The City of London’s Green Yard
Victorian newspapers did not use headlines as we know them today but quite often they deployed a sort of headline at the start of an article. I think we can see the development of the modern headline here, aimed at catching the attention of the reader and giving a sense of what the article was about.
On the 10 July 1858 one of the entries under the coverage of the Metropolitan Police Courts news declared:
HOW WE ENOURAGE INDUSTRY!
What followed was a direct criticism of a new police policy, which the writer clearly believed did exactly the opposite.
Michael Welsh and Morris Haven were two young entrepreneurs (or at least that is how The Morning Chronicle’s reporter viewed them. They had bought a quantity of cherries and had been selling them from a barrow in the streets around the Guildhall in the old City of London.
They were not alone in this, several independent hawkers were operating throughout the area selling fresh fruit as it was now in season. They drew large crowds, particularly of young boys, who ‘swarmed round’ the barrows, ‘each eager to invest his halfpence in cherries’.
Buying from a coster’s barrow was popular, and some people who seldom visited fruiterers did stop and buy from a barrow. It was cheaper and more convenient and the City magistracy thought this a ‘good thing’. Sadly it seems the police did not.
New regulations had been put into force regarding street sellers and the City Police seems to have decided that anyone selling goods from a barrow constituted an obstruction that had to be removed. As a consequence the paper reported:
‘great numbers of fruit sellers have been brought up on the same frivolous pretext. Alderman Hale discharged several so charged during the last few days, and remarked that it was a pity the police did not show a little more indulgence to persons earning a reputable loving, particularly as the fruit season would not last long’.
Sitting in judgement on Welsh and Haven, Alderman Gabriel broadly agreed with his colleague’s actions earlier in the week but he wanted to uphold the law at the law time. After all he agreed, ‘the streets must be kept clear’. He told the young businessmen he would let them off on this occasion but they must refrain from breaking the regulations in future or he would punish them.
They didn’t get away scot-free however; their barrows had been impounded by the police and they had to pay 2s 6deach to liberate them from the Green Yard at Whitecross Street (where all stray animals and vehicles had been taken by the police and their predecessors for centuries).
[from The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, July 10, 1858]