Category Archives: Leisure

London – Fairs – Elkanah Settle

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London Fairs in the 18th Century particularly the Bartholomew Fair one of the greatest London Fairs of the time.

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London – Fairs – Elkanah Settle

Poor Elkanah Settle, who was the city Laureate, and had what Ben Jonson called the chandlery-shop pension, was, in his old age, reduced to the wretched shifts of writing drolls for Bartholomew Fair, and even to appear in a green leather case as a hissing serpent, vomiting fire, a circumstance alluded to with somewhat unfeeling severity, by  Dr. Young. Bartholomew Fair drolls were succeeded by a nearer approach to the regular drama, as the actors were men and not puppets. The pieces performed by the animated machines were of a less serious cast than those enacted by the puppets; and, in the British metropolis, we are not surprised to find that Whittingtons history should be one of the earliest and most popular of these dramas. The following Bartholomew Fair play-bill is of the reign of Queen Anne, and is copied from the Harleian MS. already alluded to:

“At Ben Johnson’s Booth, (by Mrs. Trynn’s company of actors,) in the rounds in Smithfield, during the fair, will be presented an excellent entertainment, being the famous History of Whittington, Lord Mayor of London; wherein, besides the variety of songs and dances, will be shown an extraordinary view of several stately and surprising scenes; as a rowling sea, bearing a large ship under sayl, with Neptune, mermaids, dolphins, etc; also, a prospect of a Moorish country, so swarming with rats and mice, that they over-run the king and queen’s table at dinner; likewise, a large diverting scene of tapestry, filled with all living figures; and, lastly, concluding with a lord mayor’s triumph, in which are presented nine several pageants, being six elephants and castles, a magnificent temple, and two triumphal chariots, one drawn by two lyons, and the other by two dolphins; in all which are seated above twenty persons, in various dresses; with flags, scutcheons, streamers, etc. The preparation and decoration of which infinitely exceed, both in expense and grandeur, all that has ever been seen on a stage in the fair.

“The chief parts are performed by actors from both theatres. Vivat Regina.”

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

Bartholomew Fair on Wikipedia

Bartholomew Fair on Inside London

Sholto and Reuben Percy

 

London – Fairs – 1700s – Roasted Pigs

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London Fairs in the 18th Century particularly the Bartholomew Fair one of the greatest London Fairs of the time.

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London – Fairs – 1700s Roasted Pigs

Pye-corner was also celebrated for roasted pigs, a prominent attraction in the fair, which were sold piping-hot in booths and stalls, and ostentatiously displayed. Various allusions are made to the Bartholomew Fair pig in Ben Jonson’s comedy of Bartholomew Fair, whence we learn that these delicacies were not confined to one particular place in the fair. Littlewit, addressing the puritanical wife, Win-the fight, says,

“Win, long to eat of a pig, sweet Win, i’the fair; d’ye see, i’the heart of the fair, not at Pyecorner.”

Of their attractiveness we have evidence in the Festivous notes of Gayton, who says, “If Bartholomew Fair should last a whole year, nor pigs nor puppet-shows would ever be surfeited of.”

Although Charles II. only confirmed the original charter of Henry II. which limited the fair to three days, yet it appears to have extended to a fortnight’s duration, either in his reign, or soon after, as we find from Ned Ward, who describes “the quality of the fair strutting round their balconies in their tinsey robes and golden leather buskins, expressing such pride in their buffoonery stateliness, that I could but reasonably believe they were as much elevated with the thought of their fortnight’s pageantry, as ever Alexander was with the glories of a new conquest”

The drolls, or “motions,” as they are more generally called in the early accounts of the fair, were a sort of dramatic entertainment performed by puppets, and generally founded on some part of the scripture history. Ben Jonson, in his play, gives the names of several of these motions; and among the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum, there is a collection of advertisements, about the reign of Queen Anne, in which there are some curious bills of the performances in the fair. Two of these (printed in the Percy Anecdotes of Pastime) are of “Operas,” called the “Old Creation of the World newly Revived” and one of them gives the “addition of Noah’s flood; also several fountains playing water during the time of the play.” The other adds a portion of the history from the New Testament, including the birth of Christ, Herod’s cruelty, the Feast of Dives, his treatment of Lazarus, and concluding with “Rich Dives in hell, and Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom; seen in a most glorious object, all in machines, descending in a throne, guarded with multitudes of angels, with the breaking of the clouds, discovering the palace of the Sun, in double and treble prospects, to the admiration of all spectators.”

