“Half a pound of tuppenny rice,

Half a pound of treacle,

That’s the way the money goes,

Pop! goes the weasel.


Every night when I go out,

The monkey’s on the table,

Take a stick and knock it off,

Pop! goes the weasel.


Up and down the King’s Road,

In and out of the Eagle,

That’s the way the money goes,

Pop! goes the weasel”.


This rhyme is about poverty. ‘Pop!’ being the name for the pawn shop.

Even the working-class people tried to have something better to wear on Sunday’s. It was common practice for them to pawn their coat ‘Pop! goes the weasel’ and then retrieve it, if they possibly could, before the next Sunday came around. A top coat or suit was known as a weasel.

People would pawn their good clothes to get money. This would buy them the basic of food, such as rice and sugar ‘half a pound of rice, half a pound of treacle’ . Which just kept them going from day to day.

Money to keep a roof over their heads was also a major problem, and the rent collector was called a monkey ‘the monkey’s on the table, take a stick and strike it off’.

Unfortunately, what little money there was would first be spent in the local pub, helping them drown their sorrows, and make facing their dire circumstances a little easier. ‘In and out of the Eagle’ .

In 1825 the Eagle used to be a Music Hall situated on the corner of Shepherdress Walk and City Road, in North London. It was demolished in 1901 and made into a pub called The Eagle Tavern. This became a local watering hole for North Londoner’s. There is a plaque on the pub’s wall notifying the public of its association to the children’s nursery rhyme.

Once the money was all gone on drink, it was off to the pawn shop to haggle for a few pennies for food and rent ‘that’s the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel.’

The children’s game is very like musical chairs, although, instead of chairs they have several plastic rings laid out on the lawn.

The children dance around the rings singing the song. When the last Pop! is shouted out each child dives, to stand or fall, into a ring. The child who doesn’t find one is out. The music and dancing continue, but each time another ring is removed. It was written as a dance in the 1850’s but the game was known to be around long before this.

1 Comment
  1. Zoe Williams 3 years ago

    Wonderful post!

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