow carriages and pedestrians to pass through poorly maintained and muddy roads. As the roads improved, so did the lot of the crossing sweeper, who earned less and less for a job that was to become relatively easier. A good crossing sweeper in an excellent location could still earn a decent living, however. – Chambers, Edinburgh Journal, No. 437, Volume 17, New Series, May 15, 1852

Henry Mayhew described the advantages of this lowly occupation for the London poor:

  • 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. – Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor: Volume 2, Crossing-Sweepers

According to the Leeds Industrial Museum, “Children often had more than one way to make money. When it was dry and the streets were not muddy the crossing sweepers, for instance, would do occasional work like catching and opening cabs for people. In the evening they would go outside theatres and operas and tumble for money. Girls mixed ballade singing or lace selling.”

At one time there were so many crossing sweepers that a pedestrian was accosted for money on every stoop and corner, and it would cost a pretty penny to walk from one end of town to another. In 1881, Richard Rowe wrote in London Streets:

IF anyone wants to realize, as the phrase goes, the little army of crossing-sweepers we have in London, let him take a walk – say for a mile or two – on a muddy day, and give a penny to every one who touches hat, makes a bob, as if shutting up like a spy-glass, or trots after him, trailing broom in one hand, and tugging at tangled forelock with the other. I remember when it would have cost anyone, disposed to give in this way, between a shilling and eighteen- pence to walk from the Archway Tavern, Highgate Hill, to Highbury Cock and back. For anyone of a squeezable temperament, therefore, it was decidedly cheaper to take the bus. It is simply as a statistical experiment, just for once in a way, that I recommend this penny-giving. It would be a great misfortune if all crossing-sweepers had pennies given them indiscriminately. I would not make a clean sweep of the sweepers, but I should like to see their ranks thinned considerably – viz., by the elimination of the adults who are able, and the young who might be trained to do something better than what, in the most favourable instances, is little better than a make-believe of work, as a pretext for begging, either directly or by suggestion.


Crossing sweepers worked diligently on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In 1882, a New York matron lamented in a letter to the editor of the New York Times about a new regulation that prevented crossing sweepers from working (double click on the image to read it) :

To read more about this fascinating topic, click on the following links:

Click here for an interesting backlink to this post.

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March 15th – The seamstress came this morning to begin my wardrobe. We were with her for more than two hours and Mama ordered so many new gowns as that I am sure I shall never wear the half of them, but she insists that I must be properly dressed. – From The Journal of a Regency Lady 5

The above quote, though coming from a contemporary author, might well have been written during the regency era. Women’s clothes were made at home during this period by the ladies themselves, their servants, or a professional seamstress. A dressmaker (or mantua maker) would charge about 2 pounds per garment and come to the house for fittings, where she might be served tea. A successful mantua maker who had set up shop in the fashionable part of Town would also provide a pleasant environment in which a lady could relax, serving tea and refreshments to prolong the shopping experience.

In her letters, Jane Austen mentioned a Miss Burton, who made pelisses for her and Cassandra in 1811. The cost of cloth and labor were reasonable, she wrote, but the buttons seemed expensive. Fabrics, increasingly mass produced, became more affordable during the Industrial Revolution, and demand for clothes grew among the newly wealthy middle class women. Young girls who sought work in the cities became seamstresses in homes and sweat shops. A little over twenty years after Jane’s death, the poor working conditions described below were common for seamstresses.

1) EVIDENCE TAKEN BY Children’s Employment Commission, February 1841

Miss — has been for several years in the dress-making business…The common hours of business are from 8 a.m. til 11 P.M in the winters; in the summer from 6 or half-past 6 A.M. til 12 at night. During the fashionable season, that is from April til the latter end of July, it frequently happens that the ordinary hours are greatly exceeded; if there is a drawing-room or grand fete, or mourning to be made, it often happens that the work goes on for 20 hours out of the 24, occasionally all night….The general result of the long hours and sedentary occupation is to impair seriously and very frequently to destroy the health of the young women. The digestion especially suffers, and also the lungs: pain to the side is very common, and the hands and feet die away from want of circulation and exercise, “never seeing the outside of the door from Sunday to Sunday.” [One cause] is the short time which is allowed by ladies to have their dresses made. Miss is sure that there are some thousands of young women employed in the business in London and in the country. If one vacancy were to occur now there would be 20 applicants for it. The wages generally are very low…Thinks that no men could endure the work enforced from the dress-makers.

