London, Volume 5

Knight, Charles
1843

CIX.-Covent Garden.

CIX.-Covent Garden.

 

 

The name of this well-known place is of the many instances of popular corruption, which, should the original be once forgot, from thenceforth become both the trouble and the delight of bewildered but zealous antiquaries. We are, however, as yet spared their theories as to the origin of Covent Garden, seeing that we are told in many a bulky volume that there was on the spot, so early as , a large garden belonging to the monks of , which was therefore known as the . And it is curious to note how the deities to whom the place was then dedicated have kept watch and ward over it through all the changes that have been experienced here: the only difference being that Flora, having grown more comprehensive and exotic, and, it must be acknowledged, artificial in her tastes, has changed her simple plat into a conservatory; and that Pomona, instead of having to superintend the supply of the Abbey table, now caters for no inconsiderable portion of mighty London.

We have spoken of changes; and perhaps no part of London forms a happier text for such a theme,--no part that more strikingly illustrates the growth of London in comparatively recent times. Let us look at Covent Garden in , as it is exhibited to us in a large Map of the period,[n.129.1]  or at the view of given in a frontispiece to our volume. It forms there an oblong walled space, sprinkled over with trees and some or cottages, or, as

130

Strype describes it,

fields, with some thatched houses, stables, and such like,

bounded by open meadows with footpaths on the north, by the enclosed and gay-looking parterres of Bedford House on the south, by the road from into and to , with Drury House on the opposite side, embosomed in green foliage on the east, and by on the west, a fine leafy avenue carrying the eye onwards into the country, towards the beautiful hills of Hampstead and Highgate. That these features are correctly delineated in the map is evident fiom other proofs: Anderson, for instance, writing about the middle of the last century, refers to his having met persons in his youth who remembered the west side of to have been a quickset hedge. Towards the southern corner of the western side, formed a portion of the boundary line, with beyond it,

so called of the King's falcons there kept by the King's falconer, which of old time was an office of great account, as appeareth by a record of Richard II. in the

first

year of his reign; [when] Sir Simon Burley, Knight, was made constable of the castles of Windsor, Wigmore, and Guilford, and of the manor of

Kennington

, and also master of the King's falconry at

the Mews

near unto

Charing Cross

.

[n.130.1]  The Bedford family, to whom we are indebted in a great measure for the difference between the Covent Garden and precincts here described, and the same localities of the present day, is the referred to in Malcolm's remark,

Strange, that a

fifth

of London should have been erected by this family within

two

centuries!

But for the dissolution of the monasteries, all these as well as many other important metropolitan changes could hardly have taken place: then it was that the Convent Garden, with a field called Acres, or more popularly, from its shape, , was granted by Edward VI. to Edward Duke of Somerset, and again in , after the attainder of that nobleman, to John Earl of Bedford, who immediately built himself a house at the bottom of the present , in (so called from the illustrious wife of the Lord William Russell, who was the daughter of the Earl of Southampton), and laid out the parterres before mentioned. The house was, it appears, but

a mean wooden building, shut up from the street by an ordinary brick wall;

it was pulled down in . In the early part of the reign of Charles I., Francis, Earl of Bedford, looking with the eye of a man of business at the capacities of his newly-acquired property, and with that of a statesman at the desirableness and certainty of a continual increase of the progression which alarmed so many of his brother senators, and of their monarch, began the magnificent improvements which were to distinguish his name. How he appeased Charles I., or how he ventured to act in opposition to him, it is difficult to say, but that the Earl's proceedings were in direct violation of the laws which Elizabeth, James, and Charles had set down for the repression of fresh buildings in London is certain: perhaps, after all, he quietly submitted to be fined, as we shall find was the case with his successors, and then let the exaction-like such exactions generally-fall on that portion of the public who rented the houses. To the general energy in all departments of mental and social life exhibited in the reign of Elizabeth may be attributed the increase in the metropolis which so startled the sagacious

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virgin queen, that she issued a proclamation in , forbidding the erection of many but houses of the highest class within miles of the city. James was not even satisfied with this precaution, but added () a proclamation commanding a noblemen, knights, and gentlemen, who had mansions in the country, to depart within days, with their wives and families, during the summer vacation. As to Charles, he, in the very year that the Earl commenced operations, strained the restrictive virtue of proclamations so far as to forbid the entertainment of additional inmates in houses already existing,

which would multiply the inhabitants to such an excessive number that they could neither be governed nor fed.

This, we repeat, was the precise time the Earl of Bedford began. His step was to call to his assistance Inigo Jones, who had already commenced at the erection of that class of houses, and in that disposition, which gave such novel features to London, and forms to this day, in the different squares, of its principal charms. The old buildings of the locality having been removed, a large oblong space, feet long by broad, was laid out in the centre, around which were to be stately buildings, with arcades after the Italian manner, for persons of rank and fashion, then fast migrating westward from and the different parts of the city. The north and a part of the east sides only were erected, however, by Jones, or after his designs, and the latter was burnt down in the fire that injured the church in . The remainder of the space was laid out in streets, which still bear in their names a reference to the period, as , , and . The impulse, thus given, spread; noble mansions shot up with surprising rapidity, in , in , and generally through the neighbourhood, where we may still trace Jones's handiwork, as in the building in the street last mentioned, which is here shown. This fine artist, indeed, it seems to us, ought to be looked upon as the true founder of the modern domestic architecture of the metropolis. It was not till after he had laid out Square and Covent Garden, and built the palatial mansions that adorned both, that

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and arose; to be followed still later by Hanover and Cavendish Squares, and a host of others. Of the minor streets that sprung up subsequent to and in consequence of the erection of the buildings of Covent Garden, in the same century, we may mention , so designated from the wife of Charles II.; and from his brother; also Bloomsbury, and the streets of Dials; and, lastly, in the reigns of William and Anne, the remaining unbuilt sides of Covent Garden. As to the fines for such labours, which we before referred to, it appears that during the Protectorate, in the year , William, the Earl, and his brothers John and Edward Russell, were abated from the amount of their fines for violating the proclamation, in consideration of the great expense which the family had incurred in the erection of the chapel, and the improvement of the neighbourhood.

As houses accumulated, the parish church of St. Martin became insufficient for the accommodation of the parishioners; so the Earl day sent for his architect, and

told him,

says Walpole, who had the anecdote from the Speaker of the , Onslow,

that he wanted a chapel for the parishioners of Covent Garden, but added, he would not go to any considerable expense;

in short,

says he,

I would not have it much better than a barn.

Well, then,

replied Jones,

you shall have the handsomest barn in England.

This story, so far from appearing to us as

somewhat questionable,

as Mr. Brayley esteems it, or to have arisen from a mere

expression of pleasantry on the part of the Earl,

as suggested by a writer in the

Gentleman's Magazine,

is so exactly illustrated by the building, that were there no truth in it, we should be half inclined to agree with the opinion of him who said the most remarkable thing about the structure is the reputation it enjoys, so exceedingly naked is it as regards all decorative details, so destitute, in short, of any qualities that can command admiration the air of grandeur thrown over the whole by the masterly combinations of form and the powerful lights and shadows which they bring into play: the very quality, in short, that the anecdote shows us was alone at the architect's disposal. Some time after the erection of the chapel, a dispute occurred between the Earl and the vicar of as to the right of patronage or appointment of curates to the former, in consequence of which the Earl used all his influence to get the district formed into a separate parish, and successfully; in his wishes were finally accomplished, and the chapel became the church of St. Paul-Covent Garden a parish. The cost of the former was , a sum that contrasts very oddly with the charges for repairing the structure only about years later, namely, ; but the Vandals who had the management of the repair appear to have gone out of their way to increase the expense by altering the portico-Inigo Jones's portico; for we learn from a newspaper of that

the right honourable the Earl of Burlington, out of regard to the memory of the celebrated Inigo Jones, and to prevent our countrymen being exposed for their ignorance, has very generously been at the expense of

300l.

or

400l.

to restore the portico of Covent Garden Church, now

one

of the finest in the world, to its primitive form : it is said it once cost the inhabitants about twice as much to spoil it.

[n.132.1]  Would it were always so; it is impossible to desire a better argument for the conviction of such persons, and

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where that tails nothing could succeed. In the fire took place which burnt the arcade on the east side of the square, and did terrible damage to the church; Malcolm says, not a particle of woodwork escaped (the wondrous architectural roof of timber of course early disappeared); and describes the flames at their height as making

a grand scene, the portico and massy pillars projected before a background of liquid fire.

The church had been insured for , but the insurance having been allowed to expire about a twelvemonth before, the entire expense of the rebuilding fell on the inhabitants in the shape of an accumulation of rent to the amount, it is said, of at least per cent. The essential parts of Inigo Joncs's structure, that is, the portico, with the walls, resisted the fire and were preserved. There were some interesting things in the building thus destroyed, and which shared the same fate; such as the monument by Gibbon of Sir P. Lely, who

on animated canvas stole

The sleepy eye that spoke the melting soul,

and who was buried in the church; the painted-glass portraits of St. Paul, of which Bagford speaks; and the picture of Charles I., by Lely, which shows how the painter's zealous political views had got the better of his common sense, not to say of his religious perceptions: the king was painted kneeling, with a in his hand, his sceptre and coronet lying by. We do not find it stated that this picture was burnt, but such was no doubt the case, as it is not now in the church. Many of our readers may be aware that , Covent Garden, derives some reputation from the eminent men who have been buried within its walls or churchyard; but they will hardly be aware how very rich it is in such associations. Beneath the vestry-room, where is a fine portrait by Vandyke of the Earl of Bedford, lie Wolcot, the scourge alike of Academicians, and of the royalty who conferred on them the honours they so delighted in, and Johnstone, the best Irish gentleman of our stage. In other parts of the church are the remains of Wycherley, the author of the

