London, Volume 5Knight, Charles
CXXV.-London Shops and Bazaars.
CXXV.-London Shops and Bazaars.
it has been said,
When taken with some qualifications there is a great deal of truth in this apothegm. It is impossible to live long in a town and not speedily
much, unless we resolutely shut 's self up within doors. The shops of London are in themselves a very cyclopaedia of instruction, in which he
and he who walks may read more. We there place ourselves in communion with artificers and producers from all corners of the earth; the bowls of
in the window of the grocer introduce us to the millions of the Celestial Empire; the spices in the same window carry us in imagination to Ceylon, to the Moluccas, and to the tropical regions generally; the
with its seductions for the palate, shows us what sunny Italy, and Greece, and the Levant can do for us: in short, the shops of a busy town are among the most suggestive of all subjects for reflection, if we choose to carry the eye of the mind
|a little beyond the mere external appearance of the commodities displayed therein, and think of the productive and commercial agencies by which those commodities have been placed at our disposal.|
Different periods of time, and different parts of the town, and different branches of trade, afford very different means for prosecuting our observations on the shops of London; and these differences afford the means for marking the social progress of our townsmen-nay, the commercial progress likewise; for the
and many other elements of political economy, are brought to bear upon the philosophy of shop-keeping as well as upon that of national government. We may view the arrangement of London shops either chronologically, or technologically, or topographically, and we should under each view find remarkable changes observable; but perhaps a little of all these will serve our purpose best.
The general character of the shops in olden London was to have the wares exposed openly to the street, without any barrier of glass between the buyer and seller. Wherever our old topographers and chroniclers give a representation of a London shop-at least anterior to about the time of Queen Anne-this was the observable feature. The shop, too, unlike those of modern days, was generally smaller than the rooms above, on account of the overhanging of each floor or story beyond the beneath it. There are yet remaining at the south end of , and in a few other parts of London, specimens of this curious variety of domestic architecture; although most of such houses now display the luxury of a window to the shop.
If we go back to the time of Fitz-Stephen, who wrote in the century, we find that the system was much more extensively adopted in London than at the present day; that is, that the members of trade were wont to congregate at spot, which thence became known as the mart for that particular kind of goods. This system is well known to be very prevalent in the East, where at Constantinople, Smyrna, Cairo, and other large towns, most of the retail shops are assembled in this manner. If we look at the names of some of the older London streets, such as , , , , the Poultry, the Vintry, Honey Lane, , Cordwainer Street, , &c., we can scarcely avoid a conjecture that these were, at some distant day, the points of rendezvous for dealers in those commodities. Fitz-Stephen says:
He also has a passage which has given rise to some discussion concerning such of the shops as provided provisions.
Now, in the part of this description there is an allusion to wine being sold in ,
| a custom which is so different from any now followed that we can only understand it thus--that wine being admitted duty free, purchasers went to the ships with their bottles or vessels, and bought the wine |
at a cheaper price than would suffice if the seller had the expense of keeping a shop. Fitz-Stephen speaks of a public eating-house, situated near the river, as if it were the only of the kind; and it would appear that this was frequented by high and low, as there was a choice between
| The |
or clothes-stall of Shakspere's time probably represented a large class of shops such as existed in London during the reigns of the Edwards and Henrys. In the act of the
where Ariel brings in some handsome garments, Prospero says,
This passage has given rise to much diversity of opinion among commentators, some thinking that
ought to be taken in reference to the branches of a line, linden, or lime-tree. The editor of the
expresses an opinion that the meaning is rightly rendered in the common reading of the passage.
Here is a picture of a frippery, from a print dated , with its clothes hung in line and level. This frippery is evidently something more than an old clothesshop: the tailor is seated on his board with the implements of his craft about him, and has the aspect of who could make new clothes as well as sell old ones.
There is a print in Smith's
of which we give a copy at the head of our paper, of a house which stood at the corner of so late as the year ,Cwhere now stands the large and modern residence and shop of a robe-maker. If this house had not undergone alteration, then it would seem to show that shop-windows were tolerably common in the time of Edward VI., the date to which the house was referred. The print presents to view a small double-parted shop, having hanging on the
| outside several articles for sale which look like saddles; and over this are stories of private apartments, each of projecting beyond the beneath it, and all decorated in a highly curious manner. But the shop windows do not by any means accord with the general character of the front, and give evidence of having been put in at a later date: indeed, this is rendered certain by a paragraph which Smith quotes from the |
Among other plates given by Smith, and illustrating the shop architecture of other days, is of , . The houses were built in , and of them have small-squared glass shop-windows; but many of the others appear to be open shops. In another, representing houses on the north side of , Smithfield, said to be built during the Commonwealth, of the shops appear to have glass windows, with shutters sliding in grooves at top and bottom; while another has an unglazed shop-window. Another represents a house on the west side of , built p the time of Charles I., and presenting a curious arrangement of scroll orialents in the front: there is a bow window to the shop below, but we incline to think that it is more modern than the rest of the house. There is another of Smith's prints which represents a more singular-looking assemblage of shops than any of the others: this is a view of part of , , as it appeared down to the end of the last century. Here the shops are almost buried; for the upper rooms project considerably beyond them; while, through the gradually raising of the street, the level of the shop has been relatively lowered; till all the shops, some with windows and some without, look nearly as much like cellars as shops.
That sash-windows were not common to shops till towards the beginning of the last century, we may judge from many circumstances. Addison, in No. of the
while speaking of many changes that had recently occurred in London, says,
But if the shops of the eighteenth and centuries have possessed that which was wanting in their predecessors, the moderns have fallen off in very characteristic feature, viz. the over the shops. We cannot look upon Hogarth's street pictures without remarking the almost universal prevalence of this custom. The signs of the
&c., are displayed conspicuously before us, in connexion not only with public-houses, as in modern times, but also with most other trading shops. In former times the houses in a street were by no means uniformly numbered, as at present: indeed, the numbering was a rare practice; and, therefore, the owner of a shop was compelled to adopt some symbol by which his shop could be known. This symbol was depicted on a sign-board in front of his house, and was often as incongruous as those of modern taverns. The
was the sign of a bookseller's shop in , where many works were published in the early part of the last century; and the title-pages of old books would show many equally ludicrous instances.
The shops of the last century differed from those of the present in this circumstance among others,--that many were itinerant shops at that day which are permanent shops now. The wares exposed for sale in the open street are much less numerous than formerly, at least in the better class of streets. The instructions which Gay gives in his
in relation to the art of walking the streets of London, contain many allusions which point to this state of things, but to which we need not pay much attention here.[n.389.1]
By what steps the shops of the metropolis have arrived at their present positions-how the heavy shapeless window yielded to the light bow window, and the latter to the modern flat window; how small squares of glass have given way to larger ones, crown glass to plate glass, clumsy wooden sash-bars to light brass ones; how the once lowly shop has reared its head so as to include even the next higher floor within its compass-must have been noticed by all who are familiar with the huge metropolis. The result of all these changes has been to give to the London shops a character of magnificence which has drawn forth expressions of wonder from many a pen. Southey, in his
has given a graphic picture of the London shops, the
&c. But to understand the shops of this
--the or which London is said to contain-we shall do well to glance at a few of the most notable, or at least most conspicuous, retail trades in succession, so far as shop arrangements depend on the nature of the commodities sold.
In the place, then-and pity 't is that the place should be so occupied-we have the public-houses, taverns, and gin-palaces. Those shops have been among the to introduce a decorative style of shop-architecture; and, what seems to many persons most strange, the poorer the neighbourhood, the more splendid do these places become. There are about regularly licensed public-houses in London, besides a large number of drinking-houses of various kinds which cannot come under this designation. The chatge between past and present times is more marked in respect to public-houses than to almost any other kind of retail shop in London. All the descriptions which writers have given of the older houses of this character beat a strong family likeness, as do the pictures which Hogarth and others have left. The tavern-keeper was a jolly, portly mat, with a red face, knee-breeches (into the pockets of which his hands were often thrust), and buckled shoes. His shop or
was small but well filled, exhibiting punch-bowls on a shelf, a little gilt Bacchus sitting across a barrel, a bunch of grapes of impossible diensions, and a sign-board creaking on its hinges outside. But now how great is the change! We are dazzled with the splendid gas-lamps ranged on the outside of the houge, and shedding a ray of surpassing brilliancy (there was a public-house; or years ago, whose exterior exhibited a lamp feet high, containing jets of gas!). When we come nearer we see that the interior is fully as brilliant as the exterior: elegantly-formed branches of pipes descend from the ceiling, or ascend from the counter, and yield a vast number of gas flames. the bar-furniture, such as counters,
| beer-machines, spirit-machines, are all of the finest workmanship and highest polish; while behind the counter, instead of the jolly Boniface of old, we see smartly-dressed females, dispensing the pennyworths or small quantities of liquor. It may be that a man or a boy draws the malt-liquor; but the chances are to that of the other sex-though strange it may seem--is serving those small portions of the burning liquid which so often bring ruin as their attendants. There is feature in a modern public-house for which our times need not be envied: in front of the counter are the ragged, the depraved, the impoverished, spending perhaps their last penny for gin, and cursing and quarrelling under the influence of the inebriation which it brings. It is, however, only fair to bear in mind that this is not a feature of all these houses: some derive the chief part of their business from serving families with beer, and such are, though much less splendid, much better ordered, than the real |
To arrive at something like a general rule, we may say that those public-houses which are situated in or near the lowest dens of poverty, such as Dials, Whitechapel, and some spots on the south of the river, have been becoming more and more splendid every year; while those situated near the squares and private streets have a decent air of respectability about them, as far removed from the desolating splendour of the former, as from the hearty jollity of the olden taverns.
The Bakers' and the Chemists' shops are among those which have adopted the luxury of plate-glass windows and bright gas-lamps. years ago most of the bakers' shops had small flat windows, and were very modestly lighted in the evening by a lamp or : the baker, with his woollen cap on his head, stood behind the counter rasping his loaves and rolls; while his wife, a plain, decent body, served the
But now the window displays its large squares of plate-glass, its brightly-blazing gas-jets, and its long array of neat trays filled with biscuits, whose shape would defy Euclid. The Chemists, or, as they ought more properly to be called, the Druggists, have made a notable advance in shop-architecture and arrangements. Most London walkers will remember the time when the large red, and green, and yellow bottles, shedding a ghastly light on the passer-by, were the chief indications of the presence of a Druggist's shop; but now the plate-glass window exhibits a most profuse array of knick-knacks, not only such as pertain to
but lozenges, perfumery, soda-water powders, &c.; while the well-dressed shopmen or
within- of the most lowly-paid class of respectable persons in London-ply their avocation of semi-chemists and semi-shopmen.
The Butchers' shops are pretty nearly what butchers' shops have always been: they have undergone but little change. They are still open shops, with their stout counters, provided with bins underneath for containing salt-meat, their huge chopping-blocks, their rows of hooks whereon to hang the meat, their rough floors covered with saw-dust, and their window-board next the street. A sash-window to a butcher's shop would be quite a solecism; but still there are at the west-end of the town symptoms of smartness and cleanliness to which the east makes no pretensions. The Grocers' shops--not the Greengrocers, for they remain open-fronted shops, as they were in former days, and in many cases exhibit the same heap of coals in corner, to be sold in pecks or pen'orths--have advanced in the march of improvement. The grocer is no longer content to place a solitary box of raisins, a chest which may or may not contain tea, and a few other articles, in his window. He has his extensive prairie of moist sugar, crossed with rivulets of preserved lemon-peel; his samples of tea are contained in elegant little polished vases, guarded by mandarins in splendid attire; his coffee is exhibited in various states and qualities; he has a highly polished steam-engine in his window, to imply that he sells so much coffee that he must have steam power to grind it; his loaves of white sugar are broken in half, to show that they are not
and that they have the right crystalline grain; and he does not fail to inform you that he has taken advantage of the recent intelligence from China to make extensive ready-money purchases, by which he can sell tea lower than his neighbours. His shop is redolent of plate-glass and gas-lights, and is altogether an attractive affair. There are, however, a few old establishments in this line whose celebrity renders these showy displays unnecessary; and there are also or new ones which command a large business by advertising rather than by shop-window display.
The shops devoted to the sale of wearing apparel are, however, the most remarkable in London. The principle of competition has been driven further in the drapery business than in most others, and hence the linen-drapers' shops exhibit the effects which this competition produces more strikingly perhaps than most others. The rise of the cotton manufacture in England has had much to
| do with this matter; for when woollen fabrics were the staple of English dress, the comparative costliness prevented any very eager competition, and the fabrics themselves were not of so showy a character. It is true the mercer had attractive silken goods to display in his window; but the immense consumption of cotton in female dress has been the chief moving power towards the production of the present remarkable display in the drapers' shops. The mills, the labour, the capital employed in this manufacture have led to so large a production that the manufacturer is anxious to |
in any quarter, and this anxiety leads to a constant increase in the number of retail shops.
To whatever part of London we direct our steps, we shall find that the Drapers' shops-including in this term those which sell cotton, linen, silk, and worsted goods--are among the handsomest. We may commence a tour from the East, and we shall find it everywhere pretty nearly alike; that is, in the busy streets, for in the by-streets the shops of this kind, what few there are, are of a much humbler description. In Whitechapel and other wide thoroughfares at the east end, the goods exposed in these windows are generally rather of a humble and cheap kind; but the windows are nevertheless glazed with plate-glass, and lighted with a profusion of gas-jets, such as only the gin-palates can equal. On approaching we find, among many shops of this character, for the sale of garments for the male sex; and a most extraordinary shop it is, for it may be said to reach from the ground to the roof, every story being fronted with plate-glass, and filled with goods. From to , whether we go by way of and , or and , the shops of this character are not particularly observable; but when we arrive at we come to a very world of show. Here we find a shop whose front presents an uninterrupted mass of glass from the ceiling to the ground; no horizontal sash bars being seen, and the vertical ones made of brass. Here, too, we see on a winter's evening a mode of lighting recently introduced, by which the products of combustion are given off in the street, instead of being left to soil the goods in the window: the lamps are fixed outside the shop, with a reflector so placed as to throw down a strong light upon the commodities in the window.
We may then enter and Ludgate Hill--a street which was once said to contain finer shops than any other street in London, and which still maintains an equality, if not a superiority. Here we find a shop which was of the to adopt the expedient of giving brilliancy and apparent vastness by clothing wall and ceiling with looking-glass, and causing these to reflect the light from rich cutglass chandeliers. Farther on we meet with a shop which, not having the means of being so bulky as its neighbours, resolved to make amends by soaring to a double height. This was the shop in London, as far as we are aware, in which the floor was taken to form part of the shop itself, and window carried up to the double height. That the goods are finely displayed by this method there can be no doubt; but its excellence as a point of shop architecture is another matter. A writer in the
about years ago, while condemning the excessive use of plate-glass in shop-windows, since it
alludes to this shop on
|, and remarks that |
The architecture answers its purpose and defies criticism.
Pursuing our journey through and , or in a northern route through and , we pass numerous and splendid specimens of this kind of shop, especially in , where some of the shops present an elegance of design more strictly correct, perhaps, than those already mentioned. then offers its display, and, taken from end to the other, exhibits a larger number of brilliant shops than any other street in London; for the drapers and mercers only share with other tradesmen the possession of brilliantly-lighted and elegantly-fitted
At the southern end of the Quadrant is a shop which has attracted much attention for its decorative character. It was thus spoken of in the
| :-- |
A shop at the corner of in , and erected about the same time as the just noticed, has also attracted much attention. We may go in almost any direction--in , among the aristocracy; in , the , or the , among humbler districts-and we shall everywhere find specimens, more or less splendid, of drapers' and mercers' shops.
