Old London Street Cries — £ 3.99
"The interest of this volume is inexhaustible." – The Times. – is the review quoted in the advertisement for the large quarto version of this book, priced at one Guinea. This is the 'Shilling' version; the same information in a smaller format 'additionally illustrated'.
It amusingly pictures and describes the huge range of goods and services that were once available for purchase on the streets of London. Everything you could possibly need. Oysters, singing birds, toys, ink, song-sheets, live geese etc., etc. Or you could get your chairs re-caned and your knives and scissors sharpened.
This eBook version contains the entire text and all 58 illustrations, as published in 1885. Please see the extract below for a random selection of the street cries, woodcuts and explanations.
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My copy has been re-bound for library use. Originally it had marbled paper boards, a label and a tie ribbon. I have tried to re-create that look for the cover.
The text and any images below are identical to the eBook; however, depending on the typeface, etc., that you select, they may not display here exactly as they do on your eReader. Also, pages turn as normal, rather than the scrolling effect seen here.
Old London Street Cries
DATES, unless in the form of the luscious fruit of Smyrna, are generally dry. It is enough therefore to state that the earliest mention of London Cries is found in a quaint old ballad entitled “London Lyckpenny,” or Lack penny, by that prolific writer, John Lydgate, a Benedictine monk of Bury St. Edmunds, who flourished about the middle of the fifteenth century.
These cries are particularly quaint, and especially valuable as a record of the daily life of the time.
Since Lydgate’s time the cries of London have been a stock subject for ballads and children’s books, of which, in various forms, some hundreds must have appeared within the last two centuries. The cuts, unless from the hand of a Rowlandson or a Cruikshank, are usually of the mechanical order; and one finds copies of the same illustrations, though differently treated, constantly reappearing.
In the books there is usually a cut on each page, with a cry printed above or underneath, and in addition a verse of descriptive poetry, which, if not of the highest order, serves its purpose.
Buy my Dish of great Eeles?
Buy any wax or wafers?
Fine Writeing Ink!
A Right Merry Song!
Old Shooes for some Broomes!
Hott baked Wardens [stewed pears] Hott!
Swift mentions this cry in his “Morning in Town.”
“The Small Coal Man was heard with cadence deep
’Till drowned in shriller notes of ‘Chimney Sweep.’”
Buy a Fork or a Fire Shovel?
Maids, buy a Mapp? [mop]
Buy my fat Chickens?
Buy my Flounders?
Old Cloaks, Suits, or Coats? [Succeeding Old Doublets, the cry of a slightly earlier period.]
Fair Lemons and Oranges!
Old Chaires to Mend?
Twelve Pence a Peck, Oysters!
Troope every one!
The man blowing a trumpet – troope every one! – was a street seller of toy hobby-horses. He carried his wares in a sort of cage; and to each rudely represented horse’s head was attached a small flag. The toy hobby-horse has long since disappeared, and nowadays we give a little boy a stick to thrust between his legs as a Bucephalus. Hone opines that our forefathers were better natured, for they presented him with something of the semblance of the genuine animal.
Maids, any Coonie [rabbit] Skinns?
Crab, Crab, any Crab?
Oh, Rare Shoe!
Lilly White Vinegar!
Buy any Dutch Biskets?
Ripe Speregas! [asparagus]
Buy my Singing Glasses!
These were long bell-mouthed glass tubes, The writer recollects that when a boy he purchased, for a copper or two, fragile glass trumpets of a similar description.
In the British Museum is a folio volume containing another curious little collection, on three sheets, of early London cries; also undated and of foreign workmanship, but attributable to the time of Charles II. The first sheet has a principal representation of a rat-catcher with a banner emblazoned with rats; he attended by an assistant boy, and underneath these lines:-
He that will have neither
Ratt nor mousse,
Lett him pluck of the tilles
And set fire of his hows.
It was unlikely that so close an observer of London life as Addison should leave unnoticed the Cries of London; and the Spectator is interspersed with occasional allusions to them. In No. ccli. we read: “There is nothing which more astonishes a Foreigner, and frights a Country Squire, than the Cries of London. My good Friend Sir ROGER often declares that he cannot get them out of His Head, or go to sleep for them, the first Week that he is in Town. On the contrary, WILL HONEYCOMB calls them the Ramage de la Ville, and prefers them to the Sounds of Larks and Nightingales, with all the Musick of the Fields and Woods.”
In Steele’s comedy of The Funeral; Trim tells some ragged soldiers, “There’s a thousand things you might do to help out about this town, as to cry Puff-Puff Pyes; have you any Knives or Scissors to grind? or late in an evening, whip from Grub Street strange and bloody News from Flanders; Votes from the House of Commons; Buns, rare Buns; Old Silver Lace, Cloaks, Sutes or Coats; Old Shoes, Boots or Hats.”
Gay, too, who, in his microscopic lyric of the streets, Trivia, omitted little, thus sings of various street cries:-
Now Industry awakes her busy sons;
Full charged with News the breathless hawker runs
Shops open, coaches roll, carts shake the ground,
And all the streets with passing cries resound.
