Costermonger, coster, or costard is a street seller of fruit and vegetables in London and other British towns. The term is derived from the words costard (a medieval variety of apple) and monger (seller), and later came to be used to describe hawkers in general. Some historians have pointed out that a hierarchy existed within the costermonger class and that while costermongers sold from a handcart or animal-drawn cart, mere hawkers carried their wares in a basket.
Costermongers met a need for rapid food distribution from the wholesale markets (e.g., in London: Smithfield for meat, Spitalfields for fruit and vegetables or Billingsgate for fish) by providing retail sales at locations that were convenient for the labouring classes. Costermongers used a variety of devices to transport and display produce: a cart might be stationary at a market stall, a mobile (horse-drawn or wheelbarrow) apparatus or a hand-held basket might be used for light-weight goods such as herbs and flowers.
Costermongers experienced a turbulent history, yet survived numerous attempts to eradicate their class from the streets. Programmes designed to curtail their activities occurred during the reigns of Elizabeth I, Charles I and reached a peak during Victorian times. However, the social cohesion within the coster community, along with sympathetic public support, enabled them to resist efforts to eradicate them. As highly visible, colourful characters who provided service and convenience to the labouring classes, costermongers enjoyed a high level of public sympathy at times when they came under attack from authorities.
They became known for their melodic sales patter, poems and chants, which they used to attract attention. Both the sound and appearance of costermongers contributed to a distinctive street life that characterised London and other large European cities, including Paris, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their loud sing-song cry or chants used to attract attention became part of the fabric of street life in large cities in Britain and Europe. Costermongers exhibited a distinct identity. Individuals signalled membership of the coster community through a dress code, especially the large neckerchief, known as a kingsman, tied round their necks. Their hostility towards the police was legendary. The distinctive identity and culture of costermongers led to considerable appeal as subject-matter for artists, dramatists, comedians, writers and musicians. Parodies of the costermonger and his way of life were frequent features in Victorian music halls. Costermongers were ubiquitous in mid-Victorian England, but their numbers began to decline in the second half of the 20th-century when they began to take up pitches in the regulated markets.
The term costermonger first appeared in written English language in the early 16th century. The term coster is a corruption of costard, a kind of apple, and the term monger, meaning a trader or broker. The first known user of the term costermonger was by Alexander Barclay, poet and clergyman, in the Fyfte Eglog of Alexandre Barclay of the cytezene and vpondyshman published around 1518. "I was acquaynted with many a hucster [=huckster], with a costardemonger and an hostler." The derivation of the term, costermonger, is mentioned in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English language, published in 1759. Charles Knight's London, published in 1851, also notes that a costermonger was originally an apple-seller. Although the original meaning of costermonger applied to itinerant apple-sellers, it gradually came to refer to anyone who sold fresh fruit or vegetables from a basket, hand cart or temporary stall. The term can be used to describe anyone who sells goods outdoors or in the streets and has come to be a synonym for street vendor.
Definition and description
Most contemporary dictionary definitions of costermonger refer to them as retail sellers or street vendors of fresh produce, operating from temporary stalls or baskets or barrows which are either taken on regular routes for door-to-door selling or which are set up in high traffic areas such as informal markets or lining the streets of busy thoroughfares. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a costermonger as "a person who sells fruit and vegetables outside rather than in a store" while the Collins Dictionary defines a costermonger as "a person who sells fruit or vegetables from a cart or street stand.
Henry Mayhew, a Victorian social commentator, distinguished between itinerant and stationary costermongers in the following terms:
Under the term "costermonger" is here included only such "street-sellers" as deal in fish, fruit, and vegetables, purchasing their goods at the wholesale "green" and fish markets. Of these some carry on their business at the same stationary stall or "standing" in the street, while others go on "rounds." The itinerant costermongers, as contradistinguished from the stationary street-fishmongers and greengrocers, have in many instances regular rounds, which they go daily, and which extend from two to ten miles. The longest are those which embrace a suburban part; the shortest are through streets thickly peopled by the poor, where duly to "work" a single street consumes, in some instances, an hour. There are also "chance" rounds. Men "working" these carry their wares to any part in which they hope to find customers. The costermongers, moreover, diversify their labours by occasionally going on a country round, travelling on these excursions, in all directions, from thirty to ninety and even a hundred miles from the metropolis. Some, again, confine their callings chiefly to the neighbouring races and fairs.
Technically, costermongers were hawkers since they rarely traded from fixed stalls. They filled a gap in the food distribution system by purchasing produce from the wholesale markets, breaking it down into smaller lots and offering it for retail sale. Their fruit and vegetables were placed in baskets, barrows, carts or on temporary stalls. From an economic viewpoint, they provided form utility (breaking down wholesale lots into smaller retail sizes); place utility (making produce available close to shoppers' place of work or residence) and time utility (making goods available at times that are convenient to shoppers such as when they are on their way to work). Some costermongers walked the streets crying out to sell their produce, while others operated out of unauthorised, but highly organised informal markets, thereby contributing to an informal system of food distribution which was highly valued by the working classes and poorer customers.
