Thursday 7 April 2011

Olde English Jobs

I like reading about the English language. It fascinates me.

The grammar rules and syntax interest me, as does the way words fade in and out of the language and morph from form to form along their useful lives.

I was happy to recently bump into a colleague from University who I’d lost track of, all the more as he seems to have collected a lot of interesting language-related links and posts on his site.

In a recent local town council magazine Keith Turner & Daniel Parslow provided a good catalogue of old job titles that used to be common in market towns such as Aylesbury, where I live, that have fallen into disuse over the years.

All credit to Keith and Daniel for this list, which I am typing up to make more widely available.

Job title Description
Abigail Lady's maid
Ale-conner Official who tested the quality and measures served in pubs
Ankle beater Young person who helped drive cattle to market
Boot catcher Servant at an inn that removed travellers’ boots
Bozzler Parish Constable
Bridewell Keeper In charge of the lock-up or jail
Bunter Female rag and bone collector
Bog Iron Hunter Searched for Iron Ore in bogs and marshes
Cartomancer Fortune teller using cards
Chapeler Hat maker
Costermonger Peddler of fruits & vegetables
Clapman Town crier
Clod hopper Ploughman
Donkey Man Passenger carriage driver
Eyer Made holes in sewing needles
Feather wife Woman that cleans feathers for sale
Fagetter Firewood seller
Flauner Confectioner
Frobisher Cleaned and polished metal
Gabeler Tax collector
Gelder Animal castrator
Gong Farmer Emptied privies and cesspits
Greensmith Worker in copper
Hobbler Towed canal boats
Jongleur Travelling minstrel
Knocker Upper Woke people up
Knock Knobbler Dog catcher
Layer Paper mill worker
Leech collector Waded through rivers to collect the leeches which attached to him
Lungs Alchemist's assistant who fanned the fire
Mud lark River bed scavenger
Mule Scavenger Children who would crawl under fabric mills to collect cotton and fluff
Mountebank Seller of fake medicines
Night Soilman Emptied cesspits, ashpits and outside toilets
Nob Thatcher Wig maker
Osler Bird catcher
Ponderator Weights & measures inspector
Powder monkey Boys who supplied ship cannons with gunpowder below deck
Quarrel Picker Glazier
Ratoner Rat catcher
Resurrection Man Provided surgeons with fresh cadavers with which to learn their craft
Rodman Surveyor's assistant
Saltpetre man Collected urine and dung used in the manufacture of saltpetre
Searcher of the Dead Sought plague victims
Secret Springer Watch spring maker
Sexton Church caretaker - sometimes dug graves and rang the church bells
Smoke Doctor Specialist in the construction or repair of chimneys
Tapster Barman/woman
Town Husband Collected dues from the fathers of illegitimate children of the parish for their upkeep
Treadmill Operator Trudged atop a giant mill wheel treadmill to push it round
Upright Worker Chimney Sweep
Vamper Made the upper part of a boot or shoe covering the instep and sometimes extending over the toe
Webster Operator of looms
Yatman Gatekeeper

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