Nor is the method of conducting business at these shops less remarkable than their appearance. Everything is on the
system of competition; and many of the most notable changes in shop arrangements have originated there. At time well-shaped gilt letters written on the facia over the window sufficed; but they have been nearly superseded by letters carved in wood and then gilt, or by letters cast in porcelain or glass, and decorated or partly gilt. Then, as well-shaped letters may be feared to attract no notice, others have been invented which shall seduce by their oddness. Some are very thick and short; some thin and lofty; some have thick strokes where there ought to be thin, and ; some are represented perspectively, as if standing behind another like a file of soldiers; some follow each other vertically up the front of the house; and in instance that we have seen, the letters are placed upside down. If, instead of looking at the inscription over the window, we read those in the window, we are led almost to believe that man was made to fatten on the misfortunes of his fellow-man :--
--are the written horrors which stare the reader in the face, and which are intended to make them believe that those misfortunes happening to other men have been the means of enabling the shopkeeper to sell countless thousands of bales of goods at---- per yard-of course, per cent. under what the raw materials cost. would think that the joke had become a stale , that it had been worn to death by such constant usage; but there still seem to be persons willing to be deceived. There are also numberless little catchwords to attract the notice of the passerby such as
&c.: anything, in short, which may make the rapid walker stay his, or her, pace. The price of a commodity, too, may be so ticketed as to deceive a reader: thus, guineas, by a dexterous smallness in the £, may look remarkably like . It is only fair to admit, however, that so far as the linen-drapery business is concerned, the higher class of shops do not push this system to so great an extent as those of humble rank. Still the practice is so far general as to constitute a marked feature in retail trade, and to furnish a fair source of reflection on the commercial causes which have led to so keen a spirit of competition. There may be individual instances of competition, apart from that which constitutes a general system; and Defoe, in his
very clearly expresses the varieties of these. He says there are kinds of under-sellers; viz. young tradesmen newly set up, who undersell their neighbours to get a trade; rich old tradesmen who have overgrown stocks, and who undersell to keep their trade; and poor tradesmen, who are obliged to sell low to get money. Defoe makes some judicious remarks on all of these points, and says,
Is not this picture as applicable now as it was a century and a half ago?
Many of the particulars into which we have here entered apply to other trades as well as to drapers, in respect both to shop arrangements and to systems of business. The tailors' shops, no longer the open
of former times, have their plate-glass windows, and an air of elegance about them; and if we wonder how any human waists can bear the smallness of the coats in the windows, we may be satisfied by knowing that they are only ideal waists, made for the occasion. The hatters have made quite as great a stride as the tailors, and now present shops as smart as most others. We may often see a bright pair of scales in the window, to show that the hat only weighs a certain number of ounces; and by the side of this a glass globe, containing water, on which a hat swims, to show how impervious is the waterproof with which it has been stiffened. Then the is placed so temptingly before the eye of the passenger, that he cannot choose but see it. The bootmakers are another class whose shops exhibit the fanciful arrangements of modern times. The well-polished boots, with arched insteps, pointed toes, and high heels, and named after the great and the noble--Wellington, Blucher, Clarence, Albert--are set off to the best advantage, while shoes are interspersed among them here and there; and though it may seem to imply a want of gallantry to place all the ladies' shoes on side of the window and the gentlemen's on the other, there is doubtless good reason for the arrangement.