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

Bartholomew Fair on Wikipedia

Bartholomew Fair on Inside London

Sholto and Reuben Percy

 

London – Fairs – Bartholomew Fair

 

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This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London Fairs in the 18th Century particularly the Bartholomew Fair one of the greatest London Fairs of the time.

Read other posts in this series

Read other posts in the London series

 London – Fairs – Bartholomew Fair

Bartholomew Fair, that annual scene of disorder, is still continued, though reduced in duration from a fortnight, to which it had extended, to three days, the time originally fixed, and it is declining so rapidly, that in a few years it will probably be discontinued altogether without any positive suppression, as has been the case with the fairs in the environs of London, Indeed, some doubts are entertained of the legality of suppressing the fair, as it is held under a charter granted by Henry II. to the priory of Bartholomew, and confirmed by succeeding monarchs. This fair, Stowe says, was appointed to be kept yearly “at Bartholomew-tide, for three days; to wit, the eve, the day, and the next morrow.” It was no doubt originally intended chiefly as a fair of business, as the same historian says, the clothiers of England and drapers of London repaired to it,” and had their booths and standing within the church-yard of this priory closed in with walls and gates, locked every night, and watched for safety of men’s goods and wares.”

The fair soon appears to have been extended in its duration; for the same writer says, in his time three days were devoted to business, and the rest “to see drolls, farces, rope-dancing, feats of activity, wonderful and monstrous creatures, wild beasts made tame, giants, etc.” One of the many instances we find in London of a particular branch of trade clinging to the same place, is connected with this fair; for, leading into Smithfield, there is a narrow lane, principally occupied by clothiers, or woollen drapers, as they are now more generally called, and which retains the name of Cloth Fair.

It is probable, however, that although cloth was the staple, it was never intended to be the only article dealt in; and we find that at one time various parts of Smithfield were appropriated to the sale of particular articles. Near Smithfield Bars, there was a place where shoes were generally sold, and it was therefore called Shoemaker-row; bows and arrows were also sold here as we find from Tom d’Durfey, who, in his “Pills to purge melancholy,” describing the fair in 1655, says,

“At Pye-corner end, mark well, my good friend, Tis a very fine dirty place;

Where there’s more arrows and bows, the Lord above knows, Than was handled at Chevy Chase.”

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

Bartholomew Fair on Wikipedia

Bartholomew Fair on Inside London

Sholto and Reuben Percy


London – Fairs – 1700s – The Mint

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London Fairs in the 18th Century particularly the Bartholomew Fair one of the greatest London Fairs of the time.

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London – Fairs – 1700s – The Mint

Plays were enacted as at Bartholomew Fair, and Rich is said to have met withBartholomew Fair Walker, the original Macheath, at this fair, playing in a booth: upon being struck with his talents, he engaged him for the Lincoln’s Inn Theatre. This fair used to continue for upwards of a week; but in September 1743 it was limited to three days, on which the proprietors of booths, who usually made a collection for the prisoners in the Marshal sea, declared they could no longer afford it. This so incensed the prisoners, that they pulled up the pavement, and threw stones over the wall on the bowling-green adjoining the prison, by which a child was killed and several persons wounded. The high constables and magistrates now determined on putting down the fair; but the proprietors of booths and stalls removed to the Mint, a place that had long claimed peculiar privileges on account of the palace which formerly stood there, built by Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk. Here the fair was held for some time, until, in the year [1763], it was entirely suppressed.

