Old Cries Of London

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the streets of London were full of people selling their wares to anyone passing by. To get themselves noticed, the sellers would invent cries, which were often elaborate rhymes which they hoped would attract customers. Many of these are now lost to history, but I found some accompanying a selection of printed woodcuts.

My game are round and fat you see,
If on the price we can agree:
These ducks but one day since were shot,
And suit alike the spit or pot.
Or if for game you’re not inclin’d,
Here is a chicken to your mind.

Here is spice-cake for those good boys,
Who better love their books than toys;
And little girls may have their share,
As often as they sew with care:
Here he comes! his basket smokes;
BUY SOME SPICE, good little folks.

Here little girls will doubtless find
What cannot fail to please their mind;
Bedsteads of every size the best,
On which their painted dolls may rest:
And ‘tis but right that you should grant,
What you yourself so often want.

Alive and fresh, good herrings oh!
Six a groat, is cheap, you know.
Off Britain’s coast they late were caught,
And in a ship but just now brought.
If Mrs. Cook will dress them well,
Of their goodness you will tell;
Or if, to salt them you’re inclin’d,
There’s not a doubt they’ll suit your mind.

Little folks will lend an ear
When this pair approaches near;
Their buns are found so very nice,
They are always eager for a slice,
But if flour should rise anew,
To hot-cross buns we bid adieu.

In the Gazette GREAT NEWS to day,
The enemy is beat, they say. –
But, what, alas! will that avail?
Since war we still have to bewail.
Yet all are eager to be told
The news that new events unfold.

Nice mutton dumplings! smoking hot,
And just brought boiling from the pot:
Take my word, they are very good;
Besides, they make substantial food.
Consider now the price of meat,
And you’ll say they are also cheap.

These radishes, so fair and round,
To please the palate will be found;
Fourteen a penny is the price,
You’ll surely buy, they are so nice.
Try with a few good radishes,
How bread and butter relishes.

Old shoes! old hats! come little dear,
To hear me cry you need not fear;
There’s difference great between us two,
I always cry but seldom you,
And you cry tears I should suppose,
While I cry nothing but old Cloaths.

Jobs On The Street: Old Photos.

For as long as goods and services have been sold, they have been sold in public, on the street.

From Roman times, up to and including my own childhood, street vendors were an everyday sight on the streets of London.

A ‘Shoe Black’, plying his trade in the 1920s.

A milkman, during the early 1960s.
It was unusual by then to see a man still using a push-cart.
Though our own milkman was still using a horse at the time, that was soon replaced by an electric vehicle.

Hot Chestnuts.
Traditionally a cold-weather, seasonal occupation, these sellers could be seen all over London.

In the summer months, Ice Cream sellers were everywhere.
They rode around the streets until they sold out.
The largest company, Wall’s, had their iconic sign. ‘Stop Me and Buy One’.

Street musicians liked to work in busy shopping areas, passing around a hat after performing.
These two went so far as to transport a harp!

Peanut sellers favoured sporting events, exhibitions, and anywhere they could guarantee a large crowd.
Percy Dalton was the top selling brand of peanuts in shells.

Rag and Bone men originally collected unwanted rags and bones, as their name implies.
By the 1960s, they had branched out into the burgeoning antique market, as you can see from this man’s sign.
They also took away any potentially valuable scrap, including most metals and electrical wiring.

Changes in local laws, food sale regulations, and the growing reluctance of consumers to buy things from street vendors, have now all but consigned them to history.
Street entertainers still flourish though, in the most crowded and popular tourist spots in London. Also as buskers, all over the capital. These days, they have to apply for a licence to perform. Doorstep milk deliveries still exist too, but with most of us buying cheaper milk from supermarkets, their time is almost at an end. You can still buy ice cream from vendors selling it from a motorised vehicle. In places like here in Beetley, they drive around the streets in the summer months, playing tunes through a loudspeaker to announce their presence.

Most former Rag and Bone men graduated into becoming scrap metal merchants. With the public wise to the money to be made from scrap, they now usually have to pay to take away the scrap metal that was once left outside for them to collect for free. As for shoe-blacks, the popularity of trainers and casual shoes meant that few people needed to have their shoes polished anymore. They can still be seen in some business districts, where they have become something of an amusing oddity.