London – Markets – Milk & Cheese

This is the third and final part of our three part series on the early provision consumption of London – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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London – Markets – Milk & Cheese

The annual consumption of butter in London amounts to about 11,000, and that of cheese to 13,000 tons. The money paid annually for milk is supposed to amount to £1,250,000. although the number of cows kept in the neighbourhood of the metropolis does not exceed 10,000. One grazier at Islington keeps between six and seven hundred cows, and another between four and five hundred.

The wretched quality of the London milk is proverbial; and although the cow-keepers do not water it themselves, they not only permit the milkmen to do it openly, but have pumps convenient for the purpose.

The quantity of poultry annually consumed in London is supposed to cost between seventy and eighty thousand pounds; that of game depends on the fruitfulness of the season and the kindness of country friends. There is nothing, however, more surprising than the sale of rabbits. One salesman in Leadenhall market, during a considerable portion of the year, is said to sell 14,000 rabbits weekly. The way in which he disposes of them is, by employing between 150 and 200 men and women, who hawk them through the streets.

As the buildings and population of London increase, new markets are opened in different parts of the town; they are, however, all open marts of trade, and can never be subject to the abuses which have prevailed in those of the city, where the markets were farmed to collectors, so extortionate, that in 1696, on a petition of the market people, a Committee of the Common Council was appointed to investigate the charges.  The report was favourable to the complainants, and actions were commenced against the farmers to Leadenhall Stocks, Honey Lane, and Newgate markets, who were guilty of arbitrary and extravagant proceedings, whereby they had extorted an annual rent of £10,896. 9s. 10d. for stalls, and fines amounting to £2194 1s 6d. The farmers were compelled to refund the several sums thus unjustly levied.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

Cheapside and London Retail Trade in the 18th Century

Sholto and Reuben Percy