[Source: Hellerstein, Hume & Offen, Victorian Women: A Documentary Accounts of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France and the United States, Stanford University Press.]

For other sources on this topic, click on the links below.

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Found on the Soil and Health Library website:

The estimated calorie requirements of a resting man weighing 160 lbs., is 2200 calories. Sleeping twenty-four hours, this man would expend only 1680 calories. The calorie requirements of woman are estimated to be much lower–a seamstress requiring 1800 calories a servant 2800 calories and a wash-woman 3200 calories.

I have no idea when this quote was written, but I imagine that this calculation would probably hold true over the centuries, and would vary depending on the person’s age and size.

Frank Holl, Song of the Shirt, 1875

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Chairs to mend, old chairs to mend, Rush or cane bottomed chairs to mend, If I had the money that I could spend, I never would cry old chairs to mend, Rush or cane bottomed chairs to mend, chairs to mend old chairs to mend

Imagine London during Jane Austen’s time, a loud and brash city, filled with the stench of horse manure and sewage in the summer, and the smell of coal and wood smoke during the winter. Fog, thick as cotton, crept up from the Thames, snaking its tendrils and engulfing pedestrians and carriages alike. The rattle of wheels and horse’s hooves on cobblestones and the click click click of the pattens that protected a lady’s delicate slippers from mud were the ordinary sounds people were accustomed to. Above all this din, they could hear the cries of the street vendors.

Cries are phrases which, beginning in the 15th century, were called out in the streets by itinerant sellers of food and other commodities and by people offering their trades. They were especially prevalent in large towns and advertised for sale such diverse products and services as strawberries, fish, brooms, muffins, printed ballads and chimney sweeping. The criers were poor, and apparently loud and annoying. In 1711 Joseph Addison wrote an essay in The Spectator complaining of the noise at night and the loud, unpleasant manner in which the cries were uttered. “Milk” he writes “is generally sold in a note above high E, and in sounds so exceedingly shrill that it often sets our teeth an edge. (From Cries of London, see below).

Ripe Strawberries ripe, Ripe Strawberries ripe. Six-pence a pottle fine strawberries ripe strawberries…only six-pence a pottle… I have ripe Strawberries ripe, Ripe Strawberries ripe.


Who will buy a new love song? Only a ha’-penny a piece…Who will buy a hew love song? Only a ha’-penny a piece.


Find out more about London’s Street Vendors in these links:

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Street Pie Men

Whenever Jane Austen came to visit London, her ears would have been assaulted by the din of London street noise. This would include the distinctive cries in the evening from street vendors such as the pie men shouting, “Pies all ‘ot! eel, beef, or mutton pies! Penny pies, all ‘ot–all ‘ot!”

In 1851, Henry Mayhew published London Labor and the London Poor, Vol 1. This social history described the venerable but humble occupation of the ‘street pie men’ and ‘the street-sellers of pea-soup and hot eels.’ These pie men sold their hot food to poor working class families at an affordable price. At one time, over 600 pie men roamed London to sell meat, eel or fruit pies in streets, taverns, summer fairs and at the races. By the time of Henry Mayhew’s history, only about 50 remained, selling their pies from 6 (in the evening, I presume) and staying out all night. The best time for selling pies was between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Cornish Pastry

Eel sellers, however, largely sold their wares from stalls. Around the mid-19th century, these two trades went into a decline when penny-pie shops were established. Some street pie men did not seal off their pies properly, whereas the new shops sold food that was generally safe. Instead of selling pre-made pies, they sold live eels or food with good nutritional value for families to take home and cook. Within a few years the street sellers had almost disappeared.

Read more about this topic in the following links, especially Henry Mayhew’s. He interviewed actual working pie men and wrote down their observations:

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The English Class System

The British Class system during the Regency Period was fixed and defined among the nobility, gentry, working class people, servant class, and the poor. Read more about these distinctions in the following links.

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