While the term costermonger is typically used to describe sellers of fresh produce, primarily fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat, both Victorian commentators and historians point out that costers sold an "astonishly large amount of raw and prepared food." In their photographic essay, Street Life in London, published in 1877, John Thomson and Adolphe Smith depict costermongers selling a variety of fresh and prepared foods as well as beverages—from ginger beer through to iced confections. Mayhew provided extensive descriptions of costers selling potted plants and cut flowers:
The coster ordinarily confines himself to the cheaper sorts of plants, and rarely meddles with such things as acacias, mezereons, savines, syringas, lilacs, or even myrtles, and with none of these things unless cheap. [. . .] A poor costermonger will on a fine summer's day send out his children to sell flowers, while on other days they may be selling watercresses or, perhaps, onions."
Mayhew also pointed out that young coster girls often started out by selling cut flowers and small bunches of herbs:
At about seven years of age the girls first go into the streets to sell. A shallow-basket is given to them, with about two shillings for stock-money, and they hawk, according to the time of year, either oranges, apples, or violets; some begin their street education with the sale of water- cresses.
Images from Street Life in London, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith, 1877
Costermongers were known to have been in London from at least the 15th century, and possibly much earlier. Mayhew, writing in the 1840s, called costermongering an "ancient calling" and attributed the first written descriptions of the street sellers' distinctive cries and sales patter appearing in a ballad, entitled London Lyckpeny by John Lydgate probably written in the late 1300s and first performed around 1409. Shakespeare and Marlowe mention costermongers in their writings.
Although the term 'costermonger' was used to describe any hawker of fresh produce, it became strongly associated with London-based street vendors following a surge in their numbers in the 18th and 19th-centuries. They were most numerous during the Victorian era, when Mayhew estimated their London numbers at between 30,000 and 45,000 in the late 1840s.
In the decades after the Great Fire of London, a major rebuilding programme led to the removal of London's main produce market, Stocks Market, in 1773. The displacement of the open market to a less strategic location led to a period of decline for retail markets. While wholesale markets continued to prosper, retail markets lost their foothold. Costermongers filled the gap by providing inexpensive produce in small quantities to the working classes, who, for their part, worked long hours in arduous occupations leaving them no time to attend markets far from the city centre. With the influx of people in London, in the years after the Industrial Revolution, demand outstripped retail capacity, such that costermongers performed a 'vital role' providing food and service to the labouring classes.
Throughout the 18th century, the streets of London filled with costermongers and competition between them became intense. To stand out amid the crowd, costers began to develop distinctive cries. Mayhew describes a Saturday night in the New Cut, a street in Lambeth, south of the river,
Lit by a host of lights… the Cut was packed from wall to wall…. The hubbub was deafening, the traders all crying their wares with the full force of their lungs against the background din of a horde of street musicians.
During the 19th-century, costermongers gained an unsavoury reputation for their "low habits, general improvidence, love of gambling, total want of education, disregard for lawful marriage ceremonies, and their use of a peculiar slang language." Mayhew was aware of this reputation, but exhibited an ambivalent attitude towards them. On the one hand, he described them as usurers and pointed out that cheating was widespread. Weights were flattened to make products look bigger and heavier, and measures were fitted with thick or false bottoms to give false readings. On the other hand, Mayhew also noted that in his own personal experience, "they are far less dishonest than they are usually believed to be. James Greenwood, a Victorian journalist and social commentator, also used derogatory language to describe costermongers and their markets but was aware of the essential service they provided by noting that the poor would be the ultimate "losers" if they were denied access to the costermongering culture which supported them. The Methodist writer, Godfrey Holden Pike, argued that the Sabbath market was vulgar, but in later writings, he noted that "influential newspapers have often misrepresented him [the costermonger]."
Historians such as Jones have argued that the promulgation of a stereotypical image of costermongers was part of a broader agenda to clear London's streets of unruly street vendors, who obstructed traffic in a rapidly growing metropolis that was barely coping with an increasing amount of vehicular traffic and street congestion. In addition, a movement to eradicate Sunday trading altogether was gathering momentum and set its sights on the informal, unregulated retail trade. Broadsheets of the day served to perpetuate costermongers' stigmatised status by stories of the moral decay that surrounded places where costers congregated.
Initiatives to rid the city of street traders were by no means new to the 19th-century. Charles Knight, wrote of various attempts to curtail street-based trading during the reigns of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) and Charles I (1625–1649). However, from the 1840s, the community of costermongers faced increasing opposition from three distinct quarters; the vestry, which viewed street markets as the focus of public disorder; the movement to abolish Sunday trading and public authorities who were concerned with the rise of unregulated markets and associated problems associated with street congestion. Throughout the 1860s, the Commissioner of the Police, Richard Mayne, waged war on costermongers and succeeded in closing several markets while authorities and prominent philanthropists began constructing new covered market places designed to replace street selling.