Almost endless would be the task of enumerating the fine and elegant shops presented to view in the streets of London, and the dazzling array of commodities displayed in the windows. The furnishing ironmonger sets off his polished grates, fenders, candlesticks, &c., to the best advantage; the cabinetmaker, with his French-polished mahogany and his chintz furniture, does his best to tempt the passer-by; the tobacconist, abandoning the twisted clay-pipes and the pigtail tobacco of former days, displays his elegant snuff-boxes, cigar-cases, meerschaums, and hookahs; the perfumer decks his windows with waxen ladies looking ineffably sweet, and gentlemen whose luxuriant moustaches are only equalled by the rosy hue of their cheeks, and oils, creams, and cosmetics from Circassia, Macassar, &c. --nominally, at least; and so on throughout the list of those who supply the wants, real and imaginary, of purchasers. But there are, besides these shops, or classes of establishments which occupy distinct and separate positions in respect to the mode in which sales and purchases are made; such as bazaars and general dealers, which merit our notice.
A modern English bazaar is, after all, not a genuine representative of the class. It is a mingled assemblage of sundry wares rather than wares of kind. The markets of London might more fittingly claim the designation of bazaars, in respect to the class of commodities sold in each. Gay, writing above a century ago, says,--
This, which in some of the items is applicable to our own day, represents the true bazaar principle of the East. However, as our bazaars are retail shops, we will take a rapid glance at them.
The Soho Bazaar stands at the head of its class. It was founded many years ago by a gentleman of some notoriety, and has been uniformly a well-managed concern. It occupies several houses on the north-west corner of , and consists of stalls or open counters ranged on both sides of aisles or passages, on separate floors of the building. These stalls are rented by females, who pay, we believe, something between and per day for each. The articles sold at these stalls are almost exclusively pertaining to the dress and personal decoration of ladies and children; such as millinery, lace, gloves, jewellery, &c.; and, in the height of
the long array of carriages drawn up near the building testifies to the extent of the visits paid by the high-born and the wealthy to this place. Some of the rules of the establishment are very stringent. A plain and modest style of dress, on the part of the young females who serve at the stalls, is invariably insisted on, a matron being at hand to superintend the whole; every stall must have its wares displayed by a particular hour in the morning, under penalty of a fine from the renter; the rent is paid day by day,, and if the renter be ill, she has to pay for the services of a substitute, the substitute being such an as is approved by the principals of the establishment. Nothing can be plainer or more simple than the exterior of this bazaar, but it has all the features of a well-ordered institution.
The is a place of more show and pretensions. It was originally a theatre, of the most fashionable in London; but having met with the discomfitures which have befallen so many of our theatres, it remained untenanted for many years, and was at length entirely remodelled and converted into a bazaar. When we have passed through the entrance porch in , we find ourselves in a vestibule, containing a few sculptures, and from thence a flight of steps lead up to a range of rooms occupied as a picture gallery. These pictures, which are in most cases of rather moderate merit, are placed here for sale, the proprietors of the bazaar receiving a commission or per centage on any picture which may find a purchaser. From these rooms an entrance is obtained to the gallery, or upper-floor of the toy-bazaar, of the most tasteful places of the kind in London. We look down upon the ground story, from this open gallery, and find it arranged with counters in a very systematical order, loaded with uncountable trinkets. On counter are articles of millinery; on another lace; on a gloves and hosiery; on others cutlery, jewellery, toys, children's dresses, children's books, sheets of music, albums and pocket-books, porcelain ornaments, cut-glass ornaments, alabaster figures, artificial flowers, feathers, and a host of other things, principally of a light and ornamental character. Each counter is attended by a young female, as at the Soho Bazaar. On side of the toy-bazaar is an aviary,
|supplied with birds for sale in cages; and adjacent to it is a conservatory where plants are displayed in neat array.|
The is a bazaar for the sale of larger commodities. It is situated in the immediate vicinity of , and occupies masses of building on the opposite sides of a narrow street. Carriages constitute of the principal classes of articles sold at this bazaar: they are ranged in a very long building, and comprise all the usual varieties, from the dress carriage to the light gig, each carriage having its selling price marked on a ticket attached to it. Another department is for the sale of furniture; and consists of several long rooms or galleries filled with pianofortes, tables, chairs, sideboards, chests of drawers, bedsteads, carpets, and all the varied range of household furniture, each article, as in the former case, being ticketed with its selling price. There is a
also, consisting of a range of dry vaults for the reception and display of wines. The bazaar contains likewise a
but this is not so extensive as those noticed in the preceding paragraphs.
