Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cherries on a stick

Cherries were tied with white thread to sticks in addition to being sold by weight.  Some sticks held up to eleven bunches (1825)  and 350 years earlier “Cheryes in the ryse…a twig.”  Numerous sketches of cherry 'kabobs' and info below...

Scales were used to sell cherries by weight for 6, 4 or 3 pence c1688 and 5 pence a pound in 1795. 

The London Barrow-woman with “sticks having cherries tied on them” and “a pair of shining brass scales” sold other fruits “with the rolling year.”  Hone’s The Every-day Book, 1825 recalled the barrow-women in Georgian London before Parliament outlawed the barrows.  “If she had an infant, she was sometimes met with it…” in order to feed the baby.  Buyers selecting the fruit showed that “indecisiveness is not peculiar to childhood; ‘men are but children of a larger growth’…”


Using scales

See! cherries here, ‘ere cherries yet abound,

With thread so white in tempting posies ty’d,

Scatt’ring like blooming maid their glances round
The works, in verse and prose of William Shenstone.  London: 1764 

Cherries tied on a stick before 1825

The London Barrow-woman
Each side of her well-laden barrow was dressed nearly halfway along with a row of sticks having cherries tied on them. To assist in retailing her other fruit, there lay before her a "full alehouse measure" of clean pewter, and a pair of shining brass scales, with thick turn-over rims, and leaden weights, for the "real black-hearts" that dyed the white cloth they lay on with purple stains.

As the seasons changed, so her wares varied. With the "rolling year," she rolled round to us its successive fruits; but cherry-time was the meridian of her glory. Her clear and confident cry was then listened for, in the distance, with as much anxiety to hear it, as the proclamation of a herald, in the full authority of office, was awaited in ancient times. "What can keep the barrow-woman so long? — Surely she has not gone another way!—Hush! there she is; I hear her!" These were tokens of her importance in the neighbourhood she circled; and good housewives and servant girls came to the doors, with basins and dishes, to await her approach, and make their purchases of fruit for their pies and puddings.

As she slowly trundled her barrow along the pavement, what doating looks were cast upon its delicacies by boys with ever-ready appetites! How he who had nothing to lay out envied him who a halfpenny entitled to a perplexing choice amidst the tempting variety! If currants were fixed on, the question was mooted, " Which are best—red or white?" If cherries—"whitehearts, or blacks?”  If gooseberries— "red or yellow?"

Sometimes the decision as to the comparative merits of colour was negatived by a sudden impulsive preference for " the other sort," or " something else;" and not seldom, after these deliberations, and being "served," arose doubts and regrets, and an application to be allowed to change " these” for " them," and perhaps the last choice was, in the end, the least satisfactory. Indecisiveness is not peculiar to childhood; "men are but children of a larger growth," and their " conduct of the understanding" is nearly the same.
If she had an infant, she was sometimes met with it, at a particular spot, for her to suckle. Her hearty caresses of her child, while she hastily sat down on the arm of her barrow, and bared her bountiful bosom give it nourishment; the frolic with which she tickled it; the tenderness with which she looked into its young, up-turned eyes… and her loud affectionate "God bless it!" when it was carried away, were indescribably beautiful.

"Before barrow-women quite "went out," the poor things were sadly used. If they stopped to rest, or pitched their seat of custom where customers were likely to pass, street-keepers, authorized by orders unauthorized by law, drove them off, or beadles overthrew their fruit into the road. At last, an act of parliament made it penal to roll a wheel or keep a stand for the sale of any articles upon the pavement; and barrow-women and fruitstalls were "put down."
Hone, William.  The every-day book, or, The guide to the year… London: 1825

"The London Barrow Woman ("Ripe Cherries"), as preserved in the cut from the inimitable pencil of George Cruikshank, has long since disappeared. In 1830, when this sketch was made, the artist had to rely on his memory, for she then no longer plied her trade in the streets. Her wares changed with the seasons ; but here a small schoolboy is being tempted by ripe cherries tied on a stick. There being no importation of foreign fruit, the cherries were of prime quality. May dukes, White heart, Black heart, and the Kentish cherry, succeeded each other—and, when sold by weight, and not tied on sticks, fetched sixpence, fourpence, or threepence per lb., which was at least twopence or threepence less than charged at the shops.

Nevertheless, if Cruikshank has not idealized his memories, she was more wholesomely and stoutly clad than any street seller of her sex—with the one exception of the milkmaid—who is to be seen in our day, when the poor London woman has lost the instinct of neatness and finish in attire."
Tuer, Andrew. Old London street cries ; and, The cries of to-day…1885

Cherries in the rise (twig) 1400s and 1851

The earliest record of London cries is… Lydgate's [John Lydgate d c1451, monk of Bury] poem of "London Lyckpeny," [Lickpenny] which is as old as the days of Henry V or about 430 years back. Among Lydgate's cries are enumerated "Strawberys rype and Cheryes in the ryse;" the rise being a twig to which the cherries were tied, as at present.

The fruit of which there is the readiest sale in the streets is one usually considered among the least useful—cherries. Probably, the greater eagerness on the part of the poorer classes to purchase this fruit arises from its being the first of the fresh "green'' kind which our gardens supply for street-sale after the winter and the early spring. An intelligent costermonger suggested other reasons. "Poor people," he said, "like a quantity of any fruit, and no fruit is cheaper than cherries at 1d. a pound, at which I have sold some hundreds of pounds weight. …Then boys buy, I think, more cherries than other fruit; because, after they have eaten 'em, they can play at cherry-stones.'"
Mayhew, Henry.  London Labour and the London Poor.  London: 1851

The "Guardian" of July 2d, 1713, mentions, that cherries were sold upon sticks above 100 years ago.
Pulleyn, William.  The Etymological Compendium, Or, Portfolio of Origins and Inventions ...  London: 1830

The old woman took up a long stick which lay on the board before her. Bunches of cherries were tied with white thread to this stick… “A halfpenny a bunch !—Who will buy? Who will buy ? Who will buy ?—Nice ripe cherries!” cried the old woman.    “Here are eleven of you,” said the old woman, “and there are just eleven bunches on this stick.”  Marianne began to untie the bunches… [for the 7-8 year old students]
Works of Maria Edgeworth: V. 11.  Early lessons. Boston: 1825


'Six Pence a Pound fair Cherries' Cries of London, c1688 Heritage Images/www.diomedia.com 

All the black and white sketches are from: Tuer, Andrew. Old London street cries ; and, The cries of to-day…1885.
"Duke cherries" from Cries of London, no date, found on spitalfieldslife.com  blog

The "black heart cherries" with scale is from: Paul Sandby, 1731-1809, British, London Cries: "Black Heart Cherries...", ca. 1759, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. 
©2014 Patricia Bixler Reber

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