The rich variety of trades and services employing ordinary Londoners was a source of perpetual fascination to artists during the 18th and 19th centuries. Such interest in the earthy reality of London life generated a unique and fascinating genre of life painting across the period, loosely entitled the ‘Cries of London’. The genre is typified in the work of artists such as Marcellus Laroon, Francis Wheatley and Paul Sandby, who capture in detail the dress and activities of trades-people simply going about their daily business.
The images shown here are taken from the illustrated series The Itinerant Traders of London by artist William Marshall Craig, published in 1804, and depict the astonishing array of goods and services available in the streets of the capital during the early 19th century. Brushes, brooms, baskets, doormats and boxes are among the multitude of goods available to buy from hawkers, who push their wares on barrows or carry them over their shoulders. Repair of chairs, knife grinding and bellow mending services are also depicted. An astonishing selection of foodstuffs is also available to buy from costermongers: baked and boiled apples, for example, as well as fruit and vegetables, gingerbread and hot loaves of bread.