Costermongers were London people that sold fruit and veg and other ‘perishables’ from barrows. Often wheeling and then stationing their barrow on the street, so their customers could easily come and buy from them.
Costermongers were fiercely independent, rebellious in their dress and outlook, and had little time for ‘middle class moralising’ and attempts to suppress or restrict their way of life. (Much like modern teenagers)
The men depicted stop work for a break with cups of tea and a few read the newspapers. Next to the man with the yellow apron can be seen some cakes on a plate. A work place , a factory can be seen in the distance on the right.
It is possible that the painting depicts a cabmen’s shelter, as some did serve outside and many still survive today in London.
The style of the painting is very much that of a student of the Slade School in London and has similarities with other artists work such as James Batemen or Herbert Ashwin Budd. On the back of the painting it has in chalk the name ‘Rhoades’, which could refer to the artist Geoffrey Hamilton Rhoades.
A great subject and will only be a matter of time before the artist is revealed to us.