In the first half of the nineteenth century, the building of the railways meant a much wider distribution of goods, greater quantities and things becoming a lot cheaper due to lesser shipping costs.
More goods began to come from abroad in the 1860s and by the end of the century shops had larger windows and fancier signage that took advantage of the latest technology – electricity – to entice customers inside. Once inside you could find almost everything you wanted under one roof.
‘The Shopkeeper’s Guide’ of 1853 lists a selection of typical items stocked by each type of shop:
pestles and mortars,
coppers for washing,
The Cutler Boot jacks,
Gentleman’s pocket companion,
rotary knife cleaner,
spectacles for railway travellers,
spectacles for charities and poor persons,
portable water closets,
trays and tubs,
The General Fancy Shop:
improved whisker curlers,
papier mache goods,
wafer & bottle seals,
smelling salt bottles.
Ornamental cards in packets,
black-bordered envelopes (for condolence correspondence),
sealing wax and wafers,
pens and quills,
curling papers (for curling hair),
and Oilman: Chandler
best mottled soap,
curd in bars,
The Perfumer and Fancy Soap Maker:
For the hair:
Otto of Rose,
milk of rose,
Fancy brushes and combs.
The Chemist and Druggist:
tincture of lavender,
The Hosier, Shirt Maker and Outfitter:
Long cloth shirts,
brown and white cotton hose,
stiffeners for cravats,
dark merino or silk jackets,
pilot cloth trousers,
printed flannel dressing gowns,
Teas- Indian and
West India, demerara,
cocoa and chocolate,
best blue starch,
lemon and orange,
pink, brown, white rose and lemon candies,
acid, pear, mint, barberry and ginger drops,
islinglass, (like gelatine),
The Agricultural Implement Maker,
The Basket Maker,
The Boot and Shoemaker,
The Bed and Mattress Dealer,
The Bottle Dealer,
The Cabinet Maker (also a toymaker),
The Archery shopkeeper (fishing tackle and guns),
The Harness Maker,
The Looking-Glass Maker,
Other sellers, or vendors, earned their living selling on the streets, without a shop. Women and servants would spend virtually the whole day at home, rarely leaving the house, so selling door to door was the best and most profitable way for the following people to do business:
The Watercress Girl:
She was usually a very young girl who took fresh cresses to middle class homes at breakfast or tea-time. Over the years the Watercress Girl has become somewhat synonymous with the image of working youth in a similar way to young chimney-sweeps.
This portrait of a watercress girl (left) painted by Frederick Ifold, 1867
These meat-vendors sent their boys to customers’ homes early in the morning so that the cook could give them the day’s meat order. No refrigeration in the 19th century, so meat needed to be delivered on the day it was intended to be used. A few hours after breakfast the butcher’s boys could be seen walking the streets with trays of meat balanced on their shoulders.
Delivered bread or cakes every day
Milk Men / Women:
Also delivered daily, carrying their cans of milk on a yoke balanced over their shoulders.
Delivered something a little stronger to drink, mostly porter and stout, in two great metal jugs carried on a similar contraption to a yoke.
Markets were a large part of Victorian England. I have a brief summary of the main London markets and their specific produce, but would welcome information on Victorian markets all over the world, for a more comprehensive breakdown of London’s markets, click here to see the article "Know Your Markets" on the Cat’s Meat Shop, the blog of Victorian London doyenne, Lee Jackson
, the following markets were the most popular: London
Metropolitan Cattle Market:
This was found between Islington and
Camden town and was opened in 1855 by . As the name suggests, the market sold mainly cows and sheep. Prince Albert
This was a huge market with an area covering five acres. As with the Metropolitan Cattle Market,
sold mostly cattle and sheep, but it also sold things such as hay and straw. The market was surrounded by catgut manufactories, knackers yards and bone-houses who did a great trade from any animals that died in the market. Pubs and taverns also surrounded the market. Smithfield
London Bridge was the fish market of , made of red bricks with stone dressings. London
It opened at 5a.m. at which time only fishmongers were allowed in. At 7a.m. the costers could turn up and buy what was left.
A third of all fish landed at Billingsgate was bought for resale by costers.
The great fruit, vegetable and herb market was built in 1830, with a new flower market covered with glass like the
being added in 1859. Crystal Palace
At Covent Garden, itinerant vendors sold all sorts from teapots to rat poison, pineapple to frogs, and even sparrows were sold for 1d, string tied to their leg so children could play with them.
This was a meat market for butchers and could be found between
Newgate Street and Paternoster Row.
Was located between
Gracechurch Street and the East India House. At Leadenhall, there was a variety of goods sold, including fish, vegetables, leather, hides and bacon. However, it was most notable for its vast array of poultry.
This was only a small market for butchers meat, poultry and fish for food, but it also sold fruit and flowers. It was demolished in 1862 to make way for
Charing Cross train station.
This was another small market and was the main vendor in
for watercress. London
Some of these markets are still standing, and are well worth a visit. In conjunction with the last post regarding the
Thames, a walk down the river on the north bank should include a stop at Leadenhall market which is still a wonderful sight.