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The Rag and Bone man

Mr Parkhouse, Rag and Bone man
Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove

An unusual sight

At the time this photograph was taken, which was in the 1960s, a Rag and Bone man was quite an unusual sight. The gentleman in our photograph here, walking down St. James’s Street, was Mr K H Parkhouse, whose business was established in 1917; his place of business was 14, St John’s Place. The advertising board proudly states that he gives ‘The best prices’. I wonder what they were? The list of items he would buy included china, pewter pots, candlesticks, copper kettles, swords, wool rags, brass, copper, and lead.

A goldfish in a plastic bag

I did not grow up in Brighton, but as a child in Liverpool, I vividly remember the Rag and Bone man who came along our street every couple of weeks. You could hear him calling even when he was streets away; I never worked out just what he said, but his ‘spiel’ was unmistakable. My Granny used to dread his visits, because when I heard his call from the next street, I would run around the house, picking up various items and asking if we could see what he would give us for them. I can’t remember how much money he parted with for various items, but I do remember getting a goldfish in a plastic bag one particular time. Of course the poor goldfish did not live for long, and so next time the Rag and Bone man came around I was scouring the house again.

Do you remember a Rag and Bone man?

Do you remember a Rag and Bone man visiting your street? Do you remember how much money you got for anything you sold him? If you can share your memories with us, please leave a comment below.

Comments about this page

  • Love this photo. I was only thinking about the rag and bone man the other day. I was born in 1966 so our Rag and Bone man must have been around until at least early 1970s. I lived off of Elm Grove and one of my earliest memories was playing outside in the street in the sunshine, barely a car in the street listening to the Rag and Bone man calling “Rag and Bone!” as he went arouind the streets. Now I’m almost certain he had a horse and cart. I love this memory as it must have been one of the last reminders of times gone by.

    By Carol Homewood (07/10/2012)
  • I recall a rag and bone man that used to pass by my grammar school situated in a road that joined Chelsea and Fulham, also back in the 60s. In the summer months our windows were kept open, and for reasons of timing he always managed to pass in the middle of a French lesson with his cart. It was all we could do to stop laughing when he let forth with a mighty “Raaaaag-n-boooowns!” call. The row echoed off the buildings along the road. Our master, Mr Noble, however, used to raise his eyebrows threateningly before it all got out of hand; silence fell and the class once again returned to conjugating verbs as the distant strains of the old ‘Steptoe’ could still be heard as he clattered down the Fulham Road in search of lucrative detritus.

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (07/10/2012)
  • I do remember a Rag and Bone man doing the rounds of 1950/60s Hollingbury in his horse and cart. He used to call out “Rag and Bone” at the top of his voice, although I could never decipher what he was saying until Mum interpreted. I don’t remember my parents using his services – perhaps it was a matter of pride!

    By Janet Beal (07/10/2012)
  • When I was 7 years old my parents had a Hairdressers on the corner of Cowper Street one day a rag and bone man came to the street but instead of goldfish he gave day old chicks, I gave him some rags and bits and got five or six chicks and managed to keep them alive with a low wattage bulb. They grew up ok and I made a coop for them in the backyard, but most of them were cockerels and the neighbors complained over the noise, so they were sold to the butcher.

    By Dennis Fielder (07/10/2012)
  • There certainly was a ‘rag-and-bone’ man about with a horse and cart just like the one depicted in ‘Steptoe & Son’ during the fifties as he used to go past the garage in Church Place and up Manor Farm. I also couldn’t understand what his words were but there was always something on the cart. I think he came from the top of Freshfield Road not far from Elm Grove and may have kept his horse along Warren Road opposite the race course. Long gone now along with all the other ‘Brighton Totters’ and barrow boys who were killed off when the Council banned them back in the 1960s.

    By Tim Sargeant (07/10/2012)
  • I lived on Campbell Road, Preston Circus, & we often had a rag & bone man on the street. He looked like a “spiv” my mum said, wasn’t sure what that meant. He always seemed well dressed with a cromby hat & a long overcoat on, he was very thin with sharp features, perhaps he was the same one that Tim remembers. He had a horse & cart & you couldn’t understand what he was shouting. This would have been in the 50s.

    By Anne Newman (13/10/2012)
  • I lived in Dyke Road Drive just round the corner from Campbell Road in the Fifties as well, and I too remember the same ‘totter’ from Anne’s brilliant evocation! I think the cry was something like “Rag-a-bone-a-lumber,old lumber”.