The Bazaar bears some resemblance to the , inasmuch as it contains a large array of carriages for sale. But it has somewhat fallen off from its original character; for it was opened as a
for the sale, among other things, of horses. Horses are, we believe, no longer exposed here for sale; and the chief commodities displayed are carriages, harness, horse-furniture and accoutrements, furniture, stoves, and
are exhibitions no way connected with the bazaar other than occupying a portion of the too-extensive premises.
There is, in the upper part of the , a building called the North London Repository, which gained some kind of celebrity a few years ago as a locality where the principle of
was put to the test. Every article sold had a price fixed upon it, such as would afford sixpence per hour for the time and labour of the artificer who made it, and this was to be bartered for some other article priced in a similar way. The scheme was an utter failure; and the building appropriated to it has been since converted into a kind of furniture and carriage depot, or bazaar.
If the Burlington or Lowther Arcades contained shops of kind only, they would bear a closer resemblance to the Oriental bazaars than any other places in London; for they are arranged in the long vaulted manner which pictures represent those of the East to be; but they contain paper-hangers, bootmakers, book and print sellers, music-sellers, besides toy-sellers and others. The Lowther Bazaar, opposite to the , is simply alarge shop, carried on by owner, but decked out with a variety of fanciful wares. The Opera was once somewhat of a bazaar; but it has been shorn of many of its attractions, and is a spiritless affair.
Next let us glance at the shops where commodities having already rendered service to set of purchasers are exposed to the view of a , or perhaps a . The pawnbroker, the dealer in marine stores, the common broker, the
--these are terms which point to our meaning. As to the multifarious articles displayed in the window of a pawnbroker, they have had a probation of a year and a day, and have been brought from the hidden recesses of the
|pawnbroker's store-room again to see the light. Each article-whether it be a telescope, a gown, a pair of pistols, a coat, a watch, a Bible--has its own tale of sorrow and poverty, and is suggestive of reflection on the ruinous rate of interest and loss at which the poor borrow money.|
But a more remarkable class of such shops includes those which are commonly known as
and which contain almost every imaginable kind of commodity. Let a pedestrian walk through and St. Andrew's Street, the New Cut, or any other part of London in a dense and poor neighbourhood, and observe the motley assemblage of articles, some good enough, but not in general requisition, some useful, but shabby, some to all appearance useless, yet all for sale, and he will acquire a general notion of the miscellaneous nature of the lower class of shop trading. Old furniture shops, or curiosity shops, such as we find in , are a new species-and amongst the most interesting. Humbler collections of curiosities are to be found in M/onmouth Street, St. Andrew's Street, and the New Cut. We cannot, however, mention without thinking of its array of -hand clothing. Gay spoke of it more than a century ago, and it remains the same in principle to the present day. As fashions change, so does the cut of the garments in change; but the dealers never change: they are the same people, actuated by the same motives, trafficking on the same system, as in by-gone days. In no other part of London is the use of cellar-shops so conspicuous as in . Every house has its cellar, to which access is gained by a flight of steps from the open street; and every cellar is a shop, mostly for the sale of secondhand boots and shoes, which are ranged round the margin of the entrance; while countless children-noisy, dirty, but happy brats--are loitering within and without.
