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Wheatley’s Cries of London

January 26, 2011
by the gentle author

Two Bunches a Penny, Primroses, Two Bunches a Penny!

Francis Wheatley exhibited his series of oil paintings entitled the “Cries of London” at the Royal Academy between 1792 and 1795. Two year earlier, the forty-one year old painter had been elected to the Academy in preference to the King’s nominee and, as a consequence, he never secured any further commissions for portraits from the aristocracy. Losing his income entirely, what should have been the crowning glory of his career was its unravelling – Wheatley was declared insolvent in 1793 and struggled to make a living until his death in 1801, when the Royal Academy paid his funeral expenses.

Yet in the midst of this turmoil, Wheatley created these sublime images of street sellers that – although seen at the time as of little consequence beside his aristocratic portraits – are now the works upon which his reputation rests. Born in Covent Garden in 1747, Wheatley was ideally qualified to portray these hawkers because he grew up amongst them and their cries, echoing in the streets around the market. You will recognise the old stone pillars of the market buildings that still stand today in a couple of these pictures, all of which could be located specifically in that vicinity.  However, these pictures are far from social reportage as we understand it, and you may notice a certain similarity between many of the women portrayed in these pictures, for whom it is believed Mrs Wheatley –  herself a painter and exhibitor at the Royal Academy – was the model. Look again, and you will also see that variants on the same ginger and white terrier occur throughout these paintings too.

In spite of the idealised quality of these pictures, I am drawn to these “Cries of London,” as a project that places working people at the centre of the picture, and represents them as individuals of stature and presence. The body language of subservience is only present when customers are in the frame, as you will see in the Knife Grinder and Cherry Seller below, whilst the lone Strawberry Seller, Match Seller and Primrose Seller all gaze out at us with assured status, as our equals. Taking this a stage further, the final three pictures, the Ballad Seller, the Gingerbread Seller and the Turnip Seller portray sellers and customers meeting eye to eye – dealing on a level – and with a discernible erotic charge in the air.

Although coming too late to save his career, Wheatley was well served by his engravers who created the prints which brought recognition for his “Cries of London,” as the most beautiful and most popular series of prints on this subject of all time, with editions still available into the early twentieth century. In fact, when I examined this set in the archive of the Bishopsgate Institute, I realised that many were familiar to me from chocolate boxes and biscuit tins, and once glimpsed in frames in the houses of elderly relatives and the seaside hotels of my childhood.

Luigi Schiavonetti, born in Bassano in 1765, engraved the first three plates, the Primrose Seller, the Milk Maids and the Orange Seller, with lush velvety stippled tones – a style that was maintained by the three subsequent engravers (Cardon, Vendramini and Gaugain), when Schiavonetti became too successful and expensive for such a modest project. The “Cries of London” were sold at  seven shillings and sixpence for a plain set and sixteen shillings coloured, and the fact all thirteen were issued is itself a measure of their popularity.

It touches me to understand that Francis Wheatley chose to paint these “Cries of London” at the time he was losing grip of his life, struggling under the pressure of increasing debt, because they cannot have been an obvious commercial proposition. And I like to surmise that these graceful images celebrate the qualities of the ordinary working people, which Wheatley experienced first-hand, growing up in Covent Garden, and chose to witness in this subtly political set of pictures, existing in noble contrast to the portraits of aristocratic patrons who had shunned him when he was in need.

One cold Winter’s morning, tracing my way through the narrow alleys at the heart of the City of London recently, I came upon singing and it stopped me in my tracks. This was a recording of the “Cries of London,” installed there by a composer, and it was a welcome reminder of the beauty of these songs, exploiting the acoustics of the City to elegant and haunting effect. Already a year has passed since the newspaper sellers went, seemingly un-noticed, and now it lifts my spirits to hear the fruit seller in Sclater St Market each Sunday with his distinctive rhythmic cry, “Bananas, bananas, bananas,”  - because in my mind this is the very last reverberation of that vast symphony of many thousands of voices echoing down the centuries and through the streets of London to our present day. The Cries of London.

Milk Below! - This is believed to be the origin of the more recent milkman’s cry,  ”Milko!”

