The ‘Knocker Uppers’ of the past | Sunday Observer

The ‘Knocker Uppers’ of the past

9 January, 2022

With the advancement of science, alarm clocks and mobile phones have all been developed, and even now, those who go out to work have to put a lot of effort into waking up early in the morning.

If so, how difficult it must have been to wake up in the morning for those who were leaving for work at a time when clocks were not plentiful and mobile phones were not even thought of.

It would be hard for many to even believe that there were people in the past that did the job of waking up persons to leave for work. Such a group of people existed in the United Kingdom whose job was to wake up persons who were leaving for work from the time of the Industrial Revolution until the 1970s.

They came early in the morning and made it their responsibility to wake others up and send them to work on time.

Industrial Revolution

The industrial development of the United Kingdom, the United States, and some other European countries between 1760 and 1840 is known as the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution began with the emergence of machinery for the manufacturing industry, which previously operated using manual labour.

A large number of factories were set up at that time which operated using coal and hydropower. Most of them were based on readymade garments. With the proliferation of factories, thousands of jobs were created in the United Kingdom, the United States, and other European countries.

With the Industrial Revolution, a large number of job opportunities were created and many people joined new jobs. At the same time, the most serious problem many people faced was not being able to wake up in the morning to go to work.

In 1787 the American, Levi Hutchins invented an alarm clock, but it was very limited in the market at that time. The price of those clocks was so high that many who worked in factories could not afford to purchase one.

Britain and Ireland

In the late 1700s a new job opportunity arose in Britain and Ireland, namely the ‘knocker-uppers’, as it was difficult for those leaving for work to wake up on time.

They arrived in the city early in the morning and woke up the residents by knocking on the doors and windows of the houses. They used a slightly higher hook (often a bamboo stick) to knock on apartment windows. It was a common sight to see people waking up in the city with a hammer used to knock on the door. In addition, whistleblowers designed to shoot different types of nuts were also used.

Residents paid a few pence once a week to knocker-uppers. Some of the knocker-uppers kept knocking on the door or window until the occupants woke up, but most of them did not care much about whether the occupants woke up or not. All they did was knocking on the door or window once or twice and move on to the next house. Many of those employed as knocker-uppers were elderly people.

In the early days, knocking on the door of a house loudly caused them to wake up not only the people who were paying them, but also those in other houses who were not paying. As a solