Invasion of the Zampognari


In the Autumn 2010 issue of Chanter Julian Goodacre drew our attention to a couple of previously unspotted entries in the nineteenth century diary of the Reverend Francis Kilvert describing Italian bagpipers turning up in his parish near Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh Marches: in July 1872 he writes of a “wild swarthy Italian-looking man, young, with a steeple-crowned hat, and full of uncouth cries and strange outland

words” (Plomer, 1938: 375) playing his pipes to the delight of a group of dancing children, whilst on Midsummer’s day the following year he records hearing the “drone of the Italian bagpipes advancing” before “two men … came playing through the village” (Plomer, 1939: 217).

Two intriguing questions are raised by these passages: firstly, why does Kilvert not treat the appearance of these players as either startling or exotic and, secondly, how come they have wandered so far from their Apennine home? A potential answer to the first question is suggested in the 1888 edition of Chambers’ Encyclopaedia which includes the somewhat surprising definition for “zampogna”: “The Italian bagpipe, familiar in Britain through the wandering pifferari, is a very rude instrument, consisting of a goat’s skin with an enormous drone, on which the player performs by means of a mouth-tube; another player playing the melody on a separate chanter” [emphasis added]. If they were indeed such a recognisable sight, this might explain Kilvert’s matter of fact responses. This paper records some recently discovered material which supports the Chambers’ entry. Of course, if pifferari were relatively commonplace, Kilvert’s pipers should not be viewed in isolation but as part of a broader pattern of Italian immigration. Interestingly, itinerant street performers turn out to have been very much in the vanguard of Italian emigration which reached its peak in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some of this complex history will be sketched in below.

A representative example of the familiar presence of the zampognari on the streets of this country can be found in a short item in Dwight’s Journal of Music for 1857 (Volume XII, p. 210) headed “Disputed points about Handel’s music”. The discussion relates mainly to the Messiah. As is well-known, this work contains an instrumental piece that Handel called “Pifa” (Pastoral Symphony) which is intended to suggest the playing of shepherds at Christmas time (in their guise as pifferari). Since Handel visited Rome and Naples a number of times whilst he was in Italy between 1706 and 1710, it is more than likely that he had direct experience of such music and drew on these memories some thirty years later in 1741 when he composed the oratorio. The article, however, is more concerned with the transformation of this experience by Handel’s musical genius. The (unnamed) author writes:

.. let us mention an illustration of Handel’s procedure at this moment trudging up and down London streets, which is about as quaintly picturesque a thing to see (however bad to listen to) as we have often been treated with. This is the Zampognatore, who plays on the Italian bagpipe, with his comrades. We met him last under the trees in the Champs Elysées at Paris. In that fantastic place no curiosity nor exotic man, woman, or child looks misplaced. Here, beneath the leaden sky of London, these bright-faced, dirty, picturesque shepherd folk, who apparently wander about with a craving to find any creature that will endure their music and look kindly on themselves, is a sight a little sad and strange. Suspicious and comforting prudence whispers that, after all, these Southern peasants may not be genuine – any more than were the Bohemians who, some twenty-five years ago, were got up in Whitechapel to rival “the original Tyrolese” at the West-End of London. But experience replies that the music of our Zampognatore and his assistant pipers is as shocking and crude as if it came from the Campagna; and thus, it may be feared, the party is a real thing. Nevertheless, this curious group, that emits such excruciating and droning sounds is linked with Handel’s “Messiah” and Corelli’s “Nativity Concerto” – since any one who, with cottoned ears and close-buttoned pocket, can have patience to follow them and endure the peal of their mute yet merry faces, down “all manner of streets,” will hear, in its turn, the Motivo of “The Pastoral Symphony” and the well-known phrase which was wrought up for the orchestra by Cardinal Ottoboni’s guest (the Roman violinist) in their fresh, if not pure, state, and played with a true piper’s gusto. Never was the alchemical power of Genius to transmute and perfect the rudest ware, more clearly brought before us than while we were abiding the coarse, searching, screeching indications of that which the world has been made to love as a strain of perfect and celestial melody – under the blaze of a fierce noon, on a London causeway.

Handel’s “alchemical power of Genius,” then enabled him to conjure his sublime music from this “rudest ware” of “droning sounds”1. But the author requires no act of imagination on behalf of his audience to appreciate this point since, as the passage makes clear, it is easy for any reader to hear the same “shocking and crude” original which inspired Handel on the streets of 1857 London.

Although, to my knowledge, Handel did not leave any reminiscences of the pifferari, the great French composer Hector Berlioz did exactly that a couple of centuries later in his highly entertaining Memoirs. Not only does he describe hearing them during his 1831-32 stay in Rome but also expresses a much higher opinion of their music than the previous author.

In Rome I was struck by one type of music only, and that (as I am inclined to think) a relic of antiquity: the folk music of the pifferari. These are strolling musicians who, towards Christmas, come down from the mountains in groups of four or five, armed with bagpipes and pifferi (a sort of oboe), to pay homage before the statues of the Madonna. They are generally dressed in large brown woollen coats and the pointed hats that the brigands sport, and their whole appearance is instinct (sic) with a kind of mystic savagery that is most striking. I spent hours at a time watching them in the streets of Rome as they stood, head bent slightly to one side, bright dark eyes fixed adoringly on the holy mother, almost as still as the image they worshipped. The bagpipe sustains a harmony of two or three notes, supported by a large piffero doubling the lowest; above it a medium-sized piffero gives out the melody, and above that two very small pifferi played by children of from twelve to fifteen years execute a series of delicate trills and rhythmic figures, drenching the rustic tune in a shower of outlandish ornamentation. Their music consists mostly of lively, cheerful tunes, which they repeat over and over again, but the performance always concludes with a slow and dignified piece, a kind of prayer, full of a solemn patriarchal eloquence … Close to it, it is overpoweringly loud, but at a certain distance the effect of this strange ensemble of instruments is haunting, and few are unmoved by it. Later I heard the pifferari in their own surroundings, and if I was impressed by them in Rome, it may be imagined what I felt when I encountered them, wandering where my fancy led me, in the untamed mountains of the Abruzzi. [Berlioz, 1969: 223] Perhaps, Berlioz’s positive response matched that of Handel; the inspiration of these musical experiences was certainly very similar as can be heard in the third movement of Berlioz’s symphony Harold in Italy (1834), “Serenade of an Abruzzi mountaineer to his mistress,” and in a short, little-known piece for harmonium entitled “Rustic serenade to the Madonna on the theme of the Roman pifferari” (1844).