Plain Dealer,

and the worthy precursor of the Congreves, Vanbrughs, and Farquhars; Macklin, who, as his inscription informs us, was

the father of the modern stage,

Renowned alike for talent and for age,

and Dr. Arne, the great English musician (without stone or memorial). In that part of the churchyard which lies on the northern side of the walk, against the back of the houses of , and called Plat, reposes the author of

Hudibras ;

and in another corner of the same plat, appropriately designated the Theatrical corner, Michael Kelly, Edwin, King, and Estcourt, the founder of the Beef Steak Club, of which Mrs. Woffington was president, and which is mentioned in the

Spectator.

other names yet occur to the memory in connexion with , Carr Earl of Somerset, and Sir Robert Strange, the founder of the English school of engraving, and who enjoys the peculiar honour of having had his portrait introduced into the picture of the

Progress of Engraving,

in the Vatican--the only of our countrymen so distinguished.

Nor are the interesting recollections of the locality confined to the church. In

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, now , Covent Garden, was Dryden waylaid and beaten by ruffians hired by the Earl of Rochester, in revenge for an attack upon himself in the

Essay on Satire,

a production attributed to Dryden, but really written by Lord Mulgrave, afterwards Duke of Buckinghamshire. The poet was at the time returning from his favourite haunt at the western corner of , the far-famed Will's Coffee House. Dryden was also concerned in another act of violence in Covent Garden, and which ended fatally, but in which he was less personally interested: we allude to the duel, so dramatically described by Pepys, between

Sir H. Bellasses and Tom Porter,

and which, he justly observes, is worth remembering as a

kind of emblem of the general complexion of this whole kingdom at present.

He then continues,

They

two

dined yesterday at Sir Robert Carr's, where, it seems, people do drink high, all that come. It happened that these

two

, the greatest friends in the world, were talking together, and Sir H. Bellasses talked a little louder than ordinary to Tom Porter, giving of him some advice. Some of the company standing by said,

What, are they quarrelling, that they talk so high?

Sir H. Bellasses, hearing it, said,

No,

says he,

I would have you know I never quarrel but I strike; and take that as a rule of mine!

How,

says Tom Porter,

strike? I would I could see the man in England that durst give me a blow.

With that Sir H. Bellasses did give him a box of the ear; and so they were going to fight there, but were hindered. And by-and-by Tom Porter went out, and, meeting Dryden the poet, told him of the business, and that he was resolved to fight Sir H. Bellasses presently; for he knew that, if he did not, they should be friends to-morrow, and then the blow would rest upon him, which he would prevent; and desired Dryden to let him have his boy to bring him notice which way Sir H. Bellasses goes. By-and-by he is informed that Sir H. Bellasses' coach was coming: so Tom Porter went down out of the coffee-house, where he stayed for the tidings, and stopped the coach, and bade Sir H. Bellasses come out.

Why,

says H. Bellasses,

you will not hurt me coming out, will you?

No,

says Tom Porter. So, out he went, and both drew; and H. Bellasses having drawn, and flung away his scabbard, Tom Porter asked him whether he was ready. The other answering him he was, they fell to fight, some of their acquaintance by. They wounded

one

another, and Bellasses so much, that it is feared he will die: and, finding himself severely wounded, he called to Tom Porter, and kissed him, and bade him shift for himself; for, says he,

Tom, thou hast hurt me, but I will make shift to stand upon my legs till thou mayst withdraw, and the world will not take notice of you, for I would not have thee troubled for what thou hast done.

And so, whether he did fly or not I cannot tell; but Tom Porter showed H. Bellasses that lie was wounded too: and they are both ill, but H. Bellasses to fear of life.

[n.134.1]  Bellasses died days afterwards.

In Covent Garden, again, was Powell's Theatre, where Punch, soaring above the mere antics that regale the eyes of his street worshippers, marshalled a goodly company of puppet actors, and laid under contribution the mightiest subjects in the history of man for dramas, that might worthily exhibit their powers. Here is of Powell's advertisements:---

At Punch's Theatre, in the Little Piazza, this present Friday being the

2nd

, and to-morrow, the

3rd of May

, will

be presented an opera, called the

State of Innocence, or the Fall of Man.

With variety of scenes and machines, particularly the scene of Paradise in its primitive state, with birds, beasts, and all its ancient inhabitants, the subtlety of the serpent in betraying Adam and Eve, &c., with variety of diverting interludes, too many to be inserted here. No person to be admitted in masks or riding-hoods [commonly used at the other theatres for the purposes of licentious intrigue], nor any money to be returned after the curtain is up. Boxes

2s.

; pit Is. Beginning exactly at

seven

o'clock.

