Vice And Virtue
This page will act as a quick reference to all the strange words and lingo of the era, they’re probably all totally legitimate and not made up.
Currency – The Pound (sterling) is widely regarded as the most secure in the world. Paper for small transactions does not exist. The Bank of England issues part printed paper to depositors. Almost none of you will have seen a bank note.
Sovereign – gold coin; value £1.1s.0d that is one pound sterling, plus one shilling and zero pennies. The counting is Pounds, Shillings (20 to the pound) and pennies (12 to the shilling). So far so clear I hope. Below the penny is the half-penny (abbreviated as ha’pence),the quarter penny (farthing). Coinage (just for entertainment) Farthing, ha’penny. penny, threepence (thrupenny bit)(sometime silver); silver coins six pence (tanner, sixpenny bit); 12 pence (a shilling); two shillings (a florin); two shillings and sixpence (half a crown); five shilling (a crown). I will not insist on coin counting – but be aware that serious money is silver and gold, subject to forgery, adultery, shaving – whatch the coins or get ripped of.
The middle classes expected to have a book at their tradespeoples shops – commonly payment was on or shortly after “quarter days” when salaries were paid. YOU are NOT established and must pay cash.
Rookery – a squalid area of shabby, rotten housing. Filth, waste, broken windows, infested with vermin and rats and fleas. A place where the police travel in fours. Densely occupied, always watching you.
Shonky – a shop trading in pre-loved clothing. This is an age of unwashable fabrics, most garments were brushed, sponged and smelled.
Gin Hell – drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence (two pennies). Ranging from a corner shop with bad gin and peg stools to large ornate premises with a prize ring in the basement.
Peg Stool – a stick with a seat on one end – bloody uncomfortable but satisfies the license law requiring seating This is not to be confused with a “peg house” – a most disturbing facility for evil men.
Dunnikin – cess pit, an age with no sewers has to have storage for “night soil” Dunnikin Diver – a highly respected artisan who cleaned out dunnikins. They must be respected because everybody avoids obstructing there passage.
Prize Ring – enclosure for contests, bare knuckle boxing, gloved boxing, dog fights, cock fights, ratting, baiting
Flop House – a bare room (limewashed walls if you are lucky) with strong hooks in the walls; a rope hangs between two walls, the patron arranges some padding, put his arms and head over the rope and Flops. Cheap, warm, dry way of sleeping – it is also slow death and leads to Peripheral Vascular Disease, dropsy, inflammations and nerve damage.
Doss house – floor + straw pad + a blanket – hard lying, cold unless you have several blankets, survivable for several weeks without damage.
Boarding house – rope and straw bed, actually a CLEAN choice as the straw goes to the pigs, long term survivable without damage. You pay more to get better.
Most flop or doss houses do not provide storage or security. They tend to treat patrons with contempt and let the house run very cold.
Peelers – The first metropolitan police. Wore a long coats and strengthened tall hats, which protected them from blows to the head and they could use to stand on to look over walls. Their only weapon was a truncheon although they also carried a rattle to raise an alarm. At first the quality of officers was poor.
Flimsies – Paper forms, same term is used for Bank of England notes.