Returning to this country, a footnote in another text, printed just a few years later than the piece in Dwight’s Journal of Music, similarly points to the familiarity of the zampognari. In 1863 the American sculpture, art critic and poet William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) published a collection of reminiscences of his time spent in Rome during the 1850s entitled Roba di

Roma. This includes a chapter,

entitled “Street Music in

Rome”, which contains a

lengthy passage on the

pifferari including a five page

musical transcription of the

“Song of the Pifferari”. The

book must have proved highly

popular since it went into a

number of editions2. By the 4th

(1864) edition Story felt

compelled to add a footnote

(p. 187) regarding a critical

comment on his transcription

which had appeared in a

review in The Athenæum

(January 24th, 1863). There the

reviewer had stated that “The

pifferari tune noted by Mr.

Story is by no means one of

the best to be found. A more

characteristic one, of the same

style, was wandering the

Streets of London some

months ago” [emphasis added]. Once again the writer implies the familiar presence of Italian pipers. Story’s response to the criticism is somewhat sniffy: “To this I have only to say, that though other and ‘more characteristic’ tunes may be played by pifferari in London, this is the only air ever played by the pifferari at Christmas in Rome.”

Another, more personal description of the London pifferari can be found in a piece by George Augustus Sala (1828-1895). Sala was a well-known journalist and investigative writer, highly admired by Thackeray and Dickens, who published a collection of his journalistic sketches under the title Twice Round the Clock (1859). The passage in question describes the “pandemonium of discordant sounds” produced by various “musicianers” who appeared outside his home on a daily basis. Pouring out of the slums of Clerkenwell (which included a sizable Italian colony) and the East End, these unwelcome visitors included Italian organ grinders; a “Hindoo” singing a “dismal ditty in the Hindostanee language” whilst beating a tom-tom “with fiendish monotony”; a rather jaded “brazen woman in a Scotch cap” dancing to “some etiolated bagpipes screeded by a shabby rogue”; as well as a host of acrobats, drummers, and clarinet players. But that is not the end of the matter for:

Then swoop into the street an abominable band of ruffians, six in number. They are swarthy villains, dressed in the semblance of Italian goatherds, and are called, I believe, pifferari. They play upon a kind of bagpipes – a hideous pig-skin -and-walking-stick-looking affair, and accompany their droning by a succession of short yelps and a spasmodic pedal movement that would be a near approach to a sailor’s hornpipe, if it did [not?] bear a much closer resemblance to the war- dance of a wild Indian … I can do nothing with these people. I shout, I threaten, I shake my fist, I objurgate them from my window in indifferent Italian, but to no avail. They defy, scorn, disregard, make light of me. They are encouraged in their abominable devices, not merely by the idlers in the street, the servant-maids gossiping at the doors, the boys with the baskets, and the nurse children, but by the people at the windows, who seem to have nothing to do but look from their casements all day … They cry out “Shame” when I remonstrate with those nuisances: they shout and jeer at me when I sally forth from the door, and make rabid rushes at the man with the bagpipes … I am tempted – desperately tempted – to avail myself of my rights as a Civis Romanus, to summon the aid of the police, and to give one of the grinders, howlers, or droners in charge. [Sala, 1859: 106-107]3

Sala’s experience was clearly not exceptional; The Athenæum for July 17th 1853 has an item on “Wild Music in London” which describes an almost identical cacophony of sound:

What a Babel of music is this capital! – with Pifferari from the Abruzzi in the streets – an organ as large as a seaside cottage, including an orchestra and a marionette ballet, drawn by a horse (a cruel instrument of torture this! – because heavy to move) – Highland pipers with their flings at our own corner – two rival German bands at our neighbour’s – not to speak of the mulligatawny-coloured individual, in a muslin turban, who sings his song (is it a song?) while he busily pats the parchment of his tam-tam in exact time, as he lounges along.

Sala’s rant also includes mention of Charles Babbage (1791-1871), the great mathematician, philosopher, and inventor. Babbage was renowned for a similar intolerance of the street musicians who regularly appeared outside his house in Dorset Street and he devotes a wonderfully splenetic chapter of his autobiography, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864), to these “Street Nuisances”. Although his rage is mainly directed at the (Italian) organ grinders, his description of the difficulty in attempting to see off these itinerant musicians mirrors those of Sala:

The first step is to require the performer to desist … if a female servant is sent on this mission it is quite useless. The organ-player is scarcely ever acquainted with more than four or five words of our language: but these always the most vulgar, the most offensive, and the most insulting. If a man-servant is sent, the Italians are often very insolent, and constantly refuse to depart. [Babbage, 1864: 346- 347] Unlike Sala who was only tempted to call the police, Babbage acted on this impulse, frequently rushing off to find a constable to deal with them. His neighbours, just like Sala’s, took a dim view of this and he was often followed by a large “noisy mob … shouting out rather

uncomplimentary epithets”.

Undeterred, Babbage often

took offenders to court. The

Morning Post for 16th August,

1862, for example, includes a

report of him appearing for the

“hundred and ninety ninth

time … in a vain endeavour to

obtain … that peace and quite

so essential to his labours”.

[The hearing was

accompanied by a German

band loudly playing “with

audacious insolence” outside

the court window!]. The paper

describes how, following a

“discordance of the screeching

pipes and the clatter of the

dancing sabots”, Babbage had

sent his servant out to ask the

group of pifferari to move

away. Although initially

appearing to comply, they

immediately reappeared once

the servant had returned in

doors and “commenced their

music, if such a term may be used, still nearer than before”. Undaunted Babbage managed to have one of the performers arrested. The case, however, fell apart when it turned out that he was one of the dancers rather than a musician. Consequently, “the insolent compound of goat-skins and filth could not be punished because he ‘was not playing a musical instrument in any public street to the annoyance of any house-keeper’”.

The paper considered the magistrate’s ruling as both “arbitrary and unwarranted” and asserted that “every private individual has just as much title to the security of quiet in his domicile”; this was especially true for someone like Babbage whose work required “almost the brain of a NEWTON”. The article continues that “the evil [of street music] is really rising to such a height as to become of very serious consequence to many hard- working individuals”. These comments clearly reflected a growing middle class concern and eventually the MP for Derby, Michael Bass (from the Bass Ale brewing family) took up the cause and presented a Bill for the “Better Regulation of Street Music” to Parliament in 1864 (Sponza, 1988; Picker, 2003). Bass documented the problem in lengthy detail in a book entitled Street Music in the Metropolis (1864) which included a letter of support signed by an impressive range of worthies including the artists Millais, Holman Hunt, and Frith and authors such as Dickens, Tennyson, Wilkie Collins, and Thomas Carlyle. An editorial in The Times for Wednesday June 8th, 1864 came out in support of the Bill and included the line “We will not appeal to Mr. BABBAGE, who may, perhaps, be considered as much in the extreme in one direction as Italian bagpipes are in the other.” The Bill, in a somewhat diluted form, was unopposed and received Royal Assent in July of that year.