    By Geoffrey Mead (14/10/2012)
  • I appreciate that the comments are about Brighton and Hove but wanted to mention that in Battersea, South London, where I was born in 1945 and grew up, we too had a rag-and-bone man come down our road with a street cry similar to the one described above by Geoffrey. It was “Rag, Bone a Lumbyale”. He might also have been the man who took empty jam jars for cash. My father remembered a seafood and shellfish seller coming round before the war who used to sing out something like: “I’ve sailed the (Seven?) Seas – [………?]sea, Chelsea and Battersea!” In Battersea Bridge Road there was a newspaper seller with a pavement pitch near a bus stop who used to sell the London “Evening News” and continually called out what sounded like “Paper Lade” (perhaps “Paper Late”, but not “Late Paper”, which would have made more sense!). Did the latter two have any equivalents in B&H?

    By Tom Lunn (23/01/2013)
  • I was born in 1964 and grew up in Brighton. I remember Spider Mitchell and his brother with their horse and cart coming round ‘RAGBONELUMBER’ – translated: ‘Any unwanted clothing or cloth, bones and scrap metal’ I’ve actually spent a couple of months doing this myself. Very suprising what you get given!

    By Anthony Miller (02/11/2013)
  • We had a regular rag and bone man visiting on the wide, flat Shaftsbury Road (when I lived in Springfield Road between 1953-1964).  I think he also visited Springfield Road, but that was uphill, and I remember his regular cries along Shaftsbury Road better: “Raaaaaaaag, Raaaaaag, Rag and Bo-annnnnnes!!!).  He came quite often.  He had a flattish, wooden hand cart, like an old market trader’s stall which he wheeled in the middle of the road because there was not another piece of traffic in sight.  Those were the days!

    By M. Funnell (04/08/2014)
  • ‘Any old rags? Any old rags? Rag, Bone. Rag, Bone!!!’ This is what I recall from my youth growing up in Hollingbury. Hills did not seem to be a problem and I do recall my mother handing over a rag or two maybe when sheets had no further wear in them. Rags could be sold by their weight in those days so if enough were collected I am sure the Rag and Bone man would get a good copper or two for it all.  By the way. Does anyone know what the ‘Bone’ bit stands for? Love to hear about it.

    By Sandra Bohtlingk-Baldwin (05/08/2014)
  • Correction to my last e-mail – Shaftesbury Avenue, not Shaftesbury Road, of course. I think he may have been the same rag and bone man mentioned earlier around Preston Circus, as he fits the description, and yes, at times there was a horse, but I think later on it was a hand cart.  Whether these were the same person or two different ones, I cannot remember.  It would have been between 1953-1964 anyway.

    By M. Funnell (05/08/2014)
  • The bone bit was actually bones themselves!  They used to collect bones and I know bones and horses’ hooves were used to make glue, etc. in the factories (not that we had any hooves indoors!).  Where they would sell their “collectables”, I do not know, so perhaps someone else does?  My friend remembers taking her rags to the rag and bone man along Lewes Road (she lived in St. Paul’s Street).  She wheeled them along to him in her doll’s pram!

    By M. Funnell (05/08/2014)
  • Sandra (my fellow Hollingbury-ite!)- wiki says that cleaned bones could be sold and turned into knife handles, toys and ornaments. The grease extracted from them could be used in soap-making. The smell must have been awful!

    By Janet Beal (05/08/2014)
  • I remember Jimmy Vinall used to have a horse and cart, and do the rounds as a “rag and bone” man around Edward Street and Elm Grove area. I think he kept the horse in a stable in Newhaven street.

    By Alan Purton (30/09/2014)
  • I remember the rag and bone man well. It was my best friend at school’s dad Jock. Anyone else remember him from Moulscoomb and Bevendean area.

    By Carol (10/11/2016)
  • My husband was related to Jock and he still has a lot of family in and around the Moulsecoomb area.

    By Rossalyn (21/01/2018)
  • Joe Mitchell used to have a horse and cart and went to all areas  around Brighton, he stabled his horse behind Jersey Street and I used to take my daughters to see him on some Sundays. He always wore a brown full length overall and a black Homberg hat, a very nice man. The other memorable chap who lived in Southampton Street was  known as the gentleman totter and did look like a spiv, happy days.

    By Roger Ivermee (21/01/2018)
  • My Great Grandfather John Blunt of 16 Melbourne Street, Brighton was a Rag and Bone man 192Os – 1930s in Brighton. Just wonder if anyone has information.

    By Ann Montgomery (06/08/2020)
  • Ann, the earliest directories I have are for 1914/25/32. He is not there in 1914 but is there in 1925 & 1932 & 1938. Also in 1925/32/38 the next address is #18 A.Baker & sons, Rag & metal merchant.

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (07/08/2020)

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