Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Street-sellers in Victorian London

029In the latest issue of Herbs* Gareth Evans draws attention to a cough-drop seller and other street salesmen described in Henry Mayhew’s London Labour & the London Poor (1851-62).

Chickweed (Stellaria media) and groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) were collected and sold as food for cage-birds, elderberry (Sambucus nigra) wine was sold from barrels, and nettles (Urtica dioica) were sold to ladies who considered ‘nettles good for the blood and drinks ’em at tea, mostly at spring and autumn  …  The ladies I sell the nettles to are mostly sickly, but sometimes they aren’t.’  The main ingredient in the cough-drops was white horehound (Marrubium vulgare).

050*  Gareth Evans, ‘Bah Humbug’ – A Victorian cough-drop seller, in Herbs [magazine of the Herb Society] 40, 3: 24-5, 2015.

Images:  upper, nettles and chickweed, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire; lower, T. Cook’s Sweet Shop (reconstruction of a c.1900 confectionery shop), The Black Country Living Museum, Dudley, West Midlands, both September 2015.

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