Selling the Regency Vegetable

Joanna here:

This is sort of a pictorial posting today . . . Looking at some pictures of what a vegetable market would have looked like in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.

We can start with this Scharf painting of Covent Garden in 1825.  Covent Garden was the huge central martet of London.  By the Eighteenth Century it was sort of a combination open-air market, red light district, and raffish hang-out, which must have been interesting for everybody concerned. 

Anyhow, glancing at the picture, you'll see if contains all the elements of a fine city vegetable market.

First off, there's protection from the rain, or the occasional sun. Look up at the top of the painting.  These substantial market vendors at Covent Garden have a wooden stall with a fine, permanent substantial roof. Awnings stretch out to shelter their customers. Those are wood frames with cloth stretched across them.Abusivefruitwoman late c18

Here to the right, a simpler shelter covers this fruit seller. She's set up shop under a cloth awning. 

Old-Covent-Garden-Market,-1825 detail table
Display tables are another most desirable market feature. Tables get the goods up off the ground and present them enticingly.  Apples and green beans are where they can be seen and handled.

To the right, our fruit seller has a simple but permanent-looking and useful bench. 

That table in the substantial booth in Covern Garden seems to be long boards set up on a variety of blocks and barrels that probably double as storage.

Old-Covent-Garden-Market,-1825 detail scalesAnother notable event going on at Covent Gardens . . . we got weighing.

See the man on the left, wearing an apron, using scales. He's selling his vegetables by the pound, which is obviously an upscale approach. Notice how the market vendors in these other pictures below aren't weighing the produce. They'll be offering, "Penny for a fine apple. Tuppence for three.' and selling carrots by the bunch.

The tables in the Schraf painting — see up there at the top — serve another purpose.  A line of tables separates the sellers from the buyers. The sellers are on our side of the pictures; the buyers on the other side of that line of tables.  See how the row of long tables gives these prosperous market sellers their own 'space'? A private space.  A child plays in the foreground. A young woman vender sits in a comfortable chair nursing her baby. 
Market by Charles Henry Turner c 1880 detail with bench

When a table separates vendo from buyer and there's a wall behind, the sellers can keep an eye on the merchandise.  They never have to turn their back to a potential customer . . . or a thief.

See to the right here, where a vendor has no stall, but nonetheless, creates a private space for herself with a long bench.


This sketch of Swansea MarSketch of Swansea market by E. Hull, 1871 detailket in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century is a good view of vegetable market basics. No booths or stalls. No tables.

These folks are in the vegetable business with only vegetables and something to sit on, burlap bags for the mangel wuzels, and baskets for the lettuces.

And what baskets — take a look at the beauty and variety of these baskets . . . every one of them purpose-made for the cargo. 
We've lost something, putting everything in plastic bins.

Basket 1
Basket 2
Basket 3




I spent most of my adult life shopping in open-air markets like those of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century England.  What about you?  Have you ever done exciting shopping out in open air, face to face with the vendor, bargaining …?

Some lucky commentor in the trail will be drawn to take her pick of my books.