Street cries have, before now, been made the vehicle for Political Caricature, notably in The Pedlars, or Scotch. Merchants of London (1763), attributed to the Marquis Townshend, which has particular reference to Lord Bute. Eliminating the political satire, we get a long list of street cries. The pedlars march two and two, carrying, of course, their wares with them. The vendors of food are numerous. One calls out “Dumplings, ho!” another, who carries a large can, wishes to know “Who’l have a dip and a wallop for a bawbee?” [See appendix] Then come “Hogs Puddings;” “Wall Fleet Oysters;” “New Mackrel;” “Sevil Oranges and Lemons;” “Barcelona Philberts;” “Spanish Chestnuts;” “Ripe Turkey Figs;” “Heart Cakes;” “Fine Potatoes;” “New-born Eggs, 8 a groat;” “Bolognia Sausages.”
Miscellaneous wants are met with “Weather Cocks for little Scotch Courtiers;” “Bonnets for to fit English heads;” “Laces all a halfpenny a piece;” “Ribbons a groat a yard;” “Fine Pomatum;” “Buy my Wash Balls, Gemmen and Ladies;” “Fine Black Balls” [Blacking]; “Buy a Flesh Brush;” “Buy my Brooms;” “Buy any Save-all or Oeconomy Pans, Ladies;” “Water for the Buggs;” [See appendix] “Buy my pack-thread;” “Hair or Combings” [for the manufacture of Wigs]; “Any Kitchen Stuff;” “Buy my Matches.”
Bill Sykes the costermonger, or “costard” -monger, as he was originally called from his trade of selling apples, now flourishes under difficulties. What with the envious complaints of the small shopkeepers whom he undersells, and the supercilious rebuffs of the policeman who keeps him dodging about and always “on the move,” Bill has a hard time of it indeed.
Yet he is distinctly a benefactor to the poorer portion of humanity. He changes his cry with the stock on his barrow. He will invest one day in pine-apples, when there is a glut of them – perhaps a little over-ripe – in Pudding Lane; and in stentorian voice will then make known his willingness to exchange slices for a halfpenny each, or a whole one for sixpence. On other days it may be apples, or oranges, fish, vegetables, photographs, or even tortoises; the latter being popularly supposed to earn a free, if uncomfortable, passage to this country in homeward- bound ships as wedges to keep the cargo from shifting in the hold. It is not often that goods intended for the thriving shopkeeper find their way to the barrow of the costermonger. Some time ago amber-tipped cherry or briar-wood pipes were freely offered and as freely bought in the streets at a penny each. Suddenly the supply stopped; for the unfortunate wholesale dealer in Houndsditch, who might have known better, had mistaken “dozen” for “gross” in his advice: and at 6s. 6d. per gross the pipes could readily be retailed for a penny each; whereas at the cost price of 6s. 6d. a dozen, one shilling ought to have been asked. It seems that not only did the importer imagine that the amber mouthpieces were imitation, but Bill Sykes also thought he was “doing” the public when he announced them as real.
“Speshill ’dishun, ’orrible railway haccident,” the outcome of an advanced civilization, is a cry that was unknown to our forefathers. Our forebears had often to pay a shilling for a newspaper, and the newsman made known his progress through the streets by sound of tin trumpet; as shown in Rowlandson’s graphic illustration, a copy of the newspaper was carried in the hat-band. “C’gar lights, ’ere y’ar, sir; ’apenny a box,” and “Taters all ’ot,” also belong to the modern school of London Cries; while the piano-organ is a fresh infliction in connection with the new order of street noises. And although a sort of portable penthouse was used in remote times for screening from heat and rain, the ribbed and collapsible descendant thereof did not come into general use much before the opening of the present century; hence the cry, “Any umbrellas-termend,” may properly be classed as a modern one.
There are twenty-seven stations on the London Inner Circle Railway – owned by two companies, the Metropolitan and District – and the name of one only – Gower Street – is usually pronounced by “thet tchung men,” the railway porter, as other people pronounce it. (“Emma Smith,” [Hammersmith] while not a main line station, may be cited here simply as a good example of Cockney, for ’Arry and ’Arriet are quite incapable of any other verbal rendering.) They are cried as follows:-
“Clawster Rowd.” (owd as in “loud.”)
“I Street, Kenzint’nn.”
“Nottin’ Ill Gite.” (ite as in “flight.”)
“Queen’s Rowd, Bize-water.” (ize as in “size.”)
“Pride Street, Peddin-ten.”
“Edge-wer Rowd.” (by common consent the Cockney refrains from saying “Hedge-wer.”)
“King’s Krauss.” (Often abbreviated to “’ng’s Krauss.”)
“Oldersgit Street.” (no preliminary “H.”)
“Wes’minster.” (One sometimes hears “Wes’minister”: a provincialism.)
“S’n’ Jimes-iz Pawk.” (ime as in “time.”)
“Slown Square.” (own as in “town.”)
The cry “One-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot CROSS BUNS!” which, – now never heard from the sellers on Good Friday, – is still part of a child’s game, remains as one of the best instances of English quantitative metre, being repeated in measured time, and not merely by the ordinary accent. The rhubarb-selling Turk, who appeared in turban, trousers, and – what was then almost unknown amongst civilians – moustaches, was, fifty years ago or more, a well-known character in the metropolis.
Six bunches a penny, sweet blooming Lavender!
Just put one bundle to your nose,
What rose can this excel?
Throw it among your finest clothes,
And grateful they will smell.
Buy a live Chicken or a young Fowl?
Buy a young Chicken fat and plump,
Or take two for a shilling? –
Is this poor honest tradesman’s cry;
Come buy if you are willing.
Rabbit! a Rabbit! who will buy?
Is all you hear from him;
The rabbit you may roast or fry,
The fur your cloak will trim.
A dip and a wallop for a bawbee!