Sketches by Boz HTML version

4. Scotland-Yard
Scotland-yard is a small - a very small-tract of land, bounded on one side by the river
Thames, on the other by the gardens of Northumberland House: abutting at one end on
the bottom of Northumberland-street, at the other on the back of Whitehall-place. When
this territory was first accidentally discovered by a country gentleman who lost his way
in the Strand, some years ago, the original settlers were found to be a tailor, a publican,
two eating-house keepers, and a fruit-pie maker; and it was also found to contain a race
of strong and bulky men, who repaired to the wharfs in Scotland-yard regularly every
morning, about five or six o'clock, to fill heavy waggons with coal, with which they
proceeded to distant places up the country, and supplied the inhabitants with fuel. When
they had emptied their waggons, they again returned for a fresh supply; and this trade
was continued throughout the year.
As the settlers derived their subsistence from ministering to the wants of these primitive
traders, the articles exposed for sale, and the places where they were sold, bore strong
outward marks of being expressly adapted to their tastes and wishes. The tailor
displayed in his window a Lilliputian pair of leather gaiters, and a diminutive round frock,
while each doorpost was appropriately garnished with a model of a coal-sack. The two
eating-house keepers exhibited joints of a magnitude, and puddings of a solidity, which
coalheavers alone could appreciate; and the fruit- pie maker displayed on his well-
scrubbed window-board large white compositions of flour and dripping, ornamented with
pink stains, giving rich promise of the fruit within, which made their huge mouths water,
as they lingered past.
But the choicest spot in all Scotland-yard was the old public-house in the corner. Here,
in a dark wainscoted-room of ancient appearance, cheered by the glow of a mighty fire,
and decorated with an enormous clock, whereof the face was white, and the figures
black, sat the lusty coalheavers, quaffing large draughts of Barclay's best, and puffing
forth volumes of smoke, which wreathed heavily above their heads, and involved the
room in a thick dark cloud. From this apartment might their voices be heard on a
winter's night, penetrating to the very bank of the river, as they shouted out some sturdy
chorus, or roared forth the burden of a popular song; dwelling upon the last few words
with a strength and length of emphasis which made the very roof tremble above them.
Here, too, would they tell old legends of what the Thames was in ancient times, when
the Patent Shot Manufactory wasn't built, and Waterloo-bridge had never been thought
of; and then they would shake their heads with portentous looks, to the deep edification
of the rising generation of heavers, who crowded round them, and wondered where all
this would end; whereat the tailor would take his pipe solemnly from his mouth, and say,