In London's Bethnal Green, hostilities between authorities and costers reached a crescendo by the late 1870s. The vestry, claiming that costers were obstructing the streets, contributing to street litter and encouraging gambling and prostitution, resurrected an ancient law to prevent street trading at certain times. They created a Street Regulation Committee and employed a salaried Street Inspector to oversee compliance. They insisted that coffee stalls close by 7.30am daily, precisely when workers, on their way to work, might be in need of a hot drink. Some 700 local residents petitioned against the laws. In spite of the apparent public support, the vestry persisted, which resulted in many street vendors being fined. Costermongers in the markets of Club Street and Sclater Street were subject to verbal abuse, had their stalls overturned, their barrows and carts impounded and occasionally their products tipped down a nearby drain.
In February, 1888, the Bethnall Green Costermongers' and Stallkeepers' Society was formed. Its primary aim was to fight prosecutions against costers with the help of a solicitor, who was paid a retainer. When the group learned that similar crackdowns on costers were occurring in St Luke's Parish and St Georges Parish, the group broadened its base, by forming the London United Costermongers' League. Public support was very much on the side of the costermongers. Members of the public were skeptical of the vestry's motivations and believed that shopkeepers were using the issue to eliminate the cheaper produce in order to reduce competitive pressures. Justice of the Peace, Montagu Williams, visited Sclater Street personally and concluded that the vestry had little cause for complaint. From then on, the justices ensured that stall-holders were given minimal fines, taking much of the steam out of the vestry's programme of opposition. The costers also pleaded for assistance from a philanthropist, the Earl of Shaftesbury, who pressed the costers' case with the vestry. Punitive orders were eventually rescinded.
The events surrounding the costermongers' resistance to various attempts to eradicate them from the streets only heightened their animosity towards the police, which could be extreme. For many members of the working class, the costermongers' highly-visible resistance made them heroes. As one historian noted:
By the end of the 19th-century, the costermongers were in gradual decline. They did not disappear as mobile street-sellers until the 1960s, when the few that remained took pitches in local markets.
Coster culture and style
Costers developed their own culture; notoriously competitive, respected "elder statespeople" in the costermonger community could be elected as pearly kings and queens to keep the peace between rival costermongers. However, crimes such as theft were rare among costermongers, especially in an open market where they tended to look out for one another. Even common thieves preferred to prey on shop owners rather than costers, who were inclined to dispense street justice.
London based costermongers had their own dress code. In the mid nineteenth century, men wore long waistcoats of sandy coloured corduroy with buttons of brass or shiny mother of pearl. Trousers, also made of corduroy, had the distinctive bell-bottomed leg. Footwear was often decorated with a motif of roses, hearts and thistles. Neckerchiefs —called king's men—were of green silk or red and blue.
Henry Mayhew gave a detailed description of the costermonger's attire:
"The costermonger's ordinary costume partakes of the durability of the warehouseman's, with the quaintness of that of the stable-boy. A well-to-do 'coster,' when dressed for the day's work, usually wears a small cloth cap, a little on one side. A close-fitting worsted tie-up skull-cap, is very fashionable, just now, among the class, and ringlets at the temples are looked up to as the height of elegance. Hats they never wear—excepting on Sunday—on account of their baskets being frequently carried on their heads. ... Their waistcoats, which are of a broad-ribbed corduroy, with fustian back and sleeves, being made as long as a groom's, and buttoned up nearly to the throat. If the corduroy be of a light sandy colour, then plain brass, or sporting buttons, with raised fox's or stag's heads upon them — or else black bone- buttons, with a lower-pattern—ornament the front; but if the cord be of a dark rat-skin hue, then mother-of-pearl buttons are preferred. Two large pockets—sometimes four—with huge flaps or lappels, like those in a shooting- coat, are commonly worn. ... The costermonger, however, prides himself most of all upon his neckerchief and boots. Men, women, boys and girls, all have a passion for these articles. ... The costermonger's love of a good strong boot is a singular prejudice that runs throughout the whole class."
Costers were especially fond of mother-of-pearl buttons. Men decorated the legs of their trousers with a line of pearly buttons. By the 19th century, both men and women began adding these pearly buttons to their clothing as James Greenwood describes:
"Any one, however, who knew the significance of; and took into consideration the extraordinary number of mother-o'-pearl buttons that adorned the waistcoat and well-worn fustian jacket of the gentleman in question, would have been at once aware that he was somebody of consequence in costerdom, at all events. ... The pearl button is with him a symbol of position and standing, and by the number of glistening rows that rather for ornament than use, decorate his vestment, his importance amongst his own class may be measured."
In the 1880s, a man by the name of Henry Croft who had long admired the costermonger's way of life as well as their showiness and panache, smothered his worn out suit and accessories with pearly buttons arranged in geometric patterns. Costermongers soon recognised that the public loved these shimmering outfits and began wearing more and more heavily decorated outfits and soon became known as the Pearly Kings and Queens.