Sweet China Oranges, Sweet China.

Do you want any matches?

New Mackerel, New Mackerel

Knives, Scissors & Razors to Grind.

Fresh Gathered Peas, Young Hastings.

Round & Sound, Five Pence a Pound, Duke Cherries.

Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys.

Old Chairs to Mend.

A New Love Song, only Ha’pence a Piece.

Hot Spiced Gingerbread, Smoking Hot.

Turnips & Carrots, ho!

Francis Wheatley R.A. looks askance.

Images copyright © Bishopsgate Institute

You may like to take a look at

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana of 1817

Adam Dant’s  New Cries of Spittlefields

55 Responses leave one →
  1. January 26, 2011

    Lovely to see these and a lovely post. I didn’t know the story behind The Cries of London. I have prints of some of them and had them up in my living room until I recently moved. I’ll have to find a place for them again!

  2. January 26, 2011

    Fantastic post – thank you.

  3. Freda Van Winkle permalink
    February 19, 2011

    I dressed as the Primrose Seller and presented at least a dozen programs giving information about each of Francis Wheatley’s 13 Cries in earlier years.
    I have all 13 plates (Adams porcelaine plates)and always made reference that Yardley of London Cosmetic Co. adopted The Primrose Seller as their trademark in 1913 ,removing the roses and filling the basket with sheaves of lavendar. She became the lavendar seller for Yardley to the point people almost forgot that in the original painting the models sell yellow primroses.

    Enjoyed you comments and prints. Glad I found this as I’m giving a program for our local Chautauqua Club in May.
    Did you realize the term “Holy Mackerel” came from the fact fish was the only commodity could be sold on Sun. because couldn’t hold it over until Mon. Thus the phrase,”Holy Mackerel.
    It took me awhile to realize “Young Hastings” was a variety of peas not referring to the youngster.

  4. David Gabriel permalink
    March 14, 2011

    A fascinating post about this series of prints. Some 60 years ago my Late Father came across a complete set of these prints in some shop (or it may have been in an auction house) in South India, in the Nilgiri Hills, and he bought the series.

    However what he bought were stamped as being ‘artists proofs’ though the artist who signed the coloured prints was either T Petitjean or F Petitjean

    I understand that the original series Cries of London was so popular that other artists copied Wheatley’s original works.

  5. Karen Mccabe permalink
    April 11, 2011

    I have two cries of London, DO YOU WANT ANY MATCHERS 4th plate engraved and Two bunch a penny this one is 1973 but has no plate number, it is written on the left side and say first plate of the cries of London. it is engraved . please can you tell me if I should get them insured . thank you karen

  6. carol atkin permalink
    May 5, 2011

    on the reverse of my print it says this print is one of four which yardley of london limited have had specailly produced from the famous set of fourteen engravings etc, does this mean it is worth anything?

  7. May 24, 2011

    Some years ago, a local gift shop, The Carriage House, was closing, and I saw these thirteen prints. I knew nothing about them but was fascinted. Risking (for me!) s goodly sum of money, I bought them. We have kept six on the wall of the stairs going up to the bedrooms, rotating with others occasionally. We love them, and your beautiful site has helped us treasure them even more. Many thanks.

    One the back of the frames is typed (some too faded to read):
    Subject: [Title of eadh print], after Francis Wheatley R A
    Engraving: Oure mezotint by Edward Stodart. There is a reference number, and says they are published by The Museum Gallaries, 26 Museum St, London, and framed 110 Meadow St,
    Fort BOMBAY

  8. Mary MacLennan permalink
    July 18, 2011

    I have 3 plates from my mother:Sweet China Oranges, Old Chairs to Mend, and Milk Below Maids. As my mother’s maiden name was Wheatley, I naturally now wonder of the connection! She was Emily Dix Wheatley born in Toronto, Canada-

  9. Jayne Kozal permalink
    August 7, 2011

    Hello – From what I’ve read on your post, these images have been used to sell candies, etc., in the past, so this means that they are copyrighted, correct? Your comment would be appreciated. -JK

  10. Yvonne permalink
    August 13, 2011

    I bought for Cries of London at a yard sale. How do I find out if they are worth anything?