It must not be supposed, however, that Punch thought there should be no more cakes and ale because his master was virtuous, or that fun was to be debarred merely because the theme might be somewhat serious: so, whether Adam and Eve were wandering hand-in-hand about Eden, or Noah and his daughters shut up in the ark, Punch, in his own proper character, was not long missing. Powell had constantly audiences of the most fashionable description. Lastly, in and around Covent Garden, Beefsteak Club--not the oldest , but by far the greatest-held its sittings, from its formation in the dressing-room of the manager and pantomimist Rich, a man of whom Garrick says,--

He gave the power of speech to every limb,

and who carried the pantomimic art to great perfection in his theatre at , and subsequently at Covent Garden when he became its manager. To ensure the effect of his scenes, and the working of his ingenious mechanism he painted the , and put in motion the other, in small pasteboard models, with his own hands. Whilst thus engaged, his room was the continual resort of men of rank and intellectual eminence, who admired the skill of the artist, and still more the conversation of the man. Hogarth, his father-in-law Sir James Thornhill, and Lord Peterborough, were among this class. The latter having been detained accidentally on occasion, through the non-arrival of his carriage, was so delighted with the converse that passed as to overlook the lapse of time, and the necessity that his entertainer--a man of regular habits-should get his dinner. Rich, however, did not forget or postpone it, but at o'clock commenced preparations by clearing his fire, placing a gridiron with a steak on it, and spreading his cloth. When ready, Rich invited his lordship to join him, who did so, and enjoyed his repast so much that further supplies, with wine, were sent for; and thus was the evening spent. On leaving, Lord Peterborough proposed a renewal of the feast on the Saturday following, when or friends came with him, and the club was finally determined upon, with

Beef and Liberty

for its motto, and beefsteaks, port wine, and punch for its regular fare. This took place in , and from that to the present time there are few persons of very high personal, political, or intellectual distinction who have not been among its members. In the notices of the proceedings of different periods the most prominent names are Bubb Doddington, Aaron Hill, Hoadley, the author of the

Suspicious Husband,

Glover the poet, Lord Sandwich, Wilkes, Bonnel Thornton, Arthur Murphy, Churchill, Tickell, the Prince of Wales afterwards George IV., the late Duke of Norfolk, the late Charles Morris, &c. &c. Here, indeed, were met the fellows of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, with their gibes, their gambols, their songs, their flashes of merriment that were wont to

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set the table in a roar. Pre-eminent among them was the poet Churchill, whose wit in many a dazzling attack or repartee still lives in the memory of the members. The

Liberty,

added to the Beef, had probably attracted a descendant of King Charles's stern judge, Bradshaw, to the society, who was always boasting of the connexion. Pursuing day his usual theme, Churchill remarked,

Ah, Bradshaw, don't crow! The Stuarts have been amply avenged for the loss of Charles's head, for you have not had a head in your whole family ever since.

The society, after numerous migrations, as from to the Bedford Hotel in the square, and from the Bedford to the Lyceum, is now permanently settled in a room attached to the latter, where Rich's original gridiron

now presents itself, encircled with its motto, and suspended from the ceiling to every eye which can spare a wandering glance from the beefsteak smoking before it.

[n.136.1]  We conclude these historical notices of Covent Garden with a brief reference to its aspect in the beginning of the last century, when the square was enclosed with rails, and ornamented by a stone pillar on a pedestal, with a curious -square sun-dial; when the south side lay open to Bedford Garden with

its small grotto of trees most pleasant in the summer season,

and in which part alone was then kept the market for fruit, roots, and flowers. On the erection of Southampton and Tavistock Streets, with Southampton Passage, on the site of Bedford House and its parterres, the market was removed farther into the square, to the great annoyance, it seems, of the

persons of distinction

who then resided in it, and who gradually left their houses in consequence. Maitland, referring to this point, in describing the

things remarkable

of Covent Garden, calls the latter

a magnificent square,

and then adds,

wherein (

to its great disgrace

) is kept a herb and fruit-market.

If the sage topographer could see the latter now, we wonder whether its increased magnitude would make it seem in his eyes a still more disgraceful affair, or whether that very magnitude, as in a analogous instances, would stamp it as respectable. The contrast is certainly curious between the opinions of the market held by a historian of London only a century or so ago, and the state and reputation of that market now.

The supremacy of Covent Garden as the great wholesale market for vegetables, fruit, and flowers is now undisputed. So early indeed as proposals were made for establishing a herb-market in Fields; but, though the population had been fast increasing in that direction of the town during the whole of the century, the Stocks Market and the Honey Lane Market, in the City, were still flourishing, and the interests connected with them too powerful to admit of a rival. With a single bridge over the Thames, leading into the very heart of the City, these ancient markets were most convenient to the market-people, whether their supplies were brought by land-carriage or by the river. A century later the Stocks Market was removed, and Spitalfields and Covent Garden had become markets of great importance. The origin of is said to have been casual-people coming and standing in the centre of the square with produce for sale gradually led to the establishment of a regular market. This took place before either or Blackfriars bridges were erected. A paper, published about the middle of the century,