May Fair, which commenced on the first of May, and continued for sixteen days, was held near Piccadilly and Park Lane, on the site now occupied by May Fair Chapel and the adjacent mansions. The place was formerly called Brook fields. More important business appears to have been transacted at this fair than mere drolls, since, in an advertisement of the year [1700], it is stated, that the first three days of the fair were “for live cattle and leather;” but, from its being added, “with the same entertainments as at Bartholomew Fair,” it is probable that the pretended sale of leather was only to give a show of business in order to prevent its being suppressed.

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

Bartholomew Fair on Wikipedia

Bartholomew Fair on Inside London

Sholto and Reuben Percy

 

London – Fairs – Three Fairs

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London Fairs in the 18th Century particularly the Bartholomew Fair one of the greatest London Fairs of the time.

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London – Fairs -Three Fairs

Bartholomew FairFrom markets to fairs the transition is natural enough, since the latter, according to scriptural and modern acceptation, are fixed meetings of buyers or sellers, or markets on a larger scale; and it appears, from the Northumberland-house book, that in the early part of the 16th century, the stores for the household for a whole year were usually purchased at fairs. Far different, however, are the fairs held in the metropolis and its neighbourhood, where “raree shows are seen, and Punch’s feats, And pockets picked in crowds, and various cheats.”

Three of these fairs were formerly held in the metropolis, Bartholomew fair, Southwark fair, and May fair: the two latter have been abolished, and the former shorn of much of its ancient glory. Southwark fair commenced on the 8th of September, on which day the lord mayor and sheriffs were wont to ride in their scarlet gowns, after dinner, at two o’clock, to St Magnus’s church, where they were met by the aldermen. After evening prayer, they all rode through the fair, as far as Newington bridge, and then retiring to the Bridge house they “refresh themselves with a banquet.” Here, as at all the fairs in London, there was “First of all, crowds against other crowds driving; Like wind and tide meeting, each contrary striving; Shrill fiddling, sharp fighting, and shouting and shrieking; Fifes, trumpets, drums, bag-pipes, and barrow girl squeaking.”

“There was drolls, hornpipe dancing, and showing of postures,
With frying black puddings, and opening of oysters;
With salt-box solos, and gallery folks squalling,
The tap-house guests roaring, and mouth-pieces bawling.”

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

Bartholomew Fair on Wikipedia

Bartholomew Fair on Inside London

Sholto and Reuben Percy

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

 

London – Markets – Fruit & Veg

 

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This is the second part of our article 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

Read other posts in this series

Read other posts in the London series

London – Markets – Fruit & Veg

The fruits and vegetables consumed in the metropolis are principally produced in the environs; and it is calculated that there are upwards of 6000 acres of ground cultivated as gardens within twelve miles of the metropolis, giving employment to 30,000 persons in winter, and three times that number in summer. It is the opinion of the intelligent author of the Pomarium Britannicum, that gardening has conferred a great blessing on the metropolis, in the prevention of pestilential diseases, by making cleanliness a matter of profit, and giving a ready sale and liberal price for the soil, which might otherwise be suffered to accumulate.

Numerous calculations have been made of the annual consumption of food in the metropolis, but this is not easily ascertained with any degree of accuracy, as, although we may know the number of cattle and sheep, yet we have no means of learning their weight, which, by the modern improvement in feeding, has been considerably increased. Of the quantity of cattle sold in Smithfield market, we have the most accurate returns, and find that in the year [1822], the numbers were 149,885 beasts, 24,609 calves, 1,507,096 sheep, and 20,020 pigs. This does not, however, by any means form the total consumed in London, as large quantities of meat in carcases, particularly pork, are almost daily brought from the counties around the metropolis. It would appear that the inhabitants of London have become more partial to mutton than formerly, for the quantity of cattle consumed has not increased in proportion to that of sheep; the quantity of cattle sold at Smithfield in the year 1701, being 88,304, or more than half the number sold in [1822], while the number of sheep was only 480,000, or less than a third sold in the latter year. The total value of the cattle sold in Smithfield is calculated at £8,500,000. It is supposed that a million a year is expended in fruit and vegetables; the consumption of wheat amounts to a million of quarters annually; of this, four-fifths are supposed to be made into bread, being a consumption of 64 millions of quartern loaves every year in the metropolis alone. Until within the last few years the price of bread was regulated by assize, and it may afford some idea of the vast amount of money paid for this ‘staff of life,’ when it is stated, that an advance of one farthing on the quartern loaf formed an aggregate increase in expense for this article alone, in London, of upwards of £13,000 a week.

