Friday, June 27, 2014

The London of Sebastian St. Cyr: the Ragfairs of Rosemary and Petticoat Lanes

You won't find Rosemary Lane on any modern London map. Running from Dock Street to the Minories near the Tower,  it was renamed Royal Mint Street in the nineteenth century. Its famous street market is long gone, too. But for several hundred years, Rosemary Lane was the place to go if you wanted to buy old clothes (as Sebastian sometimes does for his disguises) or if you were on your way down in the world and needed to sell your clothes.

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.

The shops lining the lane were occupied by old clothes sellers, which is why you see coats and gowns hanging against the sides of buildings. But dealers also sold their goods from stalls or barrows, while some simply spread their piles of old boots and shoes, bonnets, hats, wigs, and stays on the ground or on pieces of old carpet.

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.

Another street famous for its old clothes trade was Petticoat Lane, shown in the print above. It was actually in a slightly less poor area than Rosemary Lane. In a fit of Victorian prudery, Petticoat Lane was also renamed, becoming Middlesex Street. But its street market still survives--and is still closed on Saturdays.


31 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've read a few times about ragfairs. Fascinating.

Susan J. said...

I do love this kind of detail in your books. It sets them apart from others. I have heard of Petticoat Lane, in fact I trained to be a Telephonist at a training centre, in what was then the GPO, in the 1970's, very near to where it is situated. But I had not heard of Rosemary Lane. My husband remembers the markets in London of the fifties, when things had not really changed that much from the past. He speaks of Club Row, now Brick Lane market. He remembers everything for sale there, from old clothes to various pets, just about everything. He had a real working class upbringing in Battersea, South London, playing football all day on the bomb sites left after World War II. His family lived in two rooms, with an outside toilet at a place called 'The Dwellings'. Very like the place depicted in the film 'Vera Drake'. They were a happy family though and he remembers his childhood fondly, you don't always need money to be happy.

paz said...

There is a very famous market in Madrid known as "El Rastro" that began also as an old clothes market. It has gone through many iterations, but visiting it on a Sunday is still is one of the most entertaining things one can do in Madrid.

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

Love the tattered breeches and coats hanging from poles near the windows! This is an interesting peek at the background of Sebastian and Hero's lives, and it makes a big difference in your work. Iit will be in play while I read. Thank you!

Suzanne said...

I love your posts on old London, they are fascinating. Like looking into a window of the past. I went to the market in Portobello Road in the late 70s which was just like you see in movies. As usual, being me, I walked straight past the clothes stalls and bought heaps of 2nd hand books. After travelling for 5 months I ended up with such a huge collection I had to keep posting them home via sea mail and hoping they wouldn't get home before I did.

Maureen said...

I quite agree with Susan J and Suzanne! As soon as you noted a specific location in your post, I pulled out my copy of The A to Z of Regency London with Horwood's wonderful maps and found Rosemary Lane. We were in London in May and visited Spitalfields Market which has been operating for over 350 years...it is much gentrified now but still fun. Also, I was much struck in London by how much WWII bombing damaged and changed the city. Lastly, I loved Why Kings Confess...the characters have so much depth and realness for me and the suspense kept me reading way into the night. It is tragic about Princess Charlotte...the triple obstetric tragedy..fascinating to wonder what if the baby had lived to be the next monarch instead of Victoria. Once again, thanks for your great end notes. I always want to know the history behind the fiction.

Lynne said...

The prints of old London are such a treat, Candy. They enrich your stories but also intrigue me as well. There was a great special in PBS last week on Underground London. I thought it would be about the Tube but it was actually about old London and all of it's hidden aspects, much like your old prints. London is so full of wonderful history...thanks for sharing.

Suzanne said...

Has anybody noticed that in the second picture, fourth from the right, there is a character who looks just like Ron Moody playing Fagan? I could really imagine Fagan slipping around the back of the stalls to fence the stolen silk handkerchiefs his boys had stolen.

Anonymous said...

Love hearing about old london. Just left there on Friday. Twice our cab drove down upper brook street and I was too slow taking out my phone to snap a shot. We always turned on park where the street number stopped at 42. So close. Sorry for failing in the pic dept. When at the tower we had lunch at a little pub just above it called the minories. Loved that u just wrote about the area. Sabena

Anonymous said...

C-this kind of information is so interesting. it makes it much easier to understand the people of the time and how they lived. when ever i read a Sebastian story you really feel like you walking those same streets and seeing the people. thanks. best ali.

cs harris said...

Charles, they are fascinating.

Susan, it really is a pity they changed the old names. And your husband's childhood sounds like something he should write down!

Paz, yes, my mother LOVED the Rastro when we lived in Madrid when I was a kid. Many of the items in my house came from there.

Barbara, yes, one wonders who could wear those!

Suzanne, it's been a while since I was at a London market; I wonder how much they've changed?

cs harris said...

Lynne, I didn't see that. I wonder if it's from the book?

Suzanne, I suspect that's why he's there!

Sabena, glad to hear you had a great time!