Whatever the intentions of the new Act, it seems to have been rather ineffective. Some ten years later, the November 7th 1874 edition of Punch included an item entitled “Peace and Quiet” which lists a number of “cures for street-tramps” and contains the following advice:

Pest. – Italian Bagpipe Players. Remedy. – Threaten them with the police, in Irish, and they will understand you, and decamp. Should this fail, a few flower- pots, thrown with steadiness and precision, will complete the cure.

Again, a couple of years later, on 14th December, 1876, the same journal further notes that:

A lodger in a quiet street (according to advertisement) has counted six and thirty barrel-organs, three monster pony-drawn ditto, eleven Anglo-German bands, seven dancing pifferari, fifteen troops of Sable singers, at least a score of solo- players on the harp, flute, the fiddle, the key-bugle, and the tom-tom, nineteen begging ballad-bawlers, six or seven sailors singing nasal psalms, and five and twenty howlers of “ten-a-penny warnuts,” visiting its precincts within a single day” [emphasis added].

Indeed, there is some indication that matters had become worse; the Manchester Times for 6th May, 1865, for example, contains the following brief item:

Mr Bass’s bill for putting down the organ nuisance was, we hoped, to usher in “the piping times of peace.”4 And it has, with a vengeance. The latest form of so- called “street music” is more terrible than its predecessor. The piferari (sic) are a thousand times worse than the organ grinders. We trust some kind M.P. will take up the cudgels on behalf of the outraged auriculars of John Bull. The noise of the pipe is a compromise between a badly played bagpipe and the last moments of a fat porker. The miserable excuse made for the organs – that they were delicious music to the people of the poor districts (whither the organ grinders never went) – cannot for a moment be maintained on behalf of the discordant demons, with their harsh screeds, discordant howls and uncouth – if not, at times, indelicate – gestures. We call upon some member who has “music in his soul”5 – who is moved by the discord of shrill sounds – to rid us of the nuisance of these piferari, whose “howls is worse than horgins,” and whose leaping is beyond bounds.

Assuming that this passage relates to Manchester, this is one of the few descriptions, Kilvert aside, so far uncovered of the pifferari outside of London. That said, it is not a surprising reference since the Ancoats area of the city had by this time a small but well-established Italian colony of musicians (especially of organ grinders and, by the 1890s, the makers of such instruments) (Colpi, 1991: 37, 1991a: 17; Sponza, 1988: 282 fn. 23). The Cheshire Observer and Chester, Birkenhead, Crewe and North Wales Times for 3rd December, 1870 indicates the spread of this musical nuisance to the North West:


The old nuisance of organ grindings has again evoked piteous letters from suffers, and one gentleman has written to say that he has been threatened with assassination by a grinder for interfering with his performances. The grievance is intensified at this period of the year, the organists having returned from the sea- side tours renovated for a winter campaign against our peace and quiet in town. There has also been a recent addition to our tormentors in the form of the Italian bagpipe blowers, who make, if possible, more aggravating music than their brethren of the Scotch Highlands. The fellows, in frowsey brigand costume, parade under our windows, discharging an abominable murmur of discords into the air that seems to reach the entire frame and soul of the sensitive listener, jarring every nerve, and expelling every connected thought, leaving in the mind a simple craving for vengeance and a sort of irritable exhaustion and difficulty of again bringing the brain on the conception from which it had been disturbed. We observe that the organs are being constructed of more powerful and telling qualities, no doubt in order to compel a surrender of coppers from an unwilling listener in a quicker and more peremptory style than the weaker implements of annoyance could. We give one hint to people who are vexed almost beyond endurance by the plague of importunate street musicians. Let them strictly forbid their servants to encourage the performers.

Legally such street performers occupied a somewhat ambiguous position. The problem was that although they appeared to many as little more than beggars (and were frequently described as such), since they could be argued to be working for their living by providing some sort of service, they could not be arrested under the vagrancy laws. Occasionally, however, they did overstep the line of mendicancy and were accordingly charged. The Hull Packet and East Riding Times for 7th August, 1857, for example, includes a short report on “three Italian pifferari” being brought before a London magistrate “for begging in the streets”. Surprisingly, on arrest they had been found to have “above £100 … upon them, all in foreign coin with the exception of 5s of English money”. Presumably this not inconsiderable sum represented the total of their earnings during their long journey from Italy with the small amount of British coin perhaps indicating their recent arrival in this country. The paper does not report the outcome of their case. This is not true of a longer piece found in London’s The Standard for 4th April, 1867:

NEAPOLITAN BAGPIPE PLAYERS. – Giuseppe Ventre, an Italian bagpipe player and Lorenzo Augustini and Giovanni de Trolia, two boys were charged before Mr. Tyrwhitt, with begging in Hyde Park.

Giltrow, one of the Mendicity Society officers, said he saw the prisoners in Hyde Park that day. The man went along blowing his pipes; the boys begged of every lady that passed. The party stopped before the Magazine Barracks. The man played and the boys danced. Afterwards they went away on the road begging, and he took them into custody. The officer further stated that about 20 or 30 of the same class of beggars came to this country about a week ago, but hearing that one of their countrymen had been punished for begging they went back.

Mr. Tyrwhitt said that it was well-known that it was a speculation of the part of the padroni the bringing over here of these boys to beg.

Mr. Albert, who interrupted, remarked that the speculation was a profitable one, for some years ago, when six of these adventurers were brought to that court the sum of 120l. was found upon them.

Giltrow said that he had one of the pipe players in custody at Clerkenwell, and in his possession was 50l. The man said that the average earnings of the boys per day was 16s.

Mr. Tyrwhitt committed Ventre for seven days with hard labour, and discharged the boys, with the remark they were only tools in the hand of their employer, and taken about him for purposes of show and beggary.

Again we note the large sums of money reported to have been found in the possession of the musicians (amounts which are not consistent with the report of the piper interviewed by Mayhew quoted below). The passage, however, is interesting for introducing two crucial elements into the story of Italian immigration. As implied, Ventre is almost certainly an example of a padrone (“master” or “employer”). As Colpi (1991: 34) writes:

The early padrone was often a pioneer who had been successful in establishing himself at a destination. To develop his activities further, the next step was often to bring over people from Italy to help him expand the enterprise … The padrone transformed the process of emigration into a business: he offered work contracts to people in Italy, sought volunteers to fulfil them, organised transport and employed people himself once they reached their destination.

Zucchi (1992: 30) adds:

They were among the more influential residents of the [Italian] villages; they had access to jobs, tools, and instruments, knowledge of markets and experience with border patrols and municipal police. Apart from conscription, the padroni offered the only chance for some young people to leave the villages and seek work abroad.

