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2012 Tony Hawkins PDF Print E-mail

 

Tony Hawkins was a pedlar selling peanuts and roasted chestnuts in the West End streets for ten years, but after getting arrested and roughed up by the police eighty-seven times his health failed and he retired.

Whereas Tony used to visit Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen in Commercial St regularly to buy thousands of bags for his thriving business, now he just comes to pass the time of day with his old friend Paul Gardner. And it was Paul who effected my introduction to Tony – a man with a defiant strength of character – physically failing yet energised by moral courage and brandishing the dog-eared stack of paperwork from his eighty-seven court cases, immensely proud that he won every one and it was proven he never broke the law once.

Over the centuries, street vendors have always been regarded with suspicion by the authorities while Londoners have cherished these characters for their resilience and wit, celebrating them in popular prints of the Cries of London. Remarkably, Tony’s pitiful catalogue of his wrangles with Westminster Council – who went to extreme lengths just to prevent him peddling nuts in Piccadilly – shows that this age-old ambivalence and prejudice against those who seek to make a modest living by trading in the street persist to the present day.

read more with link to Spitalfields Life offering a wealth of illustrations about pedlary

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