The Trades of the Street


Hawkers in Eighteenth-Century London

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Already very popular in London during the seventeenth century, hawkers were as appreciated as ever by the inhabitants of the capital in the eighteenth century.

The streets of London rang out with the bantering cries of these pedlars who offered housewives a wide range of merchandise:

" water, coal, matches,
singing birds, oysters,
fat chickens, strings of onions..."

to name but a few.

The Cryes of the City of London. Drawne After the Life. London: P. Tempest, 1692.



Some of the hawkers were skilled in calling out to their customers and singing the praises of their merchandise or their services in strident tones. Their respective refrains were well-known to Londoners.

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Chair mender
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There was the cry of the chair mender:

“Old chairs to mend! Chairs to mend!”

I get my bread by seating chairs:
If old ones you want mended,
I’ll try to please you if I can,
When I the work have ended.



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Chimney sweep
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that of the chimney sweep:

“Sweep! Sweep! Sweep for the soot ho!”

How hard must be the fate of those
Who up black chimneys go?
While snug in bed we lay our head,
They bawl out “Sweep Soot, ho!”



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Rabbit seller
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and that of the rabbit seller:

“Rabbits! Fine Hampshire Rabbits!”

Rabbits! Rabbits! who will buy them,
Always nice to roast or fry;
Nice with onions, only try them,
Nicer still if in a pye.


The hawkers, the picturesque characters of the streets of London, continued to offer their services to the English people throughout the eighteenth century.

Dr. Johnson describes the cries of London.

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The waterman

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Thomas Rowlandson, Watermen quarelling for Customers
(engraving, 1805-10)
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The watchman

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A watchman
Thomas Rowlandson, A watchman
(coloured aquatint)
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The market seller

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Covent Garden
Thomas Sandby, 1765
((c) The British Museum)
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Covent Garden with its market in the centre. Sedan chairs are placed under the arches. This square was a seventeenth-century development.

The Sandby brothers were architectural draughtsmen. Covent Garden was also depicted by Hogarth and by Samuel Scott.


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The poor