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Charles Spurgeon’s Street Traders

July 12, 2019
by the gentle author

Charles Spurgeon the Younger, son of the Evangelist Charles Haddon Spurgeon, took over the South St Baptist Chapel in Greenwich in the eighteen-eighties and commissioned an unknown photographer to make lantern slides of the street traders of Greenwich that he could use in his preaching. We shall never know exactly how Spurgeon showed these pictures, taken between 1884 and 1887, but – perhaps inadvertently – he was responsible for the creation of one of the earliest series of documentary portraits of Londoners.

Champion Pie Man – W.Thompson, Pie Maker of fifty years, outside his shop in the alley behind Greenwich Church

Hokey-Pokey Boy – August Bank Holiday, Stockwell St, Greenwich

Knife Grinder – posed cutting out a kettle bottom from a tin sheet

Rabbit Seller

Toy Seller – King William St outside Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Ginger Cakes Seller – King St, near Greenwich Park


Shrimp Sellers – outside Greenwich Park

Crossing Sweeper (& News Boy) – Clarence St, Greenwich

Sherbert Seller – outside Greenwich Park

Third Class Milkman – carrying two four-gallon cans on a yoke, King William’s Walk, Greenwich

Second Class Milkman – with a hand cart and seventeen-gallon churn

Master Milkman – in his uniform, outside Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Chairmender – Corner of Prince Orange Lane, Greenwich

Kentish Herb Woman – Greenwich High Rd

Muffin Man


Try Your Weight – outside Greenwich Park


News Boy (& Crossing Sweeper) – delivering The Daily News at 7:30am near Greenwich Pier

Old Clo’ Man – it was a crime to dispose of infected clothing during the Smallpox epidemics of  the eighteen-eighties and the Old Clo’ Man plied a risky trade.

Blind Fiddler – outside Crowders’ Music Hall Greenwich

You may also like to take a look at

John Thomson’s Street Life in London

Henry Mayhew’s Street Traders

7 Responses leave one →
  1. July 12, 2019

    I had no idea that being a milkman was such a hierarchical profession. 😉

  2. Nina Archer permalink
    July 12, 2019

    …. loved these photographs – thank you … (though would keep clear of the Try Your Weight Machine whilst wearing long dress, bustle, and big hat!) ….

  3. Stephen William Barker permalink
    July 12, 2019

    As a collector of letterpress posters I was very much interested in the posters in the background. I especially liked the one for House to Let in the picture of the third class milkman.

  4. Helen Breen permalink
    July 12, 2019

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, I would say that these are excellent photos commissioned by Charles Spurgeon in the mid-1800s. My favorite is the “knife grinder” – his silhouette, his stance, his equipment and cart against a wall of local advertisements make a striking picture.

    I hope that the young “Crossing Sweeper (& News Boy)” with his tattered clothes lives to see better days.

    Wonderful photos!

  5. July 12, 2019

    What was the difference in the Master Milkman and the third-class milkman. Was it the milk sold, or the containers used, or something else?
    Loved the pictures, and love all your postings.

  6. James M permalink
    July 12, 2019

    I think I recognize the image of the Sweep as being one of those included in John Thomson’s Street Life. Am I mistaken?

  7. Philip Cave permalink
    December 11, 2019

    Can you tell me please .In the 1960s there was a shellfish stall either oppisite or next to Tubby Issacs.My friend and i cant remember the name.Can you help please

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