Anything Out of the Pack

In 1851, writes Marjorie Sykes, there were over 30,000 hawkers and pedlars on the roads of Britain.

A figure of the countryside who has been invested with a good deal of romance is the pedlar or packman, but in sober fact we know little enough of these itinerant traders of past centuries. Shakespeare to some extent glamorised the contents of the pedlar’s pack:

Lawn as white as driven snow;

Cypress black as e’er was crow;

Gloves as sweet as damask roses;

Masks for faces and for noses;

Bugle bracelet, necklace amber,

Perfume for a lady’s chamber;

Golden quoifs and stomachers,

For my lads to give their dears...

The unvarnished reality is often less exciting:

Sept. 14th, 1657. Goods arreasted of Jo. Wilson, pedler, for (debts to) Geo. Scot of Cockermouth. Impr. 3 hankes and 4 Cutts (of yarn),

jii 1. of tobacco


A little measure for drinking hot waters in

An old Pistell.

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