It’s a well-known fact that without the River Thames, there would never have been a London. The Romans, who first founded Londinium in the first century AD, used the river to connect their new prov…
What’s a Knocker-Up?
A Knocker-up (sometimes called a knocker-upper) was a job that began during the Industrial Revolution when few people owned alarm clocks. A knocker-up would begin sometimes as early as 3a.m. to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time. Usually, the knocker-up was a man and most often used a long and light stick, often bamboo, with pieces of wire or a small knob attached at the end.
He used this device to reach up to bedroom windows and wake his customers at whatever time they had requested. The knocker-up would not leave someone’s window until he was sure they were awake.
Some knocker-ups worked freelance – their clients would either post the time they wanted to be woken next to their doors, in their windows, or verbally, in advance. In return, they would pay the knocker-up a few pence per week. Many knocker-ups were employed by mills or bigger factories to wake their large workforce on time.
Knocker-ups usually worked in larger cities like London or Liverpool. However, Baldock had its own knocker-up. In “Baldock Voices” a local resident, recorded twenty years ago, described what happened. “The brewery employed a man to knock up the draymen at 3a.m. every morning so that they would be at work for 4 a.m. He had a long pole with a large solid ball at the top that he used to knock on the two bricks nearest the small bedroom on each cottage. In South Road, until recent restoration, you could see the resulting damage to the brickwork on the six cottages where the draymen lived.”
Another possible example of the knocker-up’s work can be seen in the photograph of a cottage in Orchard Road. The brickwork is defaced next to the small bedroom window, just as described for South Road. You might think that the damage to the brickwork is unremarkable in a cottage of this age and could be due to any number of causes. However, the cottage next door-but-one shows exactly the same damage in the same place by the window. Also, the cottage in between appears to have had the same sort of damage repaired. This seems unlikely to be random deterioration due to age as the rest of the brickwork on all the cottages is relatively good. Has the knocker-up been at work here?
Further evidence comes from the 1901 census which shows that two brewer’s draymen, Benjamin Wood and Thomas Webb, lived in Orchard Road as did a brewer’s traveller, a brewery engine driver and four labourers for the brewery. They might have worked for Simpsons in the High Street or for the Baldock Brewery Company in Pond Lane.
It would be interesting to know something about the man who was the knocker-up. Did he have trouble waking up by 3a.m. so he could go out and wake others? Perhaps he was the Margaret Thatcher type who only slept for a few hours each night and was naturally awake early. One thing seems certain – it was not a job that would suit most of us!
© Written by Baldock Museum and Local History Society and reproduced with the kind permission of the Baldock Mail 2008
Wheelchair or guide dog users are a common enough sight in the workplace today, but what about 200 years ago?
Research by Swansea University and the Wellcome Trust has discovered disabled people were playing equally as big a role in the coal mines of the industrial revolution in Wales.
A blind lift operator and a collier with a wooden leg are just two of the examples found by Daniel Blackie and Mike Mantin during a five-year study into disability and industrial society between 1780 and 1948.
But Dr Blackie, whose research focused on the first half of the period up to 1880, said that did not necessarily mean it was a time of equal opportunities.
He said: “There’s a perception that people with disabilities faced enormous social and economic exclusion during the 19th Century, but what we’ve found is that isn’t strictly true.
“We have numerous examples of people who’ve experienced disabling injuries and illness playing a full part in the mines, and coming up with ingenious ways of helping themselves to adjust.
“But what you quickly realise is that these aren’t all…
Originally posted on Spitalfields Life
Arnold Toynbee was the Economic Historian who coined the phrase “Industrial Revolution” to describe the transformation that came upon this country in the first half of the nineteenth century as a result of technological advance. As early as the eighteen-seventies, he recognised that the free market system disadvantaged the poor, and he came to Whitechapel from Oxford to encourage the creation of trade unions and public libraries, as a means to give practical expression to his social beliefs.
When Toynbee died from exhaustion at the age of thirty in 1883, his friend Samuel Barnett, working in partnership with his wife Henrietta Barnett, established an experimental university settlement in…
Although this article I have re-blogged here talks about knocker-uppers lasting until the 1920s, they actually continued, as Pete Johnson comments below, into the 1950s, possibly beyond.
Originally posted on Genealogy Research Network
Many old and honorable occupations that no longer exist have their origins deeply rooted in history when people worked many varying trades. Some of these professions are not what historians or genealogists might consider to be mainstream work, but over the years these various lines of work have provided great stories that can be passed down to future generations.
One of these jobs was that of the knocker-up also sometimes referred to as a knocker-upper. This profession was prevalent in both England and Ireland having started during the early days of the Industrial Revolution and lasted into the beginnings of the 20th Century as late as the 1920s. Before alarm clocks were both affordable, and reliable, it was the job…