  11. Colin permalink
    August 29, 2011

    I have a the picture “New Mackrel” Maquereux Frais et Gros “Cries of London”
    does this have any value? would be interested to find out please.

  12. September 4, 2011

    we have 2 colored engravings by F. Wheatley, one is milk below maids and the other is new mackrel new mackrel of cries of london. milk below maids is plate 2 and new mackrel new mackrel is plate 3. how could we find the value of these and if they need to be insured?

    we love them

  13. Catharine permalink
    November 9, 2011

    I have the full set of thirteen which I believe to be the original coloured engravings. I cannot really find out the value of them as there seems to be so many reproductions and this seems to cloud my research. Should I insure these as they are just now under home contents? If so, what would the value be?

  14. Sandra Sommers permalink
    November 9, 2011

    I have two prints of the “Cries of London” Plate 4 and 11.signed by Cordon.Could you tell me if they are of value.I am looking to sell them any suggestions?Thank you.

  15. Lauren permalink
    November 13, 2011

    I was fascinated to read your article on the Wheatley prints. I have in my possession a print of #4, Do you want any matches? It looks as if it is in its original framing,and in the matting there is printed D’Apres A. Cordon. What significance is this, as it does not have the Petit Jean as the colorist? There is also a marking on the back that says Mcrad, ORDER No. PICTURE No., and the picture No. is written in pencil as 876. I was given this by my grandmother before she passed, and I am wondering if I should have it insured, and for what amount. Thank you for your time and attention!

  16. carol permalink
    November 22, 2011

    I have recently aquired plate 2 milk below maids, schiavonetti sculp quiveut dulaitil est tout chaud, and plate 5 new mackrel,new mackrel , d’pre’s n.schiavnetti,jun. maquereux,maquereax frais et gros, i would like as much information as possible on these as possible, i do not know where to begin. thank you

  17. November 30, 2011

    I like many readers have a couple of vintage prints some flock but definately early 20th Century I was curious of value. One is Want any Matches? the other Milk Below. Thanks for your time.

  18. Helen Donnelly permalink
    December 18, 2011

    A few years ago I came across a pile of pictures,dumped,had a look and they were all these beautiful pictures of “The Cries of London”.I put them away to put in my kitchen when it was finished,they have been on my kitchen table since september and Ive only just got around to cleaning them and putting them up,Ive always been curious about them and this morning went online to see if I could find any information on them,I was delighted to find so much info on them.I have Plate 1,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,and 12.I look forward to seeing what Plate 2 and 7 look like.Thanking you.

  19. Kebbeth Mirfield permalink
    January 14, 2012

    Hi I have just purchased 6 Cries of London which appear very old they are in woood oak ftames and the y have wood on the back of them how can I tell if this are of aby value also I bought them because I jusy fell in love with them I have 7,8,9,10,11,13

  20. michael azzopardi permalink
    March 8, 2012

    I have all the set of twelve[Cries of LONDON] painted by F. Wheatly and on the
    left hand side of the paintings there are the french word ‘D’APRES’AND A NAME.

    CAN SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT THAT MEAN,PLEASE

    regards –michael[malta]

  21. Angela Drew permalink
    March 21, 2012

    I HAVE 2 PLATES “CRIES OF LONDON” I HAVE PLATE TWO MILK BELOW MAIDS; ALSO PLATE NINE STRAWBERRYS SCARLET STRAWBERRYS . IT HAS F.WHEATLEY ON LEFT HAND SIDE ALSO IT HAS D.APRES V? ON THE RIGHT HAND I CANT MAKE OUT WHAT IT SAYS. I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE VALUE IS. THEY ARE IN A GOLDISH FRAME. PLEASE LET ME KNOW ASAP!! THANKS HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY. IVE HAD THESE PICTURES FOR 25 YEARS NOW THEY BELONGED TO MY GRANDMOTHER SHE SAID SHES HAD THEM FOR 35 YEARS SOOOOOOO…??????? IM VERY CURIOUS LOL

  22. Scilla Cullen permalink
    April 13, 2012

    I have collected 13 of the 14 engravings he made very cheaply in markets and on EBay. However I believe the 14th is of a lavendar seller and the copyright to this was bought by the English Lavendar Company (Yardleys?)and is not available as a print.

