Friday, June 27, 2014
The London of Sebastian St. Cyr: the Ragfairs of Rosemary and Petticoat Lanes
Read the accounts of Regency (or Georgian or Victorian) men and women sliding into poverty, and their descent is inevitably marked by visits to old clothes dealers. A nice gown could be exchanged for an not-so-nice gown, with the difference in price going to buy another few days' food and lodging. And when that money was gone, the unfortunate would find themselves back at the old clothes sellers, with the not-so-nice gown being exchanged for something even less respectable--and so on, until one was reduced to the worst imaginable rags. At that point, you starved.
Traditionally, many old clothes dealers were Jewish. Look closely at Rowlandson's watercolor above (you can click on it to see a larger image) and you can read the names on the shop signs. Moses Moncera Old Hats and Wigs. Widow Levy Dealer in Old Breeches. You'll also see how many of the dealers are shown wearing long coats and beards (the piles of hats they wear on their heads are a sign of their trade). As a result, most of the stalls and shops were closed on Saturdays until after sundown. The lane did a roaring business on Sunday mornings.