Upon the second reading of Henry Mayhew’s London. I continue to enjoy his insights.

It is an exhaustive treatise on the street life of London in and around 1854. It explains the lives of

shop keepers, costermongers, rat catchers, rat sellers, pick pockets, whores and prostitutes.

He even explores the street sewers (notating whether made by ancient Romans or Middle age) determining which sewer were poorly made and produced the most rats. (1,900 year old sewers?)

All the people in 1854 were dutifully interviewed. At this time Ledenhall market was selling approximately 10,000 chickens daily, not a tremendous quantity for a city of 1 or 2 million inhabitants.

Here is an excerpt taken from the chapter “cage bird sellers” in London in which he describes every species and variety of bird on the market. He also includes the mortality rates and prices.

The Nightingales had some of the highest mortality rates often times because of their genetic imprint to migrate. It was hard to stop them from their inherent migratory peregrinations.

He veers off course and describes birds that serve not only as cage birds and also birds for the table.

Henry’s words;

“The larks for the supply of fashionable tables are never provided by the London bird-catchers who catch only “singing Larks”, for the shop and street – traffic.

The edible larks used to be highly esteemed in pies, but they are now generally roasted for consumption.

They are principally the produce of Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and are sent direct “killed” to Ledenhall Market, where about 215,000 are sold yearly, being nearly 2/3rds of the London gross consumption.

Herny Mayhew’s London edited by Peter Quennell

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