  23. James Johnsen permalink
    June 16, 2012

    I just bought an engraving done by wheatlley engraved by anniss Repairing for market does anyone know anything about this

  24. Kay Ellis permalink
    July 28, 2012

    My mother In-Law recently passed away and we have two prints of F Wheatly. One print is called County Girl Going to Market and the other The Country Girl Going a Reaping. Down on the left side of prints, it says Printed by F Wheatly across on the right side it says, F Bartolozzi along the bottom it says “Specially re-engraved for Pears Annual 1915″.

    Just wondering if there is any value and if they should be insured.
    Any information would be appreciated.

    Thank you

  25. darlene jenkins permalink
    July 28, 2012

    I have a book Cries of London Francis Wheatley, RA 1747-1801 with introduction by Stanford Rayner published by the art plublishing co london forty-two shillings net. made and printed in great britain by bemrose & sons ltd derby At the bottom of the preface page hythe august 1929 What is the value of the book?

  26. Kathleen Thalasinos permalink
    August 9, 2012

    I have 2 of the Wheatley “Cries of London”.One is “A New Love Song only ha’penny apiece Plate 2 and “Strawberrys Scarlet Strawberry” Plate9. They have emotional value but do they carry any monetary value. I am planning on framing them so I needed to know in order to figure out what avenue to take in terms of framing cost. Thank toy

  27. Martyn Judd permalink
    August 15, 2012

    I have just brought two prints of the cries of London one is a framed print of china oranges and the other is a wall plate of the round pound cherries. I was thinking of selling them on but I’ve fallen in love with them, and after seeing this sight and reading the background behind the pictures and some of the comments I think I’m going to keep them and see if I can find some more. They have a real charm to them .

  28. Catherine Circus permalink
    August 29, 2012

    I bought “Two bunches a penny primroses” @ an auction well over 15 years ago. The painting was in a big lot,which I hastily rummaged through. I kept it. It hung in my dining room for a number of years. Sold home and it now sits on a pile of books in my bedroom. i look at it before switching off hte lights @ night time and stare @ it first thing the mornings. On left hand of painting reads, ” Painted by F. Wheatley R. A. On right side bottom it reads “Engraved by L. Schiavonetti” Further down middle ” Two bunches a penny primroses twoo bunches a penny. Then a French translation on the right hand side. Further down @ left bottom reads “first plate of the Cries of London”. In the middle “London Pub in the Act Directs July2 by Calnaghi and Co. N 132 Pall Mall1793. A French translation to the right. What is this beautiful painting worth? All constructive suggestions would be considered. Please, contact me asap. Thank you.

  29. September 11, 2012

    I have the original painting by Francis Wheatley.. (Cries of London) “Turnips & Carrots”. I’m hoping to get it appraised..I live in Stafford, Va. and cannot find anyone to help me…please email me if you can help me out..Thank you lots!!! Donna…

  30. Margaret Boyce permalink
    October 4, 2012

    I have just been given a copy of these pictures, with music for piano and voice arranged by Fitzgerald Slade. As a music teacher I have always been fascinated by this area of our past history, both historically as well as the tunes. By sheer coincidence, I have recently done a lot of research on the Spitalfields area with a view to taking a walk around. I see the cries in the illustrations are also written in French. Am I right in supposing they were cried bi-lingually due to the immigrant population of silk weavers living in the area at the time, some of whom perhaps were also sellers of produce around the streets?

  31. barb vollmer permalink
    October 29, 2012

    I have 3 Cries of London that were my mothers. My husband wants to throw them away. Just trying to get an idea of value. First one is Cries of London Plate l Two bunches a penny primroses, Second one Turnips and Carrots plate 13 and Third oneStrawberrys, Scarlet Strawbery Plate 9. Would love any type of general value on these before my husband successfully disposes of them.

  32. Laura o Connor permalink
    November 19, 2012

    I was hoping you could help me finding out value of my 2 cries of London pictures. My mum has 2 and was throwing them out but I think they could be of value to someone it’s plate 2 and plate 5 thank you.