Betty May spoke of the "coster" style and atmosphere in London, around 1900, in her autobiography Tiger Woman: My Story:
"I am often caught with a sudden longing regret for the streets of Limehouse as I knew them, for the girls with their gaudy shawls and heads of ostrich feathers, like clouds in a wind, and the men in their caps, silk neckerchiefs and bright yellow pointed boots in which they took such pride. I adored the swagger and the showiness of it all."
Costermongers also developed their own linguistic forms. In the 1800s, they spoke back slang; in which ordinary words are said backwards. Examples of back slang include yob for boy; ecslop for police; elbat for table and yennep for penny. Back slang was used as a secret language, a code which only other costermongers understood. In her book, Shadows of the Workhouse, Jennifer Worth observed that "Costers... spoke to each other almost entirely in back slang; incomprensible to an outsider." Many costermongers also used rhyming slang; where any word can be substituted with another word that rhymes with it. Examples of rhyming slang include: tin lids or dustpan lids for kids; jimmy grant for emigrant; apple and pears for stairs; rubbidy dub for pub and trouble and strife for wife. The selection of rhyming words often suggested a symbolic association. For example, a sorrowful tale means three months in jail. Following the second world war, condensed versions of popular terms were more commonly used, such that trouble and strife meaning wife simply became trouble and the phrase down the frog and toad (meaning down the road) would be condensed to down the frog. Historians have advanced various explanations for the rise of a unique coster tongue. One possible explanation is that it protected costers from close surveillance.
Both historians and contemporary commentators have pointed to additional distinctive elements of coster culture. In general, they were a hard-working and hard-drinking lot. They were not party political, showed a "complete disregard for the lawful marriage," were not members of any Church, were intensely loyal to other costermongers, were inclined to lend support to the poor and treated their donkeys very well. They enjoyed relative autonomy in terms of their working hours and appeared to be "under the command of no-one." Their distinctive identity combined with their highly visible position on London streets led to costermongers becoming a symbol of the working class. As Ian Peddie explains:
"Perhaps the most crucial figure in the rearticulation of the working-class image was the costermonger... Costermongers composed their own broadsides wherein they asserted their own political identity in songs."
Mayhew referred to costermongers as a "dangerous class." The coster community was seen as the "vanguard of resistance" in the 19th century. Their open hostilities with police drew widespread public support and costers who were 'sent down' were seen as martyrs and heroes. Historians have pointed to the "subversive potential" of the coster class, because of their ability to make broad social connections that cut across geographic boundaries and "related forms of power and exploitation."
In literature and the arts
Costermongers' distinctive identity meant that they were prime targets for songwriters and musicians. Mayhew pointed out that a ballad, London Lyckpeny written by John Lydgate in about 1409, was a very early example of music inspired by the cries of costermongers as they spruiked cherries and strawberries in the streets. The ballad, is a satire that recounts the tale of a country person visiting London to seek legal remedies after having been defrauded. However, he finds that he cannot afford justice, and is soon relieved of any money he has through his dealings with street sellers, retailers, tavern-keepers and others. A lyckpeny (or lickpenny) is an archaic term for anything that soaks up money. Lydgate's ballad prompted generations of composers to write songs about the distinctive cries of street vendors. By the 18th and 19th-centuries, ballads extolling the beauty of the women selling lavender, pretty flowers and water cresses had become a ripe subject for composers of popular songs.
From the 18th through to the early 20th-century, music hall entertainers, songwriters and musicians mined the coster culture and language, seeking inspiration for parodies, sketches and songs. Alfred Peck Vance (1838–1888), also known as The Vance, was one of the first to exploit the coster image in the music halls. Arthur Lloyd was a composer and singer, who achieved great success with his character-songs in the 1870s, many of which were devoted to the lives of costermongers. Lloyd's repertoire, which included songs such as The Costermonger's Song, unlike other music hall compositions, was less dependent on the ability of the performer to mimic Cockney accents and mannerisms, but rather relied on the lyrics to deliver a "quaintness of fancy" and humour. Other musicians, such as Robert and Harris Weston, drew inspiration from London's cockney culture when composing their songs, some of which were often sung in a cockney accent. Coster life and culture was also portrayed in Victorian music halls by vocal comedians such as Albert Chevalier, Bessie Bellwood, Charles Seel, Paul Mill and Gus Elen. Elen was a highly popular performer whose tunes included; The Coster's Mansion, The Coster's Muvver and The Coster's Pony. Chevalier, was a popular comedic entertainer, who himself never worked as a coster, but appeared in character as a costermonger, and sang The Coster's Serenade, The Nasty Way 'e Sez It, and Funny Without Being Vulgar. A few costermongers, such as Alec Hurley, made a living composing and performing songs about their own careers as costermongers. The Costermonger's Song (also known as Going to the Derby) was a Lloyd composition. Hurley's wife, Marie Lloyd, had some success with tunes he composed including, The Coster's Christening and the Costermonger's Wedding.