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

London – Markets – Provision Consumption

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 This is the first part of our article 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

Read other posts in this series

Read other posts in the London series

London – Markets – Provision Consumption

Great as the population of London is, there is no city “so drained and so supplied” with all the necessaries, comforts, and even luxuries of life. In Paris, where the population and the consequent consumption is much less, the supply of provisions is regulated by the government, and there are greniers de reserve for storing up grain, in order that bread may be kept at a moderate price: a rather necessary policy on the part of a government which has to pay a certain sum annually, in order to keep the price of bread lower in Paris than in the provinces. In London, freedom of trade and the spirit of competition render the interference of government as unnecessary as it would be considered unconstitutional, and without any regulation, the metropolis has a constant and an abundant supply.

Although there is scarcely a street, with the exception of those occupied by persons of fortune at the west end of the town, that is without a dealer in some article of provisions, yet there are large markets for the more general sale. Smithfield is the grand mart for the sale of live stock, which is held on Mondays and Fridays. Newgate and Leadenhall markets take the lead for butcher’s meat, poultry, etc. although there are several other markets in various parts of the metropolis, where the business is equally respectable though not so extensive. Covent Garden market is celebrated for the early and abundant supply of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The only fish market in London is that of Billingsgate, which is supposed to have derived its name from Belinus, the son of Dunwallo, who built a gate here, which he ordered to be surmounted with an urn containing his ashes, after his death. It has long been a matter of regret that the sale of fish should be confined to one market, as, owing to the monopoly thus established, the supply of that article is neither so abundant nor so reasonable as it would otherwise be. In the mackarel season, if that fish is very plentiful, the dealers will rather throw their cargo over-board, or sell it for manure, than, by bringing it to town, reduce the price.

Salmon, which is often very plentiful and sold as cheap as at Berwick, or in Yorkshire, and Durham, whence it is supplied, is brought to London packed in ice. Turbot, though caught in great quantities on the Yorkshire coast, and sold there at about fourpence a lb., is always extravagantly dear in London;  so dear, indeed, as to render it a luxury attainable only to the wealthy.

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

London – RETAIL TRADERS – Haberdashers

This is the second part of our article on the early retail trade 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 – RETAIL TRADERS – Haberdashers

Of all the retail traders, the Haberdashers, though dealing in such small wares, seem to carry on business to the greatest extent. One single house in the city is known to take on an average, a million and a half sterling a year, or more than four thousand guineas a day; one half of this vast sum is received in cash for-goods sold at the counter, and the other, wholesale at a short credit. There are at least two other houses in the same business whose returns are £1000 a day.

The proprietor of one of these establishments, which is necessarily large on account of the business being almost wholly retail, always gives the  persons in his employment an extra allowance for supper when the receipts of the day amount to £1000: thus expressing his own gratitude, and rewarding and encouraging the exertions of those around him. Nor are haberdashers the only tradesmen who carry on extensive business, or amass large fortunes; there is Exeter Change, long celebrated for its cutlery and hardwares, etc. where the Prince of retail dealers, the eccentric Thomas Clark, amassed a million of money, and while he paid £7000 a year to government as income tax, spent only a shilling on his own dinner.

