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A Farthing Shop in Dorset Street

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A Farthing Shop in Dorset Street

Post by Karen on Thu 20 Jan 2011 - 12:38


"Where do the farthings go?" We miss them after the limited finance of school days. A good many of them go to Whitechapel, to a shop in Dorset Street. Among a lot of diminutive packages of soap and tea and sugar, and ha'porths of bacon there was a saucer of farthings. I went into the ill-lighted emporium, and a very intelligent young woman who was serving told me that they sold everything in quantities of "farthing's worths."
"You can have a farthing's worth of tea, and soap, and butter, and milk. We don't sell less than a ha'porth of loaf sugar though."
On the counter a baby was crowing, and all the time people were streaming in for their farthing's worths. Cooked bacon is sold at a shilling a pound and "raw bacon," said the young woman, at seven-pence. At night the place is a sort of supper club, the members of which all fetch their own provisions, from three-halfpence upwards.
Bang! went a dirty tin on the counter, and an unkept child wanted a farthing's worth of milk. She put her unclean nose into it as she walked out. Then a man came in, and after some haggling to have the cheapest, he contracted for seven farthing's worth of bacon. He was a lean and hungry man, long of limb. Then a woman for a farthing's worth of milk and the same of butter. They evidently breakfast late in Dorset Street. This customer also had a ha'porth of "piccalilli," a peculiar pickle in which it is not exactly possible to distinguish anything but mustard, but it looks chiefly like cauliflower.
Two or three times while I was there the shop filled and emptied, and nearly all the business was done in farthings. One little boy had a ha'porths of tea-dust. The shop opens at six in the morning, and closes at twelve or half-past at night. This is the only way that any profit can be got from such poor customers. Then there are all the packets to be made up ready for customers before the place opens. This is probably the dearest and the meanest mode of housekeeping anywhere. The people who live in the street are the dregs of Whitechapel. Some of them are dockers, but they are the fringe of the worst among the casual labourers. It explains somewhat how these men, who live from hand to mouth, held out so long during the strike. If they got a penny from the relief fund there was sufficient to buy a tea with. With another penny for bread and a penny for coals - for threepence, in fact - the larder is filled, and a cheerful glow permeates the one room that is usually the residence of those who don't live in the common lodging-houses.

Source: Tuapeka Times, Volume XXIII, Issue 1683, 16 April, 1890, Page 3

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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