  33. January 16, 2013

    I have two of the paintings by F. Wheatly R. A. One is Do you want my matches? Marchande d Allumettes.achete’ mes.bonnes. Cries of London. Palate # 4. Engraved by A Cordon On the bottom it says London Pub 1794 july. and some other writing .
    The other one is palate # 10 painted by F Weatley, engraved by Vendramini September 1795 by colnoghi & C:M:132 Pall Mall on the back of each one the number penciled 77-32 appear on the top left. on the bottom center it is plated Antiqued Custom Collection H. Hal Kramer Co. Chicago I would like to know if there is any value to them. They are in mint condition Beautiful Please let me know as soon as possible Thankyou

  34. January 26, 2013

    I purchased at a estate auction the following Plate 4 & Plate 2, on the lower left each reads, Printed By F. Wheatly R.A and the lower right reads Depres A Cardon. The prints have been matted and framed, so I can not view any information that might be on the back of the print. Can you help in letting me know their value if any at this time. Thank you

  35. isobel thacker permalink
    February 12, 2013

    I have a print of chairs to mend”"”"dated 1904, a small piece of paper 0n the back marked in a square marked s p c k made in great britain C. 1904. i think it was bought in london after the first world war when my aunt was working in london as a sister in a hospital there, do you think it has a value, it has a glass frame bound in old passapatoo 4inches by 5 inches.

  36. Teresa Bainter permalink
    February 13, 2013

    I have two of these “Cries of London” etchings framed that I inherited. I have an appraisal from 1978 that was $275.00 in value. Do you know what they are worth today? If not, where would I begin to search this? I don’t know a lot about art. I did very much enjoy reading the information you posted about these etchings!

  37. Joe Martin permalink
    April 2, 2013

    I have four Cries of London:
    1 Engraved by Schiavanetti: Milk below Maids;
    2 Engraved by Vendiamini: Hot Spice Gingerbread Smoking Hotel & Old chairs to mend
    1 Engraved by Gaugain: Turnips and Carrots ho

    I’ve had them a while and am interested in establishing the value of each.. Looks as though alll have been colored by hand.

  38. zambon letizia permalink
    April 8, 2013

    Buona sera,possiedo 2 stampe comperate 30 anni fa da un antiquario,la 1° sotto sta scritto:painted troy f.wheatley r.a. d’apres schiavonetti . plate 2
    la 2° painted by f.wheatley r.a. cries & f. london d’apres g.vendramini. plate 6.
    vorrei sapere cortesemente il suo valore. grazie attendo risposta.

  39. Paul Woods permalink
    May 5, 2013

    I have a cries of London print Hot spice gingerbread engraved by Vendramini. It is a lovely piece of work but I have seen this image with different backgrounds and a different number of women. My one has 2 older girls whereas others only have 1. Why is this?

  40. Diane Harper permalink
    May 25, 2013

    Dear Sir,
    I have two color prints:

    Milk below Maids – Plate 2 – Quient du laitil set tout chid
    Painted by F. Wheatley on left,. Dapres Schiavonalli(?) on right
    Printed in England A. Vivian Mansell & Co Ltd and

    Hot Spice Gingerbread Smoking Hot! Cries of London Plate 12 – Du Croquet de Pain d’Epices! Painted by F. Wheatley on left,. Dapres Vendramum(?) on right
    Printed in England AVM & Co Ltd

    From what I have read, they may have some value. They are in old chipped frames and I am considering having them reframed if you think it is worth doing. Thank you for your thoughts and any advice.

  41. lisa hines permalink
    August 7, 2013

    I found a black & white scarlet strawberries drawing signed by Thomas g. Appleton does anyone have any information about it?

  42. lisa hines permalink
    August 10, 2013

    The black & white scarlet strawberry signed by Thomas Appleton has a seal that says print sellers association DIL can’t find any info help

  43. Elaine Fahey permalink
    August 20, 2013

    I have 4 Wheatly prints colored by F.Petitjean that my husband received , the

    copyright reads Henry Graves , London. Would like some idea of value &
    other info & also if having new mats would hurt them .