137

entitled,

Reasons for fixing an Herb-Market at Dowgate,

appears to have been the last attempt to preserve a great vegetable market in the City. It is stated in this paper, that since the removal of Stocks Market the farmers and gardeners had laboured under very great inconvenience, as they were obliged to take their produce to Spitalfields and Covent Garden, which markets, it is observed, were daily increasing. The establishment of a market at Dowgate would, it was argued, have the effect of bringing back into the City all those who went from Stocks Market to Spitalfields; and, as a large proportion of the supply of vegetables and fruit was either landed at the bridge-foot, or brought over it from Kent and Surrey, the proposition seemed reasonable enough. While Dowgate was only yards from the bridge, Spitalfields was eighteen yards, and Covent Garden . The building of , and the continually increasing population, particularly in the western and northern suburbs, settled this question. Honey Lane Market, close to , and the Fleet Market remained the only places within the City which were supplied by the producers. The Honey Lane Market is now entirely abolished, and its site occupied by the City of London School. In an Act was passed authorizing the corporation of the City to remove the Fleet Market, and to provide a new in its place, now called , on a site adjoining the western side of the old market. In a company was incorporated for re-establishing Hungerford Market, which is partly a vegetable market. In the same year an Act was passed for establishing Portman Market, in the parish of Mary-le-bone. is another of the modern vegetable markets of London. We, however, need only notice those markets where the growers and the retail dealers meet to transact their business; and these are Covent Garden; the Borough Market, near the ancient church of , ; Spitalfields, chiefly a potato-market; ; and perhaps Hungerford Market.

Few places could be more disgraceful to a great city than the incommodious state and mean appearance of about years ago, when it was partially covered with open sheds and wooden structures, running from east to west. What it was years ago we know from Hogarth's print; and the late Mr. Walker, a metropolitan police magistrate, referred to it just previous to its alteration, as an instance of the pernicious effect of neglect and filth on public taste and morality in a spot where large numbers of people daily congregate.

The evil here,

he says,

lies in the bad contrivance and arrangement of their places of public concernment. It is surely a great error to spend nearly a million of money on a penitentiary, whilst the hotbeds of vice from which it is filled are wholly unattended to. What must necessarily be the moral state of the numerous class constantly exposed to the changes of the weather, amidst the mud and putridities of Covent Garden? What ought it to be, where the occupation is amongst vegetables, fruits, and flowers, if there were well-regulated accommodations?

Fortunately the kind of deteriorating causes here spoken of have been now removed. In the Duke of Bedford obtained an Act for rebuilding the market, and the irregular combination of sheds and standings began to be removed in , and in due time the present buildings were completed. The new pile consists of a colonnade on the exterior, running

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round the north, east, and south sides, under which are the shops, each with a sleeping-room above. Joined to the back of these is another row of shops, facing the inner courts, and through the centre runs an arched passage, feet wide and open to the top, with shops on each side. This passage is the favourite promenade of those who visit the market after the rougher business of the morning is over. Forced fruits and culinary vegetables, and rare flowers constitute the great attraction. The effect of the seasons is set at nought. In January forced rhubarb is exhibited, and French beans at a , hot-house grapes at a lb.; in February, cucumbers at to each; and strawberries Is. an ounce; in March, new potatoes at and a lb.; in April, peaches and nectarines at each, and cherries at a lb., or perhaps S; at the end of the month peas at per dozen; early in May, green gooseberries at or per half-sieve of gallons; and all the greatest results of artificial horticulture in every month of the year. In January, bouquets of geraniums, chrysanthemums, euphorbia, and other flowers, may be had at to each; bunches of violets at each; sprigs of sweet-briar, also the Persian lilac, mignonette, &c. Very extensive cellarage for storing bulky articles is excavated under nearly the whole area of the market. There are cellars with conveniences for washing potatoes. Great attention has been paid to the forming of capacious sewers, and every precaution taken to ensure the most perfect cleanliness. Water is furnished by an Artesian well, feet deep, which supplies gallons an hour, and the whole market can be inundated and washed in a few minutes. Over the eastern colonnade, the principal entrance, there are light and elegant conservatories, rented by eminent nurserymen, for the sale of the more scarce and delicate species of plants and flowers. They are feet broad and feet high, and occupy a of the terrace, the remaining part forming a promenade, and being also used for the display of the more hardy plants. A handsome fountain throws up a refreshing shower, and adds very much to the beauty of the conservatories. The view from the terrace into the principal passage below, and towards the eastern side of the market, is animated, if not picturesque. We shall return to Covent Garden after a brief description of other of the metropolitan vegetable markets.

