Christmas Eve in Brighton Market, 1842

The following is from an extract from the “Brighton Herald”, 24th December 1842, from the author’s personal collection.

Our butchers’ and poulterers’ shops present the usual goodly Christmas show. Vast quantities of turkeys have been imported from France, and are retailed at a very moderate price – in some cases as low as 5 shillings, though epicures may go as much as 18 to 20 shillings to gratify the eyes and palate with the best and choicest. Capons and game of every kind are most plentiful, and today our market will be a sight worth the seeing. We advise visitors to pay it a visit, if it be merely to behold such a scene of plenty and abundance. In a town like Brighton it is unnecessary to appeal to the charitable feelings of individuals on behalf of their neighbours. In no place are there larger sums expended at this season in diffusing joy and comfort among those whose means are too contracted to enable them without assistance to do honour to the joyous season of Christmas.

From a correspondent
A great quantity of excellent beef has been exposed at the stalls of the different butchers in the markets and streets; but it would be invidious to mention names as good meat may be obtained at any of them. The weather, however, is bad for provisions of every kind. A vast quantity of French geese, turkeys and fowls have been imported, but they do not look well in consequence of being closely packed; and the hot weather – for it has really for some days this week been hot – renders them flabby. In London we understand, large quantities have been thrown away from the same cause. But the French poultry of no kind bears comparison with our own. Some of the turkeys, capons and geese are finer this Christmas than we ever remember to have seen them. Vegetables are good and comparatively cheap, particularly broccoli, some of which is very fine. Sussex is famed for its mutton, and though we think we have seen it sometimes fatter than this year, it was never better. The fattest mutton is not, any more than fat beef, always the best; but both depend a good deal upon how they have been fed. There is plenty of good pork and pigs, but the weather is unfavourable to both.

The following are the prices of provisions in London at present:
– Beef 6d. to 9d. per lb. for prime parts; mutton – breasts 3 1/2 d. to 4 1/2 d.; necks 4 1/2 d.; legs & shoulders 5d. to 7d.; loins 8d. and 9d.; veal 6d. to 11d.; pork 5d. to 10d. for loins; ham 6d. to 9d.; and bacon 5d. to 8d.
– Butter 8d. to 1s.2d.; cheese 5d. to 8d.; eggs 12 to 16 a shilling.
– Poultry, turkeys 3s. to 5s. and 6s. fine; geese 4s. to 8s. according to weight; fowls 2s.6d. to 3s., large & prime; ducks 2s. to 2s.6d., fine, each; pheasants 3s.; partridges, 1s. to 1s.6d.; hares 2s. to 2s.9d.; rabbits 6d. to 1s.6d.; fish rather dear and scarce.
– Grocery, tea 4s.6d. to 7s.; coffee 1s.4d. to 2s.; sugar 6d. to 8d. brown; ditto loaf 8d. to 10d.; cocoa 10d. to 1s.; raisins 4d. to 6d.; currants 5d. to 9d.; spices equally cheap. Bread, first quality 8d. and 7 1/2 d.; second ditto 5 1/2 d.; home-made 5d. per 4lb. loaf. Vegetables and fruit remarkably moderate for the season, and very plentiful.

Christmas pudding
One of the most respectable grocers in this town says that at this season he takes a great number of farthings, the savings of children and poor persons for months towards obtaining a Christmas plum-pudding. In the same way he receives fourpenny pieces, sixpences, shillings, half-crowns and occasionally a crown, which have been hoarded for the purchase of the annual pudding. The fact is trifling in itself, notwithstanding of national character, and a proof that even the humblest are not those reckless beings would-be-philanthropists (who with large incomes can lecture those with very small on economy) would make out.

Christmas day falling this year on a Sunday, our High Constable, E.Humphreys, esq., has most properly, in compliance with a numerously-signed requisition of the inhabitants, called on the tradesmen to set apart Monday as a General Holiday, by closing their shops. The working classes of this country have so few intervals of repose and enjoyment, that none of the usual opportunities should be lost to them.

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