Selected popular 19th-century tunes with references to costermongers
Specific references to costermongers can be found in the novels and plays of the 17th-century. Shakespeare, in the play, King Henry IV, (published about 1600) wrote that "virtue is of so little regard in these coster-monger times, that true valor is turned bear-heard." The playwright, Ben Jonson mentioned costermongers in Epicœne, or The Silent Woman, written in about 1609. The character, Morose, a man who craved silence, could "not endure the costermonger" and "swoons if he hears one." Playwrights, John Ford and Thomas Dekker, also mentioned costers in The Sun's Darling (1656) in the passage, "Upon my life, he means to turn costermonger, and is projecting how to forestall the market. I shall cry "pippins" rarely." A popular comedy, The Scornful Lady (1616), written by playwrights, Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, referred to costers in: "Pray sister, do not anger him, And, then he'll rail like a rude costermonger."
A number of 18th and 19th-century works of non-fiction are devoted to the cries of the city streets. Many of these were pictorial texts, heavily adorned with engravings or lithographs depicting the exuberance of street life in which street vendors were prominently featured. One of the first such publications was a French publication, Etudes Prises Dans let Bas Peuple, Ou Les Cris de Paris (1737) (roughly translated as Studies Taken of the Lower People, Or The Cries of Paris). Two decades later, in England, The Cries of London Calculated to Entertain the Minds of Old and Young; illustrated in variety of copper plates neatly engrav'd with an emblematical description of each subject, was published. and followed by Cries of London (1775) and The Cries of London, as they are daily exhibited in the streets: with an epigram in verse, adapted to each. Embellished with sixty-two elegant cuts (1775); a highly popular publication with a new edition published in 1791 and in its tenth edition by 1806. Other 18th-century titles included: The Cries of London: for the Instruction of Good Children; decorated with twenty-four cuts from life, (1795). Similar titles appeared in the 19th-century including: The New Cries of London; with characteristic engravings (1804); The Cries of London; embellished with twelve engravings, The Cries of Famous London Town: as they are exhibited in the streets of the metropolis: with twenty humorous prints of the most eccentric characters; The Cries of London: shewing how to get a penny for a rainy day, (1820)  Lord Thomas Busby's The Cries of London: drawn from life; with descriptive letter-press, in verse and prose (1823); James Bishop's The Cries of London: for the information of little country folks; embellished with sixteen neatly-coloured engravings, (1847); and The London Cries in London Street: embellished with pretty cuts, for the use of good little boys and girls, and a copy of verses (1833).
Selected engravings from works of non-fiction on the theme of costermongers
By the 19th-century, writers were using known coster locations as settings for literary works. George Gissing's first published novel, Workers in the Dawn, published in 1880, described the costermongers at Whitecross Market in the late 1850s. In The Forsyte Saga, Swithin Forsyte is driving Irene Forsyte in his carriage through the streets of London in 1886 and a costermonger (the "ruffian") and his girlfriend are riding alongside in their donkey cart, which is overturned in traffic. Gilbert Chesterton points out that slum novels, an early 20th-century genre, showed a great interest in costermongers, although Chesterton, himself, wrote he did not always approve of the novelists' motives which often came down to writing about the costermonger's "dim vices and delicate virtues" and their capacity to create a sensation.
Jeffrey Archer's 1991 novel As the Crow Flies features a costermonger mentoring his grandson in the trade in the Covent Garden area of London.
Street life and the "cries of London" was also a recurring theme in English painting. In the mid 1700s, the English water-colourist, Paul Sandby created a series entitled London Cries depicting English shopkeepers, stall-holders and itinerant street vendors. The Dutch engraver, Marcellus Laroon began working in London in the mid-1700s where he produced his most famous work, the series, The Cryes of London. The Flemish engraver and printmaker, Anthony Cardon, spent time in England in the 1790s where he produced a series of engravings of London's street sellers, known as the Cries of London. Francis Wheatley, the English painter, who had been born in Covent Garden and was well acquainted with London's street life, exhibited a series of artworks, also entitled Cries of London, between 1792 and 1795. Augustus Edwin Mulready, made his reputation by painting scenes of Victorian life which included street sellers, urchins, markets flower sellers. The French artist, Louise Moillon, noted for her still-life paintings, also used market scenes, costermongers, street vendors and green-grocers as subject matter in early 17th-century France.
The Victorian Slum (Victorian Slum House in the US) is a five part documentary, produced by the BBC in 2016, featuring a group of costermonger and tradesman's families, living and working in London's East End between the 1860s and the early 20th-century and highlighting the plight of the urban poor.
