Peascods, periwinkles, saloop, and strawberries: Guildhall Library’s outdoor exhibition explores street food through the ages

Visitors to the City of London’s Guildhall Yard will come face-to-face next month with a wide range of street food sellers, offering hot and cold pies, fish, meat, milk, pea soup, gingerbread, and strawberries.

They may be tempted by hot peascods, a handful of periwinkles, or a cup of saloop… but whatever takes their fancy, none of it will be on sale.

The food features in a free open-air exhibition, curated by the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library, to bring together rarely seen images of London’s street food and street hawkers from the 16th century to the 19th century.

“Hot Peascods!”, which is presented in Guildhall Yard from 1 – 16 October will include remarkable interviews recorded in the 1850s by pioneering social reformer Henry Mayhew. The exhibition was displayed recently in Aldgate Square.

The exhibition will explain how selling street food in the capital, probably, since Roman times, was often the only option for some people who could not find alternative paid employment and used it as a stop gap until they found a better job.

Sometimes requiring little more investment than a basket and the cost of the first batch of pies, gingerbread or eels, it would keep some people out of the workhouse, while others fell into poverty and found that selling food on the streets became their life’s occupation.

Graham Packham, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said:

“Guildhall Yard is a prime spot in which to showcase the exhibition and by happy coincidence, it also hosts our regular street food markets, making it the ideal location for an exhibition about how food was sold on the capital’s streets.

“Fascinating and undeniably moving, it will show how today’s street food may be enjoyed by many of us as a treat but hundreds of years ago, it was relied upon by people who were so poor that they couldn’t afford to have cooking facilities at home.”

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Yard and Guildhall Library, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year.

In partnership with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra, and Museum of London, the City Corporation is leading the development of Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate, a multi-million-pound initiative to create a new cultural and creative destination for London. As part of this, the City Corporation is providing a £197m investment in the new Museum of London, which will open in West Smithfield in 2024, and £4.9m to support the development of the proposed Centre for Music.


Notes for Editors:

Dr Peter Ross, Principal Librarian, Guildhall Library, is available for media interviews. Please contact Andrew Buckingham for more details and images from the exhibition.

Media enquiries:

Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer, City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333 060


About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. 

About Guildhall Library:

Guildhall Library (Aldermanbury, EC2) is a library of London history, the largest library collection in the world devoted to the history of a single city. The Library values London’s history and traditions, offering a modern library space, open to all with access to e-resources and e-books, alongside access to its extensive printed books collection. The library’s collections (including rare books and manuscripts) are available to everyone - and members of the public do not need to join the library or make an appointment to consult its collections. For more details, please visit