About ten or dozen years ago a number of establishments somewhat similar to Exeter Change, which is not confined to any one particular branch of trade, sprung up in London, to which the oriental term of Bazar was given, which literally means a market. Of these, only two remain; the Western Bazar, in Bond Street, and that of Mr. Trotter, in Soho-square. The latter is a very extensive and well regulated establishment. Several large rooms are fitted up with counters, drawer, shelves, etc. for the sale of almost every species of light articles, where between five and six hundred females attend and trade on their own account; in the various articles of domestic manufacture. The price paid is in proportion to the space occupied. The utmost care is taken that none but persons of the strictest moral character are admitted, and that they shall not be subject to any insult from the idle and dissolute loungers of the other sex.

Two other marts for retail trade have been formed, the Burlington Arcade, in Piccadilly, and the Royal Arcade, in Pall Mall; both are elegant architectural improvements but they are too recently established to enable us to speak decisively of their success.

The streets most celebrated for retail trade are Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill, St. Paul’s church-yard, Cheapside, the Poultry, and Cornhill, in the city; in the Strand, King Street, and Henrietta Street, Covent Garden; Cockspup Street, Pall Mall, St. James’s Street, Piccadilly, Oxford Street, and Bond Street, at the west end of the town. The recent improvements, in opening a communication from Carlton House to the Regent’s Park, has created a new and spacious street for retail business, called Regent Street; and the Regent’s-quadrant, which has on each side a grand colonade.

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

 

 

London – RETAIL TRADERS – Poverty to Fortune

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 We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the retail trade of London and their origins and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in two parts – the second part which we will publish tomorrow – 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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Read other posts in the London series

London – RETAIL TRADERS – Poverty to Fortune

A foreigner, in looking over a London Directory, and finding a list of between thirty and forty thousand trading firms, will be apt to consider the assertion of Bonaparte, “that we are a nation of shop-keepers,” true to the letter; and if he is informed that this list, numerous as it seems, does not contain more than one third of the shopkeepers in the metropolis, he will suspect that there are almost as many sellers as buyers. Stiil more would a stranger be astonished at learning how lucrative a business shop-keeping is in London; where a pastry-cook has been known to die worth a hundred thousand pounds, and a dealer in shell fish, who spent the best years of his life in selling oysters in public-houses, has left to his heirs a sum of 40,000. Yet, such is the case, nor are these solitary instances of success in life. Many a Lord Mayor in London has risen from the humble office of a porter;  others have worn a livery, or served as a drawer or errand boy at a tavern. Not to enumerate living characters, and yet to refer to those who are recollected by the living, it may be mentioned that Walker, the sugar-baker, who died worth a quarter of a million of money a few years ago, was originally porter to a wax chandler, with a salary of £16 a year; that Alderman Kennet, afterwards Lord Mayor, was once a waiter at the Hoop and Bunch of Grapes public house in Hatton Garden; that Alderman Bates kept a public house, as did the late amiable Alderman Thomas Smith, after living servant with a gentleman, and officiating as an exciseman; that Crosby, the spoon maker, who died worth £60,000, was a charcoal boy to Chawner; and that a living pavior, who has amassed a fortune of a quarter of a million, and who can neither read nor, write, was once a common labourer, who added to his daily earnings by officiating as a watchman in the night. The list, of individuals, who have risen from poverty and obscurity to high rank and splendid fortunes, would “stretch to the crack o’doom,” and it is unnecessary to quote more instances, nor are these named invidiously selected, but to show that in London, the road to preferment, honour and fortune is open to the humblest aspirant.

That such fortunes are amassed in London, is the more astonishing, when it is considered the great expense with which large establishments are maintained; that the rent and taxes of many a retail trader amount to more than a thousand a year, and that the smallest house, if in a great thoroughfare, will let at the most extravagant rate. A shop, not more than three yards square, with a room above it of the same dimensions, has been known to be let as a snuff shop at a rental of £80 a year, and several other houses equally dear.

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