Paintings, etchings and porcelain figurines featuring costermongers
The Fruit and Vegetable Costermonger by Louise Moillon, 1631
A Little Violet Seller by Augustus Edwin Mulready, 1877
Social commentary and sources
The activities and lifestyles of 19th century costermongers and street vendors are among the subjects documented in various nineteenth century texts. Many of these were written by prominent social commentators and journalists, as part of a social reform agenda which emerged during the period. Notable commentators (with selected book titles) include:
- Henry Mayhew wrote London Labour and the London Poor, a four volume collection of articles, being an observational account of street life and the working poor, published in 1851. Volume 1 is dedicated to costermongers and street vendors
- Godfrey Holden Pike, a Methodist writer, published Byeways of Two Cities, in 1873 and the Romance of the Streets in 1872
- James Greenwood, a Victorian journalist and social commentator, first published an article ‘A Mission Among City Savages’, the Daily Telegraph and subsequently in a collection entitled, In Strange Company in 1873. His commentary relates especially to the street vendors working around Whitecross Street, London. He also wrote, Toilers in London in 1883 
- Charles Booth wrote, Life and Labour of the People in London a multi-volume book published in 1891. Volume 17 contains commentary on costermongers and their lifestyle.
- John Thomson and Adolphe Smith, collaborated in the production of a monthly magazine, Street Life in London, between 1876 and 1877. These were subsequently published as a pictorial essay in book form, also called Street Life in London in 1878.
The costermonger's trade in London is subject to regulation by law, under the administration of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. If the pitch is stationary, by-laws of local councils also apply. Legislation exists under clause six of the Metropolitan Streets Act 1867, which deals with obstruction by goods to pavements (sidewalks) and streets. There are various modern amendments.
|Look up costermonger in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Coster-monger .|
- Quinion, Michael (4 January 2003). "Costard/ˈkɒstəd/". World Wide Words. Retrieved 2012-09-16. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Roberts, Chris, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme. Thorndike Press 2006. (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
- Word Histories, http://wordhistories.com/2016/05/02/costermonger/
- Knight, C., London, Vol. 5 (1851), FC & B, London (Classic Reprint), 2017
- "Definition of costermonger". Oxford English Dictionaries. Retrieved 12 March 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Etymology Dictionary Online, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=costermonger and also see, Sullivan, D., "A Penny Profit out of the Poor Man's Dinner," Victorian Web, Victorian Costermongers Page, <Online: http://www.victorianweb.org/history/work/costermonger.html>
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/costermonger
- Longman's Dictionary of Occupations, http://www.ldoceonline.com/Occupations-topic/costermonger
- Macmillan Dictionary, http://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/british/costermonger
- Oxford Dictionary, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/costermonger
- Oxford Encyclopedia, http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/costermonger
- The Free Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/costermonger
- Collins Dictionary, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/costermonger
- Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, Vol 1
- Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006, pp 64–65
- Graham, K., Gone to the Shops: Shopping in Victorian England, Praeger, London, 2008, p. 61
- Thomson, J. and Smith, A., Street Life in London, 1877
- Henry Mayhew, cited in Jackson, L., Dirty Old London, Yale University Press, 2015. In addition, James Greenwood, writing in 1883, also provides detailed descriptions of costermongers buying and selling flowers of all sorts, and including flowers in pots and single flowers destined for a genteleman's lapel in Greenwood, J., "Only a Coster" in Toilers in London by One of the Crowd, 1883; cited in Victorian London, Online: http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications3/toilers-14.htm. Montagu Williams explains, in 1893, any number of costermongers "who post themselves in various parts of the metropolis with barrows laden with plants, seedlings, roots, and bulbs, purchased at Covent Garden" in Williams, M., Round London: Down East and Up West, London, 1893, p. 294
- Henry Mayhew, (1851) London Labour and the London Poor, https://archive.org/stream/mayhewslondonbei00mayhuoft/mayhewslondonbei00mayhuoft_djvu.txt
- Mayhew, H., London Labour and the London Poor: A Cyclopædia of the Condition and Earnings of Those that Will Work, Those that Will Not Work and Those who Cannot Work, Vol. 1, (originally published in 1848) NY, Cosimo Classics, 2009, pp 7–8
- Mayhew, H., London Labour and the London Poor: A Cyclopædia of the Condition and Earnings of Those that Will Work, Those that Will Not Work and Those who Cannot Work, Vol. 1, (originally published in 1848), NY, Cosimo Classics, 2009, pp 4–6; Mayhew notes that the census figures are unreliable on account of high levels of illiteracy amongst costermongers and provides a detailed account of how he arrived at these estimates. It may be worth noting that most historians accept Mayhew's estimates and the numbers are widely cited in secondary sources.
- Kelley, V., "The Streets for the People: London's Street Markets 1850–1939, Urban History, June, 2015, pp 1-21,
- Mayhew, Henry 1851–1861. London Labour and the London Poor. Researched and written, variously, with J. Binny, B. Hemyng and A. Halliday.