  44. VIKKI GOLD permalink
    September 8, 2013

    I HAVE a plate of “Two Bunches A Penny Primrose” with the name of Adams, as I believe to be the manufacture of the plate. There are two markings on the back of the plate…to the right of the top is …17. Then to the middle left is a marking, either 23 or 25. Is this of a particular value or does this identify the time frame of when it was produced?

    Any information would be appreciated.

  45. Thea Warwick permalink
    November 8, 2013

    50 years ago I bought 13 framed crys of London in a auction in mezzatint signed by Edward Stodart.The images and the subtle colours are beautiful and I never tire looking at them.
    I wonder how much they are worth.

    Would you be able to advice me.

  46. November 11, 2013

    I have Cries of London plate 11 Painted by E Wheatley R.A Engraved by A Cardon dated March 1796 A New Love Song only halfpenny a piece is this worth anything .

  47. c garner permalink
    November 14, 2013

    I have a painting of cries of london flower seller in brass round frame the painting has clips on the back were the painting looks like it can be removed it is signed f wheatley do you have any infomation about the value please.

  48. Bill Donnelly permalink
    November 17, 2013

    To Whom It May Concern

    I recently acquired a signed stipple print of “A New Love Song Only A Ha’ Penny A Piece” in the Cries of London Series. It is signed in pencil by H Scott Bridgwater.

    It is embossed on the margin of the front of the print (?LUG). It also has 5×5 label from The Museum Galleries identifying the artwork on the back of the frame.

    Can you provide any information about the value of this print? I am also interested in learning if H Scott Bridgwater painted any of the other works in the series.

    Thank you in advance,
    Bill Donnelly

  49. kevin lucas permalink
    December 9, 2013

    Fantastic reading.i have a cries of london plate 1 copyright by s hildesheimer and co ltd. London and manchester. Also on the back it says not to be strained then a number 2112. Is this original?if so does it have any value many thanks kevin lucas.
    Ps also engraved by l schiavonette.

  50. Robert Parks permalink
    December 15, 2013

    I have 5 Cries of London bought in Staines some 40 years ago. I do like them and have always had then on display. We have moved over the years 5 times now. People have admired them and now I can give the some history on F Wheatley RA. Thank you for this information.

    Robert Parks

  51. Kathy and Kris Pedersen permalink
    January 3, 2014

    My husband and I inherited two Cries of London prints. One Milk below Maids, plate #2 , engraved by Schiavonetti. The other is Turnips and Carrots, plate #13, engraved by Gaugain. We are interested to know what they are worth. Please help.

    I enjoyed the history and replies tremendously. Thank you.

  52. January 7, 2014

    I have a colored picture painted by F. Wheatley Strawberries Scarlet Strawberries printed on the bottom left. D’apres Vendramini is printed on the bottom left. It is framed in a chipped black frame with a dark green textured mat. The paper on the back of the picture frame says, museum mounted 100% rag. Fungus Treated. The last statement led me to think this picture might be worth something and I am curious about it. What do you think about it?

  53. Terry Russ permalink
    February 11, 2014

    How can I tell if my Knife, Scizsors and Razors to Grind (PLATE 6) is an original print

  54. richard jackson permalink
    March 11, 2014

    The Wheatley’s ‘turnips and carrots’ appears to include a third commodity – look at the leaves she is holding and those in the cart – do you think they could be rhubarb? Certainly the leaves bear a striking resemblance to rhubarb. This is of some interest since the usual story of rhubarb being first marketed (coming from Mayhew) is by Joseph Myatt (who undoubtedly was a major innovator in rhubarb growing) a decade or more after Wheatley produced these prints.

  55. Tracey Reid permalink
    March 19, 2014

    I see you are getting many requests in regards of value. Is there a link you could refer me to as I have the same question. I have the fourth engraving “Do you want my matches”? Cordon is the engraver It looks quite old paper is yellowed and fragile. The color however is still very good. On my print the woman’s dress color is opposite. Dress is red instead of blue etc.
    The history you researched is amazing! I’m looking forward to a response.
    Have a blessed day!

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