, in , and , near , are other places where -hand garments are exposed for sale. The former still maintains a character given to it long ago, that a passenger needs all his resolution to prevent being dragged into the shops whether he will or no; so importunate are the entreaties by which he is invited to buy a bran-new coat, or a splendid waistcoat. has a reputation somewhat more equivocal. Its open unsashed windows are loaded with silk handkerchiefs, displayed in dazzling array; and if it be asked how they all came there, we may perhaps arrive at an answer by solving the following police-problem: given, the number of handkerchiefs picked from pockets in the course of a year, to find the number exposed for sale in in an equal period. In the immediate vicinity of is another curious assemblage of shops for the sale of old commodities: a small street is occupied almost entirely by open shops or stalls belonging to
who purchase old garments, and cut out from them such pieces as may be sound enough to patch up other garments; whereby a market is furnished which supplies many a
A word or respecting the daily economy of London shops. It is curious to mark the symptoms of the waking of huge London from its nightly sleep. Stage-coach travellers, unless where driven to a new system by railroads, have often means of observing this waking when entering or leaving London at a very early hour. There is an hour-after the fashionables have left their balls
| and parties, the rakes have reached their houses, and the houseless wanderers have found somewhere to lay their heads, but before the sober tradesmen begin the day's labour-when London is particularly still and silent. Had we written this a year ago, we might have had to allude to the poor sooty boy's shrill cry of |
but we may now only speak of the early breakfast-stalls, the early milkmen, and a few others, whose employment takes them into the street at an early hour. Very few shops indeed, even in the height of summer, are opened before o'clock; but at that hour the apprentices and shopmen may be seen taking down the shutters from the windows. Time has been when these shutters slid in grooves at the top and bottom of the window, but they now rest on a well-polished brass sill at the bottom, and are fastened with much neatness. The splendour of modern shops has in some cases reached to the shutters themselves, which are highly polished, and not unfrequently figured and decorated with gold; while in the recently-constructed windows of large dimensions sliding shutters of sheet-iron are occasionally used. When the shutters, whatever be their kind, are taken down, we soon see busy indications of cleansing operations going on: how sedulously the glass is wiped, the floor swept, the counters dusted, let the busy apprentice tell. Then comes the shopman or the master, who lays out in the window the goods intended to be displayed that day. Some trades, it is true, allow the goods to remain in the window all night; but in many the shop-window is cleared every evening, again to be filled the next morning. There is singular art and dexterity displayed in this part of the day's proceedings, in laying out the commodities in the most attractive form, especially in the mercers' and drapers' shops. Then, hour after hour, as the streets become gradually filled with walkers and riders, the shopkeeper prepares to receive his customers, whose hours of purchasing depend greatly on the nature of the commodities purchased; the baker has most trade in the morning and afternoon, the butcher and the greengrocer in the forenoon, the publican at noon and in the evening, and so on. In occupations relating to the sale of provisions, a small number of persons can transact a tolerably large trade; but in the drapery line the number of hands is remarkably large, there being some of these establishments in which the shopmen, clerks, cashiers, &c. amount to from to a . of these, called the
has a singular office to fill: his duty being to
with a view to see who enters it, and to point out to them at what counter, or at what part of the counter, they may be served with the particular commodity required.
As the evening comes on, the dazzling jets of gas become kindled in shop after another, till our principal streets have a brilliancy rivalling that of day. The evening-walkers are often a different class from the mid-day walkers, and make purchases of a different kind: some, too, seem to expect that shops shall be kept open for their accommodation till , , or o'clock, while others uniformly close at or o'clock. This question of shop-shutting has been a subject of much discussion lately; the shopmen to drapers, druggists, and many other retail traders, having urged the justice of terminating the daily business at such a time as will leave them an hour or for relaxation or reading. This does not seem to be unreasonable; but, at the same time, a little caution
|seems to be needful in carrying the plan into practice, since the convenience of the purchasers, in respect to the hours at which they make their purchases, must always be an element to be considered.|
That some streets should be exclusively private, while others are as exclusively occupied by shopkeepers, is a system for which there is good and sufficient reason. It is, in fact, mode of exemplifying the bazaar-system, in which, when purchases are to be made, a saving of time is effected by congregating the sellers near together. The sellers, too, serve each other, and each thrives by the aid of his neighbour. The sketch which Defoe, in his
made of matters as they existed in , will, with a few modifications, apply to our own day as well :--
[n.389.1] London : Street Sights and Street Noises.