- John Camden Hotten, The Slang Dictionary, 1859
- Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, 1848
- As cited in Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006, p. 72
- As cited in Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006, p. 61 and p. 72
- Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006, pp 63–64
- Knight, C., "Street Noises," Chapter 2 in Knight, C. (ed), London, Vol. 1, C. Knight & Co.,1841. p. 135
- Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006, p. 64; Ian Peddie, "Playing at Poverty: The Music Hall and the Staging of the Working Class," Chapter 12 in Aruna Krishnamurthy (ed), The Working-Class Intellectual in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Britain Ashgate Publishing, 2009
- Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006 p. 64 and pp 73–74
- Wise, S., The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum, Vintage Books, London, 2009, pp 154–156
- Wise, S., The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum, Vintage Books, London, 2009, pp 156–159; Winstanley, M.J., The Shopkeeper's World, 1830–1914, Alden Pres, Oxford, 1983, p. 95; other costermongers unions were formed in London and in the counties, throughout the 1890s and early 1900s: see Marsh, A.,Historical Directory of Trade Unions, Volume 5, Ashgate, 2009
- Wise, S., The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum, Vintage Books, London, 2009, pp 156–57
- Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006 p. 73
- Chesney, Kellow 1970. The Victorian Underworld. Penguin p. 43.
- Chesney, Kellow, The Victorian Underworld, Penguin, 1970, pp 43–56; 97–98.
- Chesney, Kellow 1970. The Victorian Underworld. Penguin. p. 50
- Sullivan, D, "A Penny Profit out of the Poor Man's Dinner," Victorian Web, Victorian Costermongers Page, 
- Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, 1851
- Greenwood, J., Toilers in London by One of the Crowd, Diprose & Bateman, 1883
- May, Betty. (1929) Tiger Woman: My Story. (2014 reprint) London: Duckworth. ISBN 978-0715648551
- Hotten, John Camden, A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words, 2nd ed, London, 1860; also see: Sullivan, D., "Earth Yenneps: Victorian Back Slang," Victorian Web, Online: http://www.victorianweb.org/history/slang2.html; Henry Mayhew also devoted a section of his work, London Labour and the London Poor in which he mentioned back slang, see pp 23–24
- Worth, J., Shadows Of The Workhouse: The Drama Of Life In Postwar London, Orion Publishing, 2009
- Hotten, John Camden, A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words, 2nd ed, London, 1860, pp 263–269
- Franklyn, J., A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang, Routledge, 1960; Franklyn notes that rhyming slang is so essentially Cockney that is often known as Cockney slang p. 13. p. 33 and p. 21)
- Jacobs, E., "Disvaluing the Popular: 'Industrial Literacy' and the Emergence of Mass Culture in Victorian England," in Victorian Urban Settings: Essays on the Nineteenth-Century City and Its Contexts, Mancoff, D.N. and Trela, D.J. (eds), Garland Publishing, 1996, p.98
- The Slang Dictionary,London, John Camden Hotten, 1874, p. 130; Fitzgerald, M., McLennan, G. and Pawson, J. (eds) Crime and Society: Readings in History and Theory, Routledge, 1981, pp 138-142
- Peddie, I., "Playing in Krishnamurthy, A. (ed), The Working-Class Intellectual in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ashgate Publishing, 2009, p. 252
- Peddie, I., "Playing at Poverty: The Music Hall and the Staging of the Working Class," in Krishnamurthy, A. (ed), The Working-Class Intellectual in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ashgate Publishing, 2009, pp 235–254
- In the 19th century, the concept of a "dangerous class" was very broad and might refer to criminals as well as classes such as costermongers with revolutionary potential. See: Philips, D., "Three 'moral entrepreneurs' and the creation of a 'criminal class' in England, c. 1790s–1840s," Crime, History and Societies, Vol, 7, No. 1, 2003, pp 79–107
- Fitzgerald, M., McLennan, G. and Pawson, J. (eds),Crime and Society: Readings in History and Theory, Routledge, 1981, p. 95
- Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006, p. 69; . Jankiewicz, "A Dangerous Class: The Street Sellers of Nineteenth-Century London," Journal of Social History, Vol 46, No. 2, 2012, pp 391–415;
- Mayhew, H., London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. 1, (originally published in 1848) NY, Cosimo Classics, 2009, p. 4; it may be worth noting that some historians dispute the authorship of the London Lykpenny
- London Sound Survey, Historical References to London's Sounds, http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk/index.php/survey/historical_ec/economic1/157/184
- Maccoll, E. and Seeger, P., Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland, Routledge and Kegan, London, (1977), 2016, p. 147
- Jamieson, R. (ed), Popular Ballads and Songs, Jamieson, Edinburgh, 1809, pp 266–271; Canwyke-Street refers to Cannon Street
- Ian Peddie, "Playing at Poverty: The Music Hall and the Staging of the Working Class," Chapter 12 in Aruna Krishnamurthy (ed), The Working-Class Intellectual in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ashgate Publishing, 2009
- Matthews, W., "Cockney in the Music Halls," Chapter 5 in Cockney Past and Present: A Short History of the Dialect of London, Routledge, 2015
- Who's Who in the Theatre, Pitman, London, 1912, <Online: https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_qyk_AQAAMAAJ
- Mayhew, H., London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. 1, (originally published in 1848) NY, Cosimo Classics, 2009, p. 8
- The titles named in this section represent a composite listing taken from Shesgreen, S., Images of the Outcast: The Urban Poor in the Cries of London, New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press, 2002, especially Chapter 1; Harms, R., Raymond, J. and Salman, J., Not Dead Things: The Dissemination of Popular Print in England and Wales, Brill, 2013 and London Sound Survey, Historical References to London's Sounds, http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk/index.php/survey/historical_ec/economic1/157/184
- Bouchardon, Edmé, Etudes Prises Dans let Bas Peuple, Ou Les Cris de Paris Paris, E. Fessard, 1737.