in extent, so far as the building is concerned, is . It occupies the sloping surface on which and stand, and is, in fact, the ancient bank of the river Fleet. This inclination of the surface is remarkably favourable to the drainage, and the market is not only well supplied with water, but is well lighted when the market is open. The area occupies about acre and a half, in the form of a parallelogram, surrounded on sides by buildings feet high and broad, and measuring along the middle about feet long. On the above sides are the shops of the butchers and poulterers. The side consists of a spacious covered space, feet long, feet broad, and feet high, for the fruiterers and dealers in vegetables, and it opens on the central area by an arcade at several points. The south side is open to the street, but separated from it by a long iron palisading, in which there are entrances for waggons. The number of shops is . Altogether the quadrangular area with the buildings covers square yards,

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being feet by feet. of the largest provincial markets are Market, at Liverpool, feet by ; and at Birmingham, feet by . The cost of building was ., but the purchase of the site, the buildings which stood upon it, and the rights of the occupiers, cost the city about Hungerford Market was erected by the architect of , but it is not confined to the sale of articles of food only. The Borough Market is of tolerable size, but altogether destitute of architectural pretensions; and, if possible, Spitalfields and the other markets are still less distinguished in this way.

The supply of a population amounting to nearly millions with articles of such general and necessary consumption in every family as culinary vegetables and fruit, involves of course a very extensive and comprehensive system of cooperation, and in this and every other department connected with the provision of food to the inhabitants of London there is that perfect working to each other's hands amongst the several branches of those immediately or remotely employed by which alone the final result is so successfully accomplished. In vegetable food and fruit the demand cannot at all times keep pace with the immense supply which is poured in by steam-boats, sailing-boats, and boats conducted by a pair of oars, by the railways, and by land-carriage, from the metropolitan counties, from every part of England and parts of Scotland, and from the continent. It is nearly half a century since Middleton, in his

Agricultural Survey of Middlesex,

estimated the value of the vegetables annually consumed in London at , and of fruit at , making together a sum exceeding million sterling (), and this exclusive of the profits of any other class besides the growers. The total amount paid by the consumer would of course very much augment the above large sum. Middleton gives an instance in which the marketgardener received per acre for turnips, while the consumer was paying at the rate of , the former selling bunches at halfpence each, which were sold in the retailer's shop at fivepence. This of course was not the general course of the trade, for though the retail dealer has, generally speaking, to pay a heavy rent, and is subject to other great expenses and bad debts, the difference of the wholesale and retail price was in this case disproportionate. There are perhaps more cases of garden-farmers or market-gardeners making handsome fortunes by production than amongst the class who sell the same articles by retail. Middleton speaks of a person who grew at Sutton acres of asparagus, and the cost of forming the beds was estimated at per acre. Another grower had acres of his own land under this crop. The market-gardeners, he says, on acres of the best land, or acres of a secondary quality, or on acres of inferior land, at that time provided as well for their families as an ordinary farmer on or acres. He calculated that, for the supply of London with vegetables, there were acres cultivated by the spade, and partly by the spade but chiefly by the plough: the gross annual produce varied from to an acre. There were besides the fruit gardeners, who, in , had acres under cultivation in Middlesex alone, the

upper crop

consisting of apples, pears, cherries, plums, walnuts, &c., and the

under crop

of gooseberries, raspberries, currants, strawberries, and other bearing trees which would grow

140

well under the shade of the larger ones. Peaches, nectarines, and similar fruits were trained against the walls. In the height of the season Middleton supposed that each acre of these gardens gave employment to persons, amongst whom were many women, chiefly from Wales, part of whose time was employed in carrying baskets of fruit to town on their heads. The vegetable gardeners also gave employment to great numbers of persons in the busiest season. The gathering of a crop of peas required persons for every acres, the

podders

being paid at the rate of fourpence a bushel in . After peas succeeded turnips, and these as well as carrots are washed and tied in bunches before being sent to market. The cutting and packing of waggon loads of cabbages or whatever other vegetables may be in season cannot be done without the services of a number of persons besides the labourers actually engaged in their cultivation. Since Middleton's work was published the population of the metropolis has just doubled, and it probably will not be far wrong to double his estimates: the mode of cultivation and of preparing the produce for market remains much in the same state as it was years ago. centuries ago, Samuel Hartlib, author of several works on agriculture, writing in , states that some old men recollected

the

first

gardener who came into Surrey to plant cabbages, cauliflowers, and to sow turnips, carrots, and parsnips, to sow early-ripe peas, all which at that time were great wonders, we having few or none in England but what came from Holland and Flanders.

years before, he tells us, that so near London as Gravesend,

there was not so much as a mess of peas but what came from London.

In our day we have pea salesmen in London, and in a single day grower will send to firm about sacks of and pecks each, besides from to sieves (of gallons each) of those of a superior kind; and the same grower will in the same way send or waggon loads of cabbages, each load averaging dozen cabbages; at another season, from the same farm, or baskets of

sprouts

will be sent in day, and in the course of the year from to tons of potatoes. If we look at the immense quantity and variety of vegetables and fruits which are sent to London in the present day, it is easier to perceive the great change which has taken place in the diet of the people than to imagine how they could do without that varied supply of vegetable food which is now considered indispensable.