The padrone’s main business venture in the mid years of the century concentrated on the provision of street entertainment. His workers would spend the days on the streets and hand over most, if not all, of their earnings in return for food and lodging. At the end of their “contract” they would be given a few pounds to return home with. Although not always the case, the padroni

were frequently highly

exploitative, in some cases

even requiring their charges

to hire the tools of their trade

from him: a barrel organ

might cost 3s 6d per day,

monkeys 3s, dancing dogs 5s

and porcupines 2s 6d (Wise,

2004: 89; Zucchi, 1992: 77).

Although the Italian’s were well-known for

displaying animals on the streets ranging from white mice to bears and wolves, but most especially monkeys, this does not seem to have been typically the case with the zampognatori. That said, there are a couple of intriguing images which show bagpipers with animals. The most puzzling of these is an arresting painting by the Wolverhampton born artist Edward Bird (1772-1819) entitled “Portrait of an Italian Dog Dancing Master”. Quite why a dog dancing master is shown with no dog is unclear. Neither is he obviously Italian; he certainly is not dressed in the characteristic costume of the pifferari and his instrument, with its strange juggling-club-shaped drones of different woods, is more reminiscent of Border pipes than zampogna. The only clues that mark him as possibly Italian are the monkey and what is presumably the barrel organ strapped to his back. Further, if this is indeed a portrait of an Italian street musician, he must have been a very early visitor to these shores since, although the date of the painting is unclear, an engraved version by William Ward was printed in 1805 in Bristol. The other painting is also relatively early, dating from around 1830, and shows the piper playing in front of John Cadbury’s first shop in Birmingham (Bradley, 2008: 5; Colpi, 1991a: 15)6. He is very similar to Bird’s player: not dressed in typical clothing, surrounded by monkeys – Colpi describes how they were “trained to pick up coins thrown by passers by and the most intelligent would distinguish between coins and other round metal objects” – and with a barrel organ on his back.7 Although the details of the pipes are a little hard to discern, they are also of rather doubtful provenance even though Colpi describes them as zampogna.

The more disturbing element of Ventre’s court case to modern eyes lies in the presence of his child companions for a large part of the padroni’s trade was not with willing adult volunteers but with children hired for a fee from their desperate parents. It takes little imagination to see

that once away from their homes the children were at the mercy of often unscrupulous employers and as Colpi (1991: 34) says, at its worst, “this process could become virtual slavery”. The often disturbing story of the abuse these children suffered is recounted in detail in John Zucchi’s The Little Slaves of the Harp (1992). In this country the children were mainly associated with organ grinding, the selling of plaster figurines and the displaying of animals. Two events involving such children brought their treatment to public attention. In 1831 Carlo Ferrari, who exhibited white mice in a cage hanging from his neck, was murdered by John Bishop and Thomas Head in order to supply the anatomy schools with a subject for dissection. Coming as it did just a few years after Burke and Hare’s similar exploits in Edinburgh, the case proved a sensation (Wise, 2004). The public were equally scandalised with the death of 15 year old Joseph Leonardi in 1849 following extreme maltreatment by Rabiotti his padrone (Zucchi, 1992: 78) and throughout the century these immigrant children’s plight was a not infrequent topic of comment for those with a social conscience. John Thomson, for example, in his evocative book of photographs of London (Thomson & Smith, 1877: 115) describes the padroni as frequently “cruel, tyrannical, exacting and [who] has not shrunk from the responsibility of inflicting starvation and misery on those who work for him” although interestingly he sees this as little different from the behaviour of our own home grown “capitalist” manufacturers and mine owners.

Child involvement with the pifferari is also evidenced in a few images. One of the most interesting, although possibly the least representative, is a painting (in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle) by Henry Hetherington Emmerson (1831-1895) shown at the Royal Academy in 1871; the version illustrated here is a pastel sketch at Cragside, Rothbury Northumberland.8 The image is a strange mixture of the exotic and commonplace as the pifferari are contrasted with the fisher folk of Cullercoats (now part of the North Tyne conurbation) where Emmerson had lived as part of a well-known artists’ colony since 1865. Newton (2003: 106) says that “the arrival of an Italian dancing troupe was an almost annual occurrence” in the area (although, unfortunately, without citing evidence for this statement) but it seems as though Emmerson was as much interested in using this as an excuse for capturing some of the more characterful inhabitants of Cullercoats. An attractive, if somewhat insipid, image,9 it raises various points of interest, not least the evidence it provides of zampogna players having spread to the more north easterly parts of the country.10 In this context, however, the interest lies more in the performers being children who are not obviously accompanied by elders. Could they really have travelled across Europe without any adult protection or was a padrone nearby keeping an eye on his investment? A second interesting feature of the painting is that although the audience seems to be happily enjoying the innocent performance, Emmerson entitled the work A Foreign Invasion.11 Is this title meant to be ironic or whimsical or is he reacting much like the writer in the Cheshire Observer and Chester, Birkenhead, Crewe and North Wales Times quoted above who describes the Italian street musicians as “a plague”?

There is also photographic evidence of children appearing in bands of itinerant pifferari although in these cases the children are playing the piffero rather than zampogna. One particular group was photographed a number of times in the courtyard of 21 Quai Bourbon in Paris around 1853 by the great pioneer photographer Charles Nègre (1820–1880). Interestingly the same players caught the eye of another of the early photographers, Gustave Le Gray (1820-1888), although this time they were posed in the studio. Since it is quite likely that such groups were made up of family members (much as described in the following passage), the children were presumably exposed to no greater hardship or abuse than the rest of their companions.

Whether Nègre and Le Gray’s band of pifferari ever made it across the Channel is unknown but quite possible as becomes apparent in the most important piece of evidence relating to the London zampognari. This account appears in Henry Mayhew’s (1812-1887) seminal work London Labour and the London Poor.12 Based on a series of articles first

appearing in the Morning

Chronicle, it was published in

book form in 1851 and

subsequently reissued and

expanded between 1861 and

  1. Mayhew was a

journalist (and one of the co-

founders of Punch) with

strong social reformist

tendencies who, exploring the

streets of the capital,

discovered what a recent

reviewer called the “doomed

and dispossessed

underclasses … that lay

submerged beneath the glory

and grandeur of Victorian

Britain”. The resulting book is

a vast, Dickensian-like

compendium of vivid

descriptions of the trades,

habits and lives of thousands

of characters making their

livings on the streets, often

vividly expressed through

their own remarkably

unsentimental and candid

words. Here we hear the

authentic voices of the costermongers, chimneysweeps, sewer-hunters, mud-larks, rat- killers and so on.

