Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Mrs. Pye at the Bank

A long forgotten Londoner, Mrs. Pye, the Bank of England's crossing-sweeper ...

A CITY CELEBRITY. Some of the oldest frequenters of the City will remember seeing for some time a woman with a broom in her hand under the shadow of the Royal Exchange and opposite the entrance to the Bank of England. A few may remember her when she was young and in her prime, while others will think of her only as an old siver-haired woman of not uncomely appearance, with a ruddy complexion and a grateful courtesy for the gentlemen as they passed over to the bank. For over 50 years she was regular and punctual in her attendance at the post of duty; and almost up to the last, notwithstanding her age, however inclement the weather might be, she came through snow and rain to meet her daily visitors. There was a time when Mrs. Pye’s broom did good service, and a clean path was made through the mud from the Exchange to the Bank; but since Threadneedle-street has been asphalted the office of crossing-sweeper has become a sinecure – if to stand in a snowstorm at 84 years of age could thus be fitly described. The authorities of the bank did not, however, feel disposed to turn the old woman adrift because a new system of road-making had been adopted, and she remained there for some time longer as a pensioner, receiving gifts of money and cloting from those who had known her in her better days. One could not fail to remark that a thoughtful donor had presented her with a good warm shawl, such as crossing-sweepers do not usually wear, to protect her from the inclemancies of the winter. A gentleman connected with Messrs. Baring Brothers was noted for his Christmas and other gifts to the old pensioner. For some time she had been supporting her disabled husband and her daughter’s family were constant recipients of her bounty; until last winter, after falling asleep several times at her post, she had to give in, and is now an inmate of the workhouse, and is in fact too ill to leave the infirmary.
The Morning Post, September 13, 1880

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