The market-days at Covent Garden are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the last being by far the most important. There is no particular hour for commencing business, but it varies at different seasons, and by daybreak there are always a few retail dealers present. Waggons and carts have been arriving for some time before, and porters are busied in transferring their contents to the different stations of the salesmen while the dawn is yet grey. The houses of refreshment around the market are open at half-past in summer; and little tables are set out against the pillars of the piazzas by the venders of tea and coffee. Here the porters and carters can obtain refreshment without needing to resort to exciting liquors; and few greater benefits have been conferred on the laborious classes whose occupation is in the public markets than that of substituting tea and coffee for ardent spirits. There is some separation of the

141

different classes of articles, and potatoes and coarser produce are assigned a distinct quarter. Vegetables and fruit are tolerably well separated, and flowers and plants are found together. The west side of the square is covered with potted flowers and plants in bloom, and a gay, beautiful, and fragrant display they make. The supply of

cut

flowers for bouquets, or, to use the oldfashioned word, nosegays, is very large, including

walls,

daffodils, roses, pinks, carnations, &c., according to the season. The carts and waggons with vegetables are drawn up close together on sides of the market. A waggon-load of fine fresh cabbages, of clean-washed turnips, carrots, or cauliflowers, or an area of square yards covered with the latter beautiful vegetable, or either of the others piled in neat stacks, is a pleasing sight. Here are onions from the Bedfordshire sands or Deptford, cabbages from Battersea, asparagus from Mortlake and Deptford, celery from , peas from Charlton, these spots being each famous for the production of these particular articles, though the supply may be larger from other places. By and by the greengrocers come jogging in; and the spacious streets leading to the market in time become crowded with a double row of their vehicles. The costermongers and venders of water-cresses, and itinerant dealers who have taken up the trade as a temporary resource, arrive with their donkey-carts, trucks, or baskets. The Irish basket-women, who
ply as porteresses, and will carry your purchase to any part of the town, jabber in Erse, and a subdued clamouring sound tells you that the business of the day has really begun. As fast as the retail dealer makes his bargains a porter carries the articles to his market-cart, pushing through the crowd with the load on his head as well as he can. The baskets of

spring onions

and young radishes are thronged by the itinerant dealers trying to drive hard bargains. It is interesting to watch for a short time the business of the flower-market.

142

This is the Londoners' flower-garden, and is resorted to in the early summer morning by many a lover of flowers compelled by his occupation to live in the densely-crowded parts of London, and who steals a few moments from the busy day to gratify of the purest tastes. This out-of-door floral exhibition has undergone an extraordinary improvement within the last few years, and it is really an attractive show. It keeps alive a taste which in many instances would otherwise languish; and it is not a little

refreshing

to see the humble mechanic making a purchase of a root of

hen and chicken daisies,

a

black

wall-flower, or a primrose, to ornament the window of his workshop. Some who love flowers better than they understand how to treat them, while making their purchase, gather instructions for keeping them fresh and healthy. The

pot

plants are bought in ones and twos by private persons; but the itinerant dealer fills his basket or donkey-cart, and will be met with in his perambulations during the day in most parts of London in spring and summer. The most common plants are pelagorniums, fuchsias, verbenas, heliotropes, amaranthus, cockscombs, calceolarias, roses, myrtles, and other greenhouse plants. The cut flowers are purchased for the decoration of public rooms, and by persons who love the exquisite beauty of flowers, and by itinerant dealers, chiefly females, who make them up into small bouquets and vend them in the streets. The smart clerk purchases them for a posy, and to stick a fine pelagornium in the button-hole is not a practice to be despised, albeit a glass phial filled with water on a corner of his desk would perhaps be as good a destination. The sweet-briar which the flower-girl offers for sale in the crowded street gives out a fragrance which is most delicious, as its odours are momentarily inhaled by the hasty passenger proceeding to scenes so different from those which it recalls. The costermongers,[n.142.1]  who may be seen in all the great wholesale markets of London, Smithfield excepted, unless they may go there to speculate in horseflesh for the boiler, or to buy a donkey, are a very singular race, and in their sharp commercial habits come nearer to the Jews than any other class. From their appearance any would infer that their purchases would be confined to a few bunches of water-cresses, but they often buy considerable quantities of the best description of articles; and though, still judging from appearances, it would seem to display a very reckless degree of confidence in each other, they not unfrequently club their money and buy up an advantageous lot on favourable terms, though it is not easy to perceive by what arrangement they can divide the bargain amongst each other without serious disputes. The narrow and dirty streets which they inhabit may often be seen gay with a rich display of potted flowers and plants which they are about to carry through the town for sale; and at other times an unwonted aspect of purity is given to the vicinity by a profuse supply of the finest cauliflowers. The costermongers may be divided into several ranks, the lowest being scarcely worthy of the name, as he only purchases in small quantities which he can carry off in his basket. A considerable degree above him is he who carries his commodities from street to street on a truck with a capacious board on the top, shelved at the edges; but it must be stated that the truck is only a hired , either for the day or the