- The Cries of London Calculated to Entertain the Minds of Old and Young; illustrated in variety of copper plates neatly engrav'd with an emblematical description of each subject, Vol. III. London, H. Roberts, c.1760 was published
- Cries of London, London, I. Kirk, 1757
- The Cries of London, as they are Daily Exhibited in the Streets: with an epigram in verse, adapted to each. Embellished with sixty-two elegant cuts, London, F. Newbery, 1775
- The Cries of London: for the Instruction of Good Children; decorated with twenty-four cuts from life, London, Booksellers in Town and Country, circa 1795
- The New Cries of London; with characteristic engravings London, Harvey & Darton, 1804
- The Cries of London ; embellished with twelve engravings, London, R. Miller, circa 1810
- The Cries of Famous London Town: as they are exhibited in the streets of the metropolis: with twenty humorous prints of the most eccentric characters, London, John Arliss, no date
- The Cries of London: shewing how to get a penny for a rainy day, Wellington, Shropshire, F. Houlston & Son, 1820
- Busby, Thomas Lord, The Cries of London: drawn from life; with descriptive letter-press, in verse and prose, London, L. Harrison, 1823;
- Bishop. James, The Cries of London: for the information of little country folks; embellished with sixteen neatly-coloured engravings, London, Dean & Munday, circa 1847;
- The London Cries in London Street: embellished with pretty cuts, for the use of good little boys and girls, and a copy of verses, London, T. Birt, 1833
- Chesterton, G.K., The Essential Gilbert K. Chesterton, Volume 1, Start Publishing, 2012
- Archer, Jeffrey, As the Crow Flies, Harper Collins (1991)
- "Laroon, Marcellus". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900
- L.H.W. "Anthony Cardon," Arnold's Magazine of the Fine Arts, and Journal of Literature and Science, Vol. 4, London, 1834, p. 54
- Short, E.H., A History of British Painting, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1953, p. 152
- Hewitt, M. (ed), The Victorian World, Oxon, Routledge, 2012, p. 302
- Gaze, D. (ed), Concise Dictionary of Women Artists, Oxon, Routledge, 2001 pp 491–92
- Rees, J., "The Victorian Slum was Slumming it in the Past with Insufficient Squalor: Review," 10 October 2016, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/10/10/the-victorian-slum-was-slumming-it-in-the-past-with-insufficient/
- Jordan, R.E., Victorian Childhood: Themes and Variations, State University of New York, 1987, p.248
- Pike, G.H., Byeways of Two Cities, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1873
- Greenwood, J., In Strange Company: Being the Experiences of a Roving Correspondent, London, Viztelly, 1874, <Online: https://archive.org/details/instrangecompan00greegoog
- Greenwood, J., Toilers in London, (1883), Dodo Press, 2009
- Booth, C., Life and Labour of the People in London, Macmillan, 1902, <Online: https://archive.org/details/lifeandlabourpe02bootgoog
- Jacobson, K., Odalisques and Arabesques: Orientalist Photography, 1839-1925, London, Bernard Quaritch, 2007; argues that the work focused on educating the English middle class on the circumstances of the English working classes.
Sources and further reading
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Costermonger.|
- A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words, London, John Camden Hotten, London, Project Gutenberg edition. Online: 1860.https://www.gutenberg.org/files/47018/47018-h/47018-h.htm
- Bouchardon, E., Études Prises Dans le Bas Peuple ou les Cris de Paris, 1737 <Online: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105087672>
- Greenwood, J., Toilers in London, (1883), Dodo Press, 2009
- Greenwood, J., In Strange Company, (1874)
- Hindley, C., A History of the Cries of London: Ancient and Modern, (1885), Project Gutenberg edition, 2011 <Online: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/37114/37114-h/37114-h.htm>
- Knight, C., Knight's Cyclopedia of London, C. Knight & Co, 1851 Online: <https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000156820>
- Mayhew, H., London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1, 1861 Digital editions: <http://dl.tufts.edu/catalog/tei/tufts:MS004.002.052.001.00001>; <https://archive.org/details/londonlabourand01mayhgoog>
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Coster-monger". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 222.