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A History of the Cries of London by Hindley

Five brill and one turbot have that lot for a pound


To see this market in its busiest time, says Mr. Mayhew, "the visitor should be there about seven o'clock on a Friday morning." The market opens at four, but for the first two or three hours it is attended solely by the regular fishmongers and "bummarees," who have the pick of the best there. As soon as these are gone the costermonger's sale begins. Many of the costers that usually deal in vegetables buy a little fish on the Friday. It is the fast day of the Irish, and the mechanics' wives run short of money at the end of the week, and so make up their dinners with fish: for this reason the attendance of costers' barrows at Billingsgate on a Friday morning is always very great. As soon as you reach the Monument you see a line of them, with one or two tall fishmongers' carts breaking the uniformity, and the din of the cries and commotion of the distant market begin to break on the ear like the buzzing of a hornet's nest. The whole neighbourhood is covered with hand-barrows, some laden with baskets, others with sacks. The air is filled with a kind of sea-weedy odour, reminding one of the sea-shore; and on entering the market, the smell of whelks, red herrings, sprats, and a hundred other sorts of fish, is almost overpowering. The wooden barn looking square[14] where the fish is sold is, soon after six o'clock, crowded with shiny cord jackets and greasy caps. Everybody comes to Billingsgate in his worst clothes; and no one knows the length of time a coat can be worn until they have been to a fish sale. Through the bright opening at the end are seen the tangled rigging of the oyster boats, and the red-worsted caps of the sailors. Over the hum of voices is heard the shouts of the salesmen, who, with their white aprons, peering above the heads of the mob, stand on their tables roaring out their prices. All are bawling together--salesmen and hucksters of provisions, capes, hardware, and newspapers--till the place is a perfect Babel of competition.

"Ha-a-andsome cod! best in the market! All alive! alive! alive, oh!"--"Ye-o-o! ye-o-o! Here's your fine Yarmouth bloaters! Who's the buyer?"--"Here you are, governor; splendid whiting! some of the right sort!"--"Turbot! turbot! All alive, turbot."--"Glass of nice peppermint, this cold morning? Halfpenny a glass!"--"Here you are, at your own price! Fine soles, oh!"--"Oy! oy! oy! Now's your time! Fine grizzling sprats! all large, and no small!"--"Hullo! hullo, here! Beautiful lobsters! good and cheap. Fine cock crabs, all alive, oh!"--"Five brill and one turbot--have that lot for a pound! Come and look at 'em, governor; you won't see a better lot in the market!"--"Here! this way; this way, for splendid skate! Skate, oh! skate, oh!"--"Had-had-had-had-haddock! All fresh and good!"--"Currant and meat puddings! a ha'penny each!"--"Now, you mussel-buyers, come along! come along! come along! Now's your time for fine fat mussels!"--"Here's food for the belly, and clothes for the back; but I sell food for the mind!" shouts the newsvendor.--"Here's smelt, oh!"--"Here ye are, fine Finney haddick!"--"Hot soup! nice pea-soup! a-all hot! hot!"--"Ahoy! ahoy, here! Live plaice! all alive, oh!"--"Now or never! Whelk! whelk! whelk!" "Who'll buy brill, oh! brill, oh?"--"Capes! waterproof capes! Sure to keep the wet out! A shilling apiece!"--"Eels, oh! eels, oh! Alive, oh! alive oh!"--"Fine flounders, a shilling a lot! Who'll have this prime lot of flounders?"--"Shrimps! shrimps! fine shrimps!"--"Wink! wink! wink!"--"Hi! hi-i! here you are; just eight eels left--only eight!"--"O ho! O ho! this way--this way--this way! Fish alive! alive! alive, oh."


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