Mayhew devotes a large amount of space to a wide variety of street performers ranging from clowns and “stilt-vaulters” to pavement artists and musicians. Amongst the latter he describes hurdy-gurdy players, harpists, cellists, violinists – one of whom “imitate[s] all the animals of the farmyard” – English and German street bands, barrel- organ, concertina and panpipe players and a whole host of vocalists including whistlers, ballad singers and blacked-up “Ethiopian” serenaders. As Mayhew makes clear, many of these performers were pretty ghastly (and would certainly not have improved the intolerant mood of people such as Sala and Babbage).

As a general rule, [street musicians] may almost be divided into the tolerable and the intolerable performers, some of them trusting to their skill in music for the reward for their exertions, others only making a noise, so that whatever money they obtain is given them merely as an inducement for them to depart. The well- known engraving by Hogarth, of “the enraged musician,” is an illustration of the persecutions inflicted in olden times by this class of street performers; and in the illustrations by modem caricaturists we have had numerous proofs, that up to the present time the nuisance has not abated. Indeed, many of these people carry with them musical instruments, merely as a means of avoiding the officers of the Mendicity Society, or in some few cases as a signal of their coming to the persons in the neighbourhood, who are in the habit of giving them a small weekly pension. [Mayhew, 1861: 158-159]13

A number of Italians appear amongst Mayhew’s cast of “tolerable and intolerable performers”. Amongst these is a one-legged Genoese “gun-exercise exhibitor” who went through a series of military drills using his crutch as a surrogate gun; another displaying a monkey and, on occasion, playing the barrel organ; a Paramesan displaying three dancing dogs; and, in the illustration of the three (non-Italian) young female “street- performers on stilts”, a clearly Italian barrel organ player. In this context, however, it is the section on the “Italian piper” that is most of interest. The complete passage (taken from the 1861 edition, Volume III, pp. 177-179) is quoted below since not only does it not seem to have appeared in the bagpipe literature before,14 but is full of fascinating details of these pipers’ precarious lives expressed in charmingly idiosyncratic English.

Italian Pipers and Clarionet Players.

“THE companion I got about with me, is with me from Naples, not the city, but in the country. His is of my family; no, not my cousin, but my mother was the sister of his cousin. Yes! yes! yes! my cousin. Someone told me he was my nephew, but it’s cousin. Naples is a pretty city. It is more pretty than Paris, but not so big. I worked on the ground at Naples, in the country, and I guarded sheep. I never was a domestic; but it was for my father. It was ground of his. It was not much. He worked the earth for yellow corn. He had not much of sheep, only fifteen. When I go out with the sheep I carry my bagpipes always with me. I play on them when I was sixteen years of age. I play them when I guard my sheep. In my country they call my instrument de ‘zampogna.’ All the boys in my country play on it, for there are many masters there who teach it. I taught myself to play it. I bought my own instrument. I gave the money myself for that affair. It cost me seven francs. The bag is made of a skin of goat. There are four clarionets to it. There is one for the high and one for the bass. I play them with different hands. The other two clarionets make a noise to make the accord; one makes high and the other the low. They drone to make harmony. The airs I play are the airs of my country. I did not invent them. One is ‘La Tarentule Italien,’ and another is what we call ‘La Badend,’ but I not know what you call it in French. Another is the ‘Death of the Roi de France.’ I know ten of these airs. The ‘Pastorelle Naopolitan’ is very pretty, and so is the ‘Pastorelle Romaine.’

“When I go out to guard my sheep I play my zampogna, and I walk along and the sheep follow me. Sometimes I sit down and the sheep eat about me, and I play on my instrument. Sometimes I go into the mountains. There are plenty of mountains in my country, and with snow on them. I can hear the guardians of sheep playing all around me in the mountains. Yes, many at once,— six, ten, twelve, or fifteen, on every side. No, I did not play my instrument to keep my sheep together, only to learn the airs. I was a good player, but there were others who played much better than me. Every night in my village there are four or six who play together instruments like mine, and all the people dance. They prefer to dance to the ‘Tarentule Italien.’ It is a pretty dance in our costume. The English do not dance like nous autres. We are not paid for playing in the village, only at fêtes, when gentlemen say, ‘Play;’ and then they give 20 sous or 40 sous, like that. There is another air, which is played only for singing. There is one only for singing chansons, and another for singing ‘La Prière de la Vierge.’ Those that play the zampogna go to the houses, and the candles are lighted on the altar, and we play while the bourgeois sing the prière.

“I am aged 23 years next March. I was sixteen when I learnt my instrument. The twelfth of this month I shall have left my country nine months. I have traversed the states of Rome and of France to come to England. I marched all the distance, playing my zampogna. I gain ten sous French whilst I voyage in the states of France. I march from Marseilles to Paris. To reach Marseilles by the boat it cost 15 frs. by head.

“The reason why we left our native land is this:— One of our comrades had been to Paris, and he had said he gained much money by painters by posing for his form. Then I had envy to go to Paris and gain money. In my country they pay 20 sous for each year for each sheep. I had 200 to guard for a monsieur, who was very rich. There were four of us left our village at the same time. We all four played de zampogna. My father was not content that I voyage the world. He was very sorry. We got our passport arranged tout de suite, two passport for us four. We all began to play our instruments together, as soon as we were out of the village. Four of our friends accompanied us on our road, to say adieu. We took bread of corn with us to eat for the first day. When we had finished that we played at the next village, and they give us some more bread.

“At Paris I posed to the artists, and they pay me 20 sous for the hour. The most I pose is four hours for the day. We could not play our instruments in the street, because the serjeant-de-ville catch us, and take us directly to prison. I go to play in the courts before the houses. I asked the concierge at the door if he would give me permission to play in the court. I gain 15 sous or 1 franc par jour. For all the time I rest in Paris I gain 2 francs for the day. This is with posing to artists to paint, and for playing. I also play at the barrière outside Paris, where the wine is cheap. They gave us more there than in the courts; they are more generous where they drink the wine.

“When I arrive at Paris my comrades have leave me. I was alone in Paris. There an Italian proposed to me to go to America as his servant. He had two [barrel] organs, and he had two servants to play them, and they gave him the half of that which they gained. He said to me, that he would search for a piano organ for me, and I said I would give him the half of that which I gained in the streets. He made us sign a card before a notary. He told us it would cost 150 francs to go to America. I gave him the money to pay from Paris to Folkestone. From there we voyaged on foot to Londres. I only worked for him for eight days, because I said I would not go to Amérique. He is here now, for he has no money to go in Amérique.