Ali, my collection of prints was one of the things I thought I'd lost in the computer crash, but then I found the collection of files I'd organized them in before I uploaded them to iPhoto.

Lynne said...

Re: your question about the special. I have no idea because I didn't have the good sense to watch the credits. It was on just before Masterpiece a week ago. If it gets repeated it will no doubt be on a Sunday night. If I see it on my public television schedule I'll let you know. When they were touring the underground rivers - the Strand, etc. - I thought of Hero and Sebastian.

Ole Münch said...

Dear Mrs. Harris,

i really enjoyed reading your Blog about the Rag Traders . I would like to use the image of "Petticoat Lane" for a presentation. Is it possible to obtain information about the source of the picture?

cs harris said...

Ole Munich, my prints come from out of various books, many of which the Gutenberg Project has a up on line. I suspect this one came from Thornbury's Old and New London, volume 2; I don't know for certain because I lost that information when my computer crashed. The Rowlandson image of Rosemary Lane is on Wikipedia.

This site--http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45084--has the Thornbury volumes on line, but not most of the prints.

I have my own hardbound copies of all six volumes of the Thornbury set, but do use Gutenberg for some other wonderful old 19th century books.

Ole Münch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ole Münch said...

Mrs. Harris: You were absolutely right. I found the picture and the page in the book you indicated. Thanks alot.

cs harris said...

Ole, you're welcome.

Susan J. said...

As Maureen mentioned in her comment, it's interesting how London changed after the bombing in World War II. I was reminded of this when reading 'When Maiden's Mourn', in which you mention The Temple Church. My father, who is aged 87, remembers being taken there as a child in the 1930's and seeing the tombs of the knights undamaged and then going again after the bombing. There is a wonderful documentary about the night Hitler tried to destroy London, in particular St Pauls and how Londoners worked all night to save it. You may have seen it on one of the History channels. It mentioned an American journalist who was so moved by the plight of the Londoners that he later adopted a little girl who had been orphaned by the bombing. She was on the programme, now in her seventies with an American accent!

cs harris said...

Susan, yes, what WWII did to Europe was awful. I remember visiting East Berlin in the 70s and seeing the vacant lots and bullet strafed buildings still standing. And when I was a kid in Europe in the 50s, we used to take a month every summer to drive around. So many cities still had huge piles of rubble on the outskirts. And now I'm really dating myself....

Susan J. said...

It was terrible what the Napoleonic wars did to Europe also, it seemed to be Napoleon's deliberate policy to let his soldiers rape and plunder everywhere they went. At least the British officers tried to prevent their men doing the same, particularly when Wellington took over. Not always successfully though, sadly, as you point out in your books. How terrible it must have been for those powerless people at the mercy of the soldiers.

Coach Factory said...

polo ralph lauren outlet, gucci handbags, polo ralph lauren, prada handbags, kate spade handbags, christian louboutin shoes, prada outlet, coach purses, oakley sunglasses, ray ban outlet, michael kors outlet store, longchamp handbags, louis vuitton outlet, louis vuitton handbags, oakley vault, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet online, louis vuitton outlet online, red bottom shoes, true religion, coach outlet, christian louboutin outlet, coach outlet store online, nike air max, ray ban sunglasses, michael kors outlet online, longchamp outlet online, chanel handbags, tiffany and co jewelry, kate spade outlet online, cheap oakley sunglasses, nike air max, burberry outlet online, jordan shoes, michael kors outlet online, louis vuitton, nike shoes, louboutin shoes, michael kors outlet online, nike free, tory burch outlet, coach outlet, burberry outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet

Coach Factory said...

hollister, longchamp, mulberry, longchamp pas cher, nike free, scarpe hogan, guess pas cher, hollister, oakley pas cher, burberry pas cher, timberland, air max pas cher, hermes pas cher, air jordan, nike air max, michael kors uk, abercrombie and fitch, sac vanessa bruno, nike roshe run, nike free pas cher, north face, sac michael kors, nike trainers, chaussure louboutin, true religion outlet, ray ban uk, louis vuitton, converse pas cher, louis vuitton uk, ralph lauren, nike air max, new balance pas cher, michael kors canada, lacoste pas cher, sac louis vuitton, true religion outlet, air max, nike blazer pas cher, nike air force, louis vuitton pas cher, tn pas cher, longchamp, nike huarache, barbour, ralph lauren pas cher, lululemon, ray ban pas cher, vans pas cher, north face pas cher, nike roshe

Coach Factory said...

ugg soldes, canada goose outlet, mcm handbags, moncler outlet, valentino shoes, ugg boots, marc jacobs outlet, soccer jerseys, nfl jerseys, herve leger, ugg outlet, chi flat iron, moncler, mont blanc pens, birkin bag, canada goose pas cher, canada goose outlet, north face outlet, moncler, insanity workout, bottega veneta, ferragamo shoes, vans outlet, mac cosmetics, north face jackets, soccer shoes, lululemon outlet, ghd, babyliss pro, beats headphones, jimmy choo shoes, canada goose uk, uggs outlet, canada goose outlet, hollister, moncler, p90x workout, giuseppe zanotti, canada goose, uggs on sale, abercrombie and fitch, wedding dresses, celine handbags, ugg, new balance outlet, asics shoes, roshe run, rolex watches, reebok outlet, instyler ionic styler

Dongdong Weng said...

