Halpenny Ices


From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:

"Italian ice men constitute a distinct feature of London life, which, however, IS generally ignored by the public at large, so far as it's intimate details are concerned. we note in various quarters the ice-barrow surrounded by groups of eager and greedy children, but fail to realize what a vast and elaborate organization is necessary to provide this delicacy in all parts of London. Most parsons are aware that there is an Italian colony at Saffron Hill, but it is strange how few visitors ever penetrate this curious quarter.


In little villainous-looking and dirty shops an enormous business is transacted in the sale of milk for the manufacture of halfpenny ices. This trade commences at about four in the morning. The men in varied and extraordinary desltabzlle pour into the streets, throng the milk-shops, drag their barrows out, and begin to mix and freeze the ices. Carlo Gatti has an ice depot close at hand, which opens at four in the morning, and here a motley crowd congregates with baskets, pieces of cloth, flannel, and various other contrivances for carrying away their daily supply of ice. Gradually the freezing process is terminated, and then the men, after dressing themselves in a comparatively-speaking decent manner, start off, one by one, to their respective destinations; It is a veritable exodus. The quarter, at first so noisy and full of bustle, is soon deserted, a few women only remaining to attend to the domestic affairs and to quarrel with their loquacious neighbours."

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