“I met my cousin here in Londres. I was here fifteen days before I met

him. We neither of us speak Anglais, and not French either, only a little very bad; but we understand it. We go out together now, and I play the zampogna, and he the ‘biforc Italien,’ [piffero? CM] or what the French call flageolet, and the English pipes. It is like a flageolet. He knows all the airs that I play. He play well the airs – that he does. He wears a cloak on his shoulders, and I have one, too; but I left it at home to-day. It is a very large cloak, with three yards of étoffe in it. He carry in his hat a feather of what you call here peacock, and a French lady give him the bright ribbon which is round his hat. I have also plume de peacock and flowers of stuff, like at the shops, round my hat. In my country we always put round our hat white and red flowers.

“Sometimes we go to pose to the artists, but it is not always. There are plenty of artists near Newman-street, but in other quarters there are none at all. It is for our costume they paint us. The colours they put on the pictures are those of our costume. I have been three times to a gentleman in a large street, where they took our portraits photographique. They give a shilling. I know the houses where I go to be done for a portrait, but I don’t know the names of the messieurs, or the streets where they reside. At the artists’ they pay 1s. par heure, and we pose two or three heures, and the most is four heures. When we go together we have 1s. each for the hour. My cousin is at an artist’s to-day. They paint him more than me, because he carries a sash of silk round his waist, with ornaments on it. I haven’t got one, because I want the money to buy one.

“We gain 1s. each the day. Ah! pardon, monsieur, not more than that. The artists are not for every day, perhaps one time for the week. When we first come here, we take 5s. between the two, but now it makes cold, and we cannot often play. Yesterday we play in the ville, and we take 7d. each. Plenty of persons look at us, but when my comrade touch his hat they give nothing. There is one month we take 2s. each the day, but now it is 1s. For the three months that we have been here, we have gained 12s. the week each, that is, if we count what we took when first we were arrived. For two months we took always a crown every day— always, always; but now it is only 1s., or 2s., or 7d. I had saved 72s., and I had it in my bourse, which I place under my head when I sleep. We sleep three in a bed – myself, my cousin, and another Italian. In the night this other take my bourse and run away. Now I have only 8s. in my bourse. It nearly broke the heart when I was robbed.

“We pay 2d. for each for our bed every night. We live in a house held by a Mossieu Italian. There are three who sleep in one bed—me, and my comrade, and another. We are not large. This mossieu let us lodge cheaper than others, because we are miserable, and have not much money. For breakfast we have a half-loaf each one. It is a loaf that you must pay 4d. or 4 1/2d. We pay 2 12 d. each for that, and 12 d. each for a cup of tea or coffee. In the day we eat 2d. or 3d. between both for some bread, and we come home the night at half-past eight, and we eat supper. It is of maccaroni, or potatoes boiled, and we pay 2 12 d. each. It costs us 9 d. each the day to live. There are twenty-four Italian in the house where we live, and they have three kitchens. When one is more miserable than the others, then he is helped; and at another time he assists in his turn. We pay 2 d. a week to wash our shirt. I always share with my cousin what he makes in the day. If he goes to work and I stop at home, it is the same thing, and the same with me. He carries the money always, and pays for what we have want to eat; and then, if I wish to go back to my own country, then we share the money when we separate.

“The gentlemen give us more money than the ladies. We have never had anything to eat given to us. They have asked us to sing, but we don’t know how. Only one we have sung to, an Italian mossieu, who make our portraits. We sang the ‘Prayer of the Sainte Vierge.’ They have also asked us to dance, but we did not, because the serjeant-de-ville, if we assemble a great mob, come and defend us to play.

“We have been once before the magistrate, to force the mossieu who brought us over to render the passport of my native village. He has not rendered to me my card. We shall go before a magistrate again someday.

“I can write and read Italian. I did not go much to the school of my native village, but the master taught me what I know. I can read better than I write, for I write very bad and slow. My cousin cannot read and write. I also know my numbers. I can count quickly. When we write a letter, we go to an Italian mossieu, and we tell him to say this and that, and he puts it down on the paper. We pay 1s. for the letter, and then at the post they make us pay 2s. 2d. When my parents get a letter from me, they take it to a mossieu, or the schoolmaster of the village, to read for them, because they cannot read. They have sent me a letter. It was well written by a gentleman who wrote it for them. I have sent my mother five pieces of five francs from Paris. I gave the money, and they gave me a letter; and then my mother went to the consul at Naples, and they gave her the money. Since I have been here I could send no money, because it was stolen. If I had got it, I should have sent some to my parents. When I have some more, I shall send it.

“I love my mother very much, and she is good, but my father is not good. If he gain a piece of 20 sous, he goes on the morrow to the marchand of wine, and play the cards, and spend it to drink. I never send my money to my father, but to my mother.”

This rich description is worthy of detailed comment but only one point will be briefly taken up here: the artistic appeal of the pifferari. Although Victorian artists were at pains to make their work as detailed and accurate as possible, paintings of ordinary life are relatively rare. This may come as something of a surprise given the iconic status of, say, William Frith’s great teeming quotidian panoramas of Life at the Seaside (Ramsgate Sands) (1854), The Derby Day (1858), and The Railway Station (1862). The fact of the matter is that these works were received with disbelief and horror by his contemporaries, with one describing The Derby Day as “a tissue of vulgarity” (Cowell, 2000: 102). For most Victorians, their own age was perceived to be hopelessly ugly and unworthy of depiction; even Frith wrote “I had determined to try my hand on modern life, with all the drawbacks of unpictureque dress” (Frith, 1887: emphasis added). Being dressed picturesquely, however, was not a problem with the pifferari (“It is for our costume they paint us”) as is confirmed by William Wetmore Story in the previously mentioned Roba di Roma:

On their heads they wear conical felt hats adorned with a frayed peacock’s feather, or a faded band of red cords and tassels, — their bodies are clad in red waistcoats, blue jackets, and small-clothes of skin or yellowish homespun clothe, — skin sandals are bound to their feet with cords that interlace each other up the leg as far as the knee, — and over all is worn a long brown or blue cloak with a short cape, buckled closely round the neck. Sometimes, but rarely, this cloak is of a deep red with a scalloped cape. As they stand before the pictures of the Madonna, their hats placed on the ground before them, and their thick, black, dishevelled hair covering their sunburnt brows, blowing away on their instruments or pausing to sing their novena, they form a picture which every artist desires to paint. Their dress is common to nearly all the peasantry of the Abruzzi, and, worn and tattered as it often is, it has a richness and harmony of tint which no new clothes could ever have, and for which the shops and regular models offer a poor substitute … Besides, the true pifferaro wears his costume as if it belonged to him and had always been worn by him, — so that it has none of that got-up look which spoils everything. (p. 10)

Here Story describes their presence in Rome but he also makes clear that they were equally sought after in Paris where he later moved; he recalls one such who “played the role of a ferocious wounded brigand dragged into concealment by his wife, in the studio of a friend next door”. This ferocity, however, was very much an illusion: “despite the savagery and danger of his counterfeited position, he was sure to be overpowered by sleep before he had been in it more than five minutes, — and if the artist’s eye left him for a moment, he never failed to change his attitude for one more fitted to his own somnolent propensities than for the picture” (p. 19). Mayhew’s informant also makes it clear that London-based artists were similarly in thrall to the picturesque qualities of these itinerant Italians, an attitude which is lampooned in a cartoon “Shocking Incident in Real Life” which appeared in the September 24th 1864 edition of Punch where we are informed “The truth is, Rebecca, who is passionately fond of the Fine Arts and of everything Italian in particular, has had the Pifferari, and a Grinding Ruffian to sketch from.”