20150527wengdongdong
ray ban glasses
louis vuitton handbags
ray bans
jordan 11 concord
soccer jerseys
concords 11
michael kors
oakley sunglasses
michael kors outlet
oakley sunglasses wholesale
louis vuitton outlet
oakley sunglass
coach factory outlet
ray ban outlet
fitflops clearance
beats by dr dre
replica watches
prada outlet
celine
louis vuitton handbags
gucci
hollister co
kobe shoes
michael kors
louis vuitton handbags
ghd hair strighteners
coach factory outlet
oakley sunglasses sale
timberland boots
abercrombie
louis vuitton handbags
air max 90
air jordan 11

Unknown said...

louis vuitton uk outlet
ralph lauren outlet
hollister kids
louis vuitton handbags
christian louboutin sale
ray ban eyeglasses
christian louboutin
hollister
air max 2015
kate spade diaper bag
gucci outlet online
louis vuitton handbags
soccer jerseys
ralph lauren uk
louis vuitton handbags uk
abercrombie
pandora rings
christian louboutin shoes
michael kors handbags
coach factory outlet
oakley sunglasses
abercrombie and fitch outlet
jordan pas cher
abercrombie kids
louis vuitton outlet
tory burch shoes
chanel bags
kate spade
michael kors
kevin durant shoes 2015
louis vuitton
louboutin
oakley sunglasses
lv bags
mulberry uk
louis vuitton outlet
20150706xiong

Meiqing Xu said...

15912meiqing
nike running shoes
christian louboutin outlet
gucci borse
hollister kids
ed hardy outlet
marc jacobs
adidas shoes
louis vuitton outlet
louis vuitton borse
ugg sale
nike air max
ralph lauren polos shirts
true religion jeans
fake oakley sunglasses
louboutin
michael kors handbags
mont blanc
new balance outlet
coach outlet
north face uk
swarov ski jewelry
jordan pas cher
moncler outlet
supra shoes
nike cortez

dong dong said...

2015924dongdong
ugg boots sale
ugg boots sale
Authentic Louis Vuitton Bags Discount
toms outlet
Jordan 3 Retro 2015
louis vuitton
ray-ban sunglasses,ray ban sunglasses,ray bans,rayban,ray ban wayfarer,raybans,ray ban glasses,ray ban aviators,ray ban clubmaster,ray ban eyeglasses,cheap ray bans,ray bans sunglasses,ray ban aviator,ray bands,fake ray bans,ray ban prescription glasses,ray ban outlet,ray ban canada,ray ban sunglasses sale,ray ban sale
Louis Vuitton Outlet Mall Store
michael kors handbags
football jerseys cheap
michael kors outlet online
Coach Factory Outlet Clearance
canada goose
Coach Outlet Online Discount Sale
mihchael kors bag
Montblanc Pen Refills Outlet
hollister uk sale
Louis Vuitton Official Site Outlet Stores
Designer Louis Vuitton Bags Discount
timberland outlet
Air Jordan 6 Champagne Bottle

chenlina said...

chenlina20160329
adidas running shoes
moncler coats
air jordan femme
michael kors outlet
michael kors uk
mont blanc
michael kors outlet
coach outlet
coach outlet online
replica rolex watches
cheap air jordans
coach outlet
oakley sunglasses wholesale
kobe shoes
louis vuitton outlet
ray ban sunglasses
ugg boots
coach outlet
michael kors outlet clearance
louis vuitton handbags
michael kors outlet
cheap air jordans
michael kors handbags
louis vuitton handbags
ray bans
coach factory outlet online
cartier watches
hollister kids
coach outlet
coach outlet store online
hollister uk
coach outlet online
burberry handbags
adidas uk
michael kors outlet
ray ban sunglasses uk
coach factorty outlet
coach factory outlet
kate spade
ugg outlet online
as

chenlili said...

chenlili20160617
louis vuitton outlet
abercrombie and fitch
michael kors outlet
cheap toms
polo ralph lauren
michael kors outlet
ray ban sunglasses
cheap toms
burberry handbags
louis vuitton handbags
louis vuitton
rolex watches
adidas wings
coach factory outlet online
ray ban sunglasses
adidas superstars
longchamp outlet
louis vuitton outlet online
louis vuitton purses
vans shoes
true religion sale
coach outlet store online
burberry outlet
toms wedges
tods outlet online
louis vuitton
ray ban sunglasses uk
adidas running shoes
nike air max uk
cheap jordans
lebron 12
louboutin femme
cheap basketball shoes
jordan retro 8
louboutin shoes
toms outlet
polo ralph kids

dada24 Xu said...

nike cortez classic
polo ralph lauren outlet
canada goose sale
hugo boss outlet online
michael kors outlet online
michael kors
air jordans
cheap ugg boots
ray bans
cheap rolex watches
zhi20161222