As is my want, I feel the need to share the background to the unusual name "Shambles" ... If you find it boring then just skip out of ....where'd you all go? :0)The Shambles was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror in 1086. Many of the buildings on the street today date back to the late fourteenth and fifteenth century (around 1350-1475).
The Shambles was a street of butchers’ shops and houses, many complete with a slaughterhouse at the back of the premises, ensuring a ready supply of fresh meat. The meat was hung up outside the shops and laid out for sale on what are now the shop window-bottoms. It is still possible to see some of the original butcher’s meat-hooks attached to the shop fronts.
Lacking modern-day sanitation facilities, there was a constant problem of how to dispose of the waste produced by the slaughter of animals in the city. The pavements are raised either side of the cobbled street to form a channel where the butchers would wash away their offal and blood twice a week.
In some sections of the Shambles it is possible to touch both sides of the street with your arms outstretched. The architecture which now appears so quaint had a very practical purpose. The overhanging timber-framed fronts of the buildings are deliberately close-set so as to give shelter to the ‘wattle and daub’ walls below. This would also have protected the meat from any direct sunshine.
Why ‘Shambles’? The name is thought to derive from ‘Shammel’, an anglo-saxon word for the shelves which were a prominent feature of the open shop-fronts.
We tend to forget that Karl Marx was first and foremost a historian. In about 1850 (ish) he and his sidekick Engels visited Manchester, and they describe it in great detail ... particularly the 'stink'.
Finally we come to my favourite poet, Jonathan Swift - who wrote Gulliver's Travels.
Here he writes about the panic brought to the city, when it rained. The last stanza is really pertinent to the Shambles.
*Tories and Whigs are politicians. They used chalk to whiten their wigs, the 'dust' he speaks of is chalk dust, rain matted the chalk and ruined the wig, also it ruined their fine clothes. The 'chair' is a sedan chair carried between two men ... a taxi?.
As usual, he writes in rhyming couplets, which makes it easy to follow.
Careful observers may foretell the hour
A Description of a City in a Shower Jonathan Swift
Careful observers may foretell the hour
(By sure prognostics) when to dread a shower:
While rain depends, the pensive cat gives o’er
Her frolics, and pursues her tail no more.
Returning home at night, you’ll find the sink
Strike your offended sense with double stink.
If you be wise, then go not far to dine;
You’ll spend in coach hire more than save in wine.
A coming shower your shooting corns presage,
Old achès throb, your hollow tooth will rage.
Sauntering in coffeehouse is Dulman seen;
He damns the climate and complains of spleen.
Meanwhile the South, rising with dabbled wings,
A sable cloud athwart the welkin flings,
That swilled more liquor than it could contain,
And, like a drunkard, gives it up again.
Brisk Susan whips her linen from the rope,
While the first drizzling shower is born aslope:
Such is that sprinkling which some careless quean
Flirts on you from her mop, but not so clean:
You fly, invoke the gods; then turning, stop
To rail; she singing, still whirls on her mop.
Not yet the dust had shunned the unequal strife,
But, aided by the wind, fought still for life,
And wafted with its foe by violent gust,
’Twas doubtful which was rain and which was dust.
Ah! where must needy poet seek for aid,
When dust and rain at once his coat invade?
Sole coat, where dust cemented by the rain
Erects the nap, and leaves a mingled stain.
Now in contiguous drops the flood comes down,
Threatening with deluge this devoted town.
To shops in crowds the daggled females fly,
Pretend to cheapen goods, but nothing buy.
The Templar spruce, while every spout’s abroach,
Stays till ’tis fair, yet seems to call a coach.
The tucked-up sempstress walks with hasty strides,
While seams run down her oiled umbrella’s sides.
Here various kinds, by various fortunes led,
Commence acquaintance underneath a shed.
Triumphant Tories and desponding Whigs
Forget their feuds, and join to save their wigs.
Boxed in a chair the beau impatient sits,
While spouts run clattering o’er the roof by fits,
And ever and anon with frightful din
The leather sounds; he trembles from within.
So when Troy chairmen bore the wooden steed,
Pregnant with Greeks impatient to be freed
(Those bully Greeks, who, as the moderns do,
Instead of paying chairmen, run them through),
Laocoön struck the outside with his spear,
And each imprisoned hero quaked for fear.
Now from all parts the swelling kennels flow,
And bear their trophies with them as they go:
Filth of all hues and odors seem to tell
What street they sailed from, by their sight and smell.
They, as each torrent drives with rapid force,
From Smithfield or St. Pulchre’s shape their course,
And in huge confluence joined at Snow Hill ridge,
Fall from the conduit prone to Holborn Bridge.
Sweepings from butchers’ stalls, dung, guts, and blood,
Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud,
Dead cats, and turnip tops, come tumbling down the flood.