It is unfortunate that Story fails to mention the name of his artist friend or we might be able to put a face to this long dead piper. Similarly, it would be interesting to discover the artists working near Newman Street that Mayhew’s informant modelled for; The London Encyclopaedia (Weinreb et al, 2008: 588) says that “the list of [the street’s] residents reads like a roll-call of artists and sculptors” although unfortunately the names cited there do not belong to the period under consideration. Perhaps Mayhew’s zampogna player is the piper, “probably Italiene”, sketched (somewhat unconvincingly) by George Scharf in 1857 in Preston Street (Whitechapel).

The evidence presented in this paper clearly shows that Kilvert’s zampognari were far from unique visitors to this country but represented relatively familiar figures throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. Indeed, since completing the draft of this paper both Jon Swayne and Julian Goodacre have been generous enough to furnish me with further evidence which suggests that they remained on the streets well into the 20th century. Jon pointed me to an article by Antonietta Caccia called “L’orso, lo zampognaro ei pianeti” published in Utriculus (the magazine of the Associazione Cultural “Circolo della Zampogna”) for January/March 1997 which includes the following two photographs from the early 1900s. The first was probably taken in London around 1900 by J.W. Forest; note that the zampogna player has a drum strapped to his back.

The second image comes from Duncan Fraser’s Some Reminiscences and the Bagpipe (1907) which I had completely missed previously. Fraser comments on it that:

Nearly every summer our own country is visited by one or more bands of strolling Italian pifferari as these pipers are called. The photograph … is one which I took in front of my own house. It shews a characteristic group of these Italian performers, and also shews their method of playing upon the Zampogna. The chanter is in the hands of the pompous-looking individual on the extreme left of the picture, and next to him is the zampognatore, or piper proper. Notice the enormous size of the drones ; they are the largest that I have ever seen, but in spite of this they gave forth low soft music. The woman with the tambourine, and the little rogue with the bird-cage, are unnecessary accidentals. [Fraser, 1907: 207] Julian’s photograph (right) comes from a surprising, and much later, source: the children’s Chums Annual for 1933- 1934. Here, on page 487, is found a spread of images depicting various “famous London buskers” entitled “Stars of the Street”. Amongst these is a zampogna player – although the anchoring text states “We offer no prizes for those who guess the nature of this strange instrument, for, frankly, we don’t know what it is ourselves!”

As in the previous photograph, the performer also has a drum on his back but now the piffero player appears to have been lost. Does he represent the last in the line of Italian pipers who had performed on the streets of London for over a century or will more research uncover others? Whatever the answer, it is almost certain that the evidence cited here only scratches the surface of what remains and I look forward to future researchers shedding further light on this long forgotten aspect of the soundscape of Victorian Britain.


  1. Interestingly, Gratton Flood echoes exactly the same point:

All readers are familiar with the beautiful Pastoral Symphony in the Messiah, which is an echo of the Italian bagpipe or piffero (sic), the performers of which are known as pifferari. It is modelled on a theme played by the Italian bagpipers at Christmastide, in honouring the infant Messiah, and thus has a peculiar appropriateness in Handel’s sublime oratorio. Like many other snatches of melodies annexed by Handel, the fragment of a simple folk air has been treated in masterly fashion, the bagpipe effect being well brought out in the orchestral treatment. [Gratton Flood, 1911: 112]

Perhaps because they did not reach Irish shores; perhaps because they were already a distant memory by 1911; perhaps because they did not fit into his often fanciful Hiberno -centric view of the history of European piping, Gratton Flood fails to mention pifferari appearing in the capitals of nineteenth century western Europe.

  1. Much of the text had originally been published in The Atlantic Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics (Volume III) April 1859. Long extracts from the book – including the references to the zampogna – were published in this country both in Charles Dickens’ journal All the Year Round (March 1863), and Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (April 1863).

  2. On exactly this theme of the nuisance of street music Punch (January 14th, 1854) includes a poem entitled “A chaunt (sic) by a quiet family” which, after describing the disturbance of cornets, serpents, flutes, fiddles, horns and harps “so may we not sleepless lie,” includes the rather nice phrase “droning bagpipes squeal not here”. Whether these pipes are Italian or Highland is not specified.

  3. This, of course, being a quote from Richard III’s “Now is the winter of our discontent” soliloquy:

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun,

And descant on my own deformity. [Act 1, scene 1] 5. I have been unable to trace this quote. Perhaps it alludes to the beautiful lines from The Merchant of Venice:

The man that hath no music in himself,

Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,

Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils. [Act 5, scene 1] 6. Opened in 1824, the shop was next door to his father’s business which sold silk (to the right of centre in the painting). John Cadbury originally sold tea and coffee before introducing the drinking chocolate which was to make his fortune in 1831.

  1. Given the proximity of Wolverhampton (Bird’s birthplace) and Birmingham, there might be a temptation to see these as the same man; however given the gap of 25 years or so between the two paintings and the fact that Bird had moved to Bristol by 1794, this is most unlikely.

  2. I should like to thank the Alex Riddell from Cragside for supplying me with this copy.

  3. A view in line with a contemporary comment found in the Art Journal (1871 page 178) which describes the painting as coming in the “not very formidable form of Italians with bagpipes … [but] … the picture wins a good place by fairly well-painted character and costume”.

  4. Quite when Italian musicians first appeared in the north-east is yet to be determined but appears to be somewhat later than in the south. One tangential piece of evidence for this claim may be found in James Thompson’s A New Improved, and Authentic Life of James Allan which appeared in 1828. The gypsey Allan is best known for his playing of the Northumbrian pipes but also appears to have been highly adept on the Highland, Union and “Northumberland raising or gathering pipes”. Less well known is that he also played the zampogna. Thompson describes him acquiring these pipes whilst sailing the China seas in the service of the East India Company following a series of mishaps which had necessitated a hasty retreat from Dublin which he was visiting at the time.

During the voyage from Batavia [Jakarta], Allan had never been requested to play, and, on landing [in China], was surprised and grieved to find that the excessive heat had cracked the drones of his pipes. A Scotch surgeon, belonging to the factory, offered to purchase them; but as this was refused, he soon put them to repair, and, in return for some lessons given by Allan, presented him with an Italian pipe, a kind of double flageolet. [pp. 136-137] Allan became adept enough at these these pipes to use them to good effect in his later travels as he tried to cadge food and placate hostile Indian and Tartar villagers whilst attempting to make his way back overland to England (see pages 143 and 148 for example). The point in this context, however, is that Thompson does not use zampogna to describe the pipes to his northern readership (the book was published in Newcastle) – resorting to “a kind of double flageolet” – either because he himself did not know the name or because he thought his audience wouldn’t be familiar with it. It is interesting to speculate whether this would have changed if he’d written the work some 40 years later.

  1. The use of “invasion” became more common around 1888 when the Parisian authorities moved against the Italian musicians on the streets of the French capital by threatening that they would be “relegated to the lock-up” unless they were suitably licensed (indicated by the wearing of an arm badge). The worry in Britain was that “a strong exodus of musicmongers and pifferari will no doubt take place in the direction of free England, which is the happiest hunting ground of itinerant Italian

musicians” (Aberdeen Weekly Journal, June 8th 1888). H. W. Andrews, R.N. fulminated in the Morning Post (June 18th 1888) “Yes, the universal dustbin is open to these insolent beggars. Can nothing be done to stay the invasion? Or must we brain-workers grin and bear?”

James Greenwood’s description of that part of London which had “fallen into the hands of the Italian enemy” adopts a similar tone:

It is a fact not generally known that within the last four or five years a foreign horde has penetrated to the very heart of London, and successfully besieged and ousted the inhabitants, dispossessing them of their houses and tenements, and

settling themselves in their place without further contention or remonstrance on

the part of the ejected. [Greenwood, 1881: 109] He goes on to describe the areas around Leather Lane and Saffron Hill as “as the haunts and nightly abiding places of the majority of the organ grinders, as well as of the bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy players, and the whole host of musical tatterdemalions” (p. 110).

  1. Its splendid subtitle is: A Cyclopædia of the Conditions and Earnings of Those that will Work, Those that cannot Work, and Those that will not Work.

  2. Julian Goodacre echoes this point in a recent letter to me: “It is easy for us now to think that all the grumpy English people who complained were grumpy English people who didn’t recognise the beauty of a finely tuned instrument which was being played by a stunning musician. But trudging the streets, 100s of miles from home and your pipemaker and playing day after day with cane reeds … It would be fascinating to know how they dealt with their reeds. And I cannot imagine the young piffero player boys would get much sympathy from their masters if they were “having a bit of bother with the reed”. (More likely they would be told just to bite off the end of their reed and keep on playing until they reached the staple!). Maybe the players who made it to England tended to be the ones who played so badly that they did not dare to play in their own country!”

Regarding the quality of the instruments used by the street musicians Mayhew quotes a blind Highland piper which is highly informative. Mayhew’s informant describes his chanter as having “been in my family very near 450 years” and being “the oldest in Scotland”. Further, this remarkable “stick” is claimed to have been played at both Bannockburn (1314) and Culloden (1746). Sceptical as we might be about this, his description of its current state of preservation shows that it must have sounded pretty dreadful: “You see, the holes for the fingers is worn as big round as sixpences, and they’re quite sharp at the edges. The ivory at the end is … breaking and splitting with age, and so is the stick … [the] chanter has got rather too sharp by old age, and it’s lost its tone … my pipes are not in good order” (pp. 167-8). If this was typical of the kind of instrument played outside Babbage’s house, I think our sympathies would probably have to lie with the great inventor.

  1. Although Mayhew’s work is well-known, it is usually only through highly abridged versions since the original is so vast; the final four volume edition consists of over 2 million words. Typically the bagpipe entries (including those on the Highland and Union pipes which I hope to publish at a later date) are omitted from these modern day shortened editions (as, indeed, they are in my own copy) in favour of the accounts of the mud-larks, sewer-hunters and other characters more likely to be of interest to the general reading public. This may explain why this rich vein of information has gone unremarked upon in the past.


Babbage, C. (1864). Passages from the Life of a Philosopher. Longman, Green,

Berlioz, H. (1969). The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz. Translated and edited by D. Cairns. Panther: London.

Bradley, J. (2008). Cadbury’s Purple Reign: The Story behind Chocolate’s best-loved Brand. John Wiley: Chichester.

Colpi, T. (1991). The Italian Factor: The Italian Community in Great Britain. Mainstream: Edinburgh.

Colpi, T. (1991a). Italians Forward: A Visual History of the Italian Community in Great Britain. Mainstream: Edinburgh.

Cowell, M. (2000). Victorian Figurative Painting: Domestic Life and the Contemporary Social Scene. Andreas Papadakis: London.

Fraser, A. D. (1907). Some Reminiscences and the Bagpipe. W.J. Hay: Edinburgh.

Frith, W. P. (1887). Autobiography and Reminiscences. R. Bentley: London. Greenwood, J. (1881). Low-Life Deeps: An Account of the Strange Fish to be Found There. Chatto and Windus: London. [First published in 1875] Gratton Flood, W. (1911). The Story of the Bagpipe. The Walter Scott Publishing Company: London

Mayhew, H. (1861). London Labour and London Poor: A Cyclopædia of the Conditions and Earnings of Those that will Work, Those that cannot Work, and Those that will not Work, Volume III. Griffin, Bohn and Company: London.

Newton, L. (2003). Cullercoats: A North-East Colony of Artists. Sansom and Company: Bristol.

Picker, J. (2003). Victorian Soundscapes. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Plomer, W. (ed.) (1938). Kilvert’s Diary: Volume One: Selections from the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert, 1 January 1870-19 August 1871. Jonathan Cape: London.

Plomer, W. (ed.) (1939). Kilvert’s Diary: Volume Two: Selections from the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert, 23 August 1871-13 May 1874. Jonathan Cape: London.

Sala, G. A. (1859). Twice around the Clock: Or the Hours of the Day and Night in London. Richard Marsh: London.

Sponza, L. (1988). Italian Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Realities and Images. Leicester University Press: Leicester.

Story, W. (1887). Roba di Roma. The Riverside Press: Cambridge.

Thomson, J. & Smith, A. (1877). Street Life in London. Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington: London.

Weinreb, B., Hibbert, C., Keay, J. & Keay, J. (2008). The London Encyclopaedia. 3rd edition. Macmillan: London.

Wise, S. (2004). The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London. Pimlico: London.

Zucchi, J. (1992). The Little Slaves of the Harp: Italian Child Street Musicians in Nineteenth-Century Paris, London and New York. Liverpool University Press: Liverpool.

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