143

week; the costermonger who owns a donkey, and a rough cart which seems to have been rudely made by his own hands, is indeed worthy of his name and character, and he may save money if he is not too fond of low sports; but a prince among the tribe is he who has not only cash for any chance speculation which may turn up, but possesses accumulated capital in the shape of trucks which he lets out at a fixed rent to his less fortunate or less steady brethren. man of this class, who lives near the

Elephant and Castle,

has of these trucks. They cost from to when new: he is not so extravagant as to buy them fresh from the maker, but picks them up when misfortune obliges of the fraternity to descend to a humbler rank in the profession. The charge for letting them out is a-day, or a-week, but without the board at the top and ; and in winter the price for each sort is only Sometimes of these wealthy truck-men will buy up on very advantageous terms large quantities of such articles as are in season, and he can sell again to the drawers of his trucks cheaper than they can buy in small quantities in the market. He knows better than to employ the buyers as his servants, but is content with a small profit and no risk, and as he gets so handsome an income from his trucks he ought to be content. A boy of the lowest class commencing his career in , if he be prudent, sharp, and intelligent, and is fortunately exempt from the vices of his companions, has a better and surer prospect of making a fortune, if he pursues a right course, than most of the youths of the middle class.

The Borough Market is well supplied with vegetable produce, but there is no catering here for a wealthy class of consumers: the market is held times a-week. Hungerford can scarcely be regarded a wholesale market, the dealers who have shops here being chiefly supplied from Covent Garden. has not realized the expectations which were entertained of its importance, but produce is brought to it by the growers on days in the week, and it is a good deal resorted to by the itinerant venders, those especially who sell hot baked potatoes and the criers of water-cress. Spitalfields is the largest potato market in the metropolis, as, besides being convenient to the growers in Essex, whence the chief supply by land-carriage is obtained, it is in the midst of a dense population of the poorer class. It is difficult to obtain an estimate worthy of much confidence relative to the consumption of potatoes in London, but it is really enormous, and of late years has increased in a greater ratio than the increase of population would warrant. The most extensive potato-salesmen are established in , where they have warehouses adjacent to the river. There are some retail dealers who dispose of tons of potatoes per week, in quantities of a few pounds weight at a time, all weighed in the scale; but tons is considered as a very good amount of business in this article, and sales of this extent only occur in particular quarters of the town where the means of the population do not rise much above poverty. wholesale dealer in can store up a tons or sacks on his premises. The Irish Railway Commissioners estimated the quantity of food consumed by an adult living wholly upon vegetable food at lbs. per day, inclusive of waste, which is very great; the quantity

144

consumed by the next class, who enjoy a limited use of other kinds of food, they ascertained to be lbs.; and those who were unrestricted as to the nature of their food consumed lb. of vegetable food. Now, taking the population of London requiring a supply of potatoes from the market at , and allowing the consuming powers of a population of adults and children to be equal to that of adults, we have in the metropolis the full consuming power of persons. As so many other vegetables are used besides potatoes, would it be very far wrong to estimate the consumption at lb. for each adult per day, that is, tons per week, or say tons, and tons per year? Even if some reduction were made on this estimate, the quantity would still be very great. Not more than -half of this supply is obtained from the metropolitan counties, chiefly Essex and Kent. When prices range high, the inland supplies are brought miles or more, a great distance for so bulky an article. The quantity conveyed by the railways is very trifling, and steam-boats only occasionally bring or tons when other freight is not to be obtained. There remains, then, probably from to tons for the supply by water, the larger proportion of which comes from land on the banks of the Humber, Trent, and Ouse, which is fertilized by artificial flooding and the deposit of a rich silt. Scotland ranks the next, afterwards Jersey, and lastly Devonshire. Scarcely any potatoes reach London from Ireland, as they have hitherto been more profitably consumed in the production of bacon and pork; and the small quantity of foreign which have arrived since the alteration of the tariff has not proved good enough for the London market. In the busy season of the year there is always a considerable number of vessels laden with potatoes lying off the wharfs adjacent to ; those from Yorkshire being of to tons; the Scotch vessels from to tons; and those from Jersey are sometimes as large as tons. At the same time the yards which communicate with the wharfs are crowded with the waggons and carts belonging to the retail dealers waiting for a supply. For about months in the year this water-side trade is suspended, but it revives again in the month of October.

 
 
Footnotes:

[n.129.1] Preserved in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, and re-engraved in Maitland.

[n.130.1] Stow's Survey, p. 493.

[n.132.1] Weekly Journal, April 22 1727.

[n.134.1] Pepys's Diary.

[n.136.1] Clubs of London, vol. ii. p. 11.

[n.142.1] See No. VIII. Street Noises, vol. i. p. 134.