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Rubbish or riches? Buying from church jumble sales in late‐Victorian England

Vivienne Richmond (Department of History, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 10 August 2010




The purpose of this paper is to determine the merchandise offered and bought at late‐nineteenth‐century English jumble sales, to understand the place of jumble sales and used goods in the domestic budgets of the poors, and to investigate the reasons for purchasing from jumble sales rather than other second‐hand goods outlets.


The paper analyses Anglican Parish Magazines and social surveys, in late‐Victorian England, focusing on two commodities: clothing and carpets.


Jumble sales were organised by the middle and upper classes for the poor, into whose multiple provisioning strategies they were rapidly integrated, although admission fees excluded the poorest. The sales supplied both necessary and non‐essential items and were eagerly attended, but there is no evidence that they were preferred to other second‐hand outlets or that the goods on offer were cheaper or better quality. Although a site of class interaction, jumble sales also served to maintain class separation.

Research limitations/implications

The geographical spread of this paper omits the most southern, northern and western counties. Further work is also needed to determine more precisely the quality and cost of jumble‐sale merchandise, the age and gender of the customers, and differences between urban and rural sales.


Through interrogation of an underused source, parish magazines, the paper redresses the scholarly neglect of a significant and enduring sector of the used goods market. The paper is of value to historians of marketing, philanthropy, consumption, dress, and the English working classes.



Richmond, V. (2010), "Rubbish or riches? Buying from church jumble sales in late‐Victorian England", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 3, pp. 327-341.



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