Old Street, London, EC1. Photo ©RogerDean 2014
Dickens’s Dictionary Of London, An Unconventional Handbook – Charles Dickens [Jnr.], 1882:
Streets.– It may by some be considered superfluous to give any directions for the guidance of foot-passengers in the streets, but in a city where the traffic is so large, and the press and hurry so great, as is the case in London, a few words of caution will be found not to be without their use. The first thing to recollect is, that people who are only bent on pleasure should give way to those who clearly have some business object in view. What is called in America mere “loafing” should always be avoided. Not only is the “loafer” always in everybody’s way, but he is invariably the favourite mark for the pickpocket. However attractive the shop-window of which the idler wishes to take stock, the watch and other pocket property must always be carefully guarded. Perhaps no custom contributes more to the support of London thieves than the practice in which many ladies indulge of carrying their purses in their hands. Be very chary of strangers who accost you in the streets. It is possible that they only wish to know the time or to ask the way. It is, however, quite as likely that they belong to the great fraternity of sharpers and swell mobsmen, and are only paving the way to the ultimate transaction of business. A street row or crowd should always be avoided. If there be really some difficulty on hand, private interference can do no good, and police intervention is sure not to be long delayed. But it very frequently happens that a disturbance is created by street thieves solely with a view to their own profit. It is well to give houses building or under repair a wide berth. Brick, lumps of plaster, paint, workmen’s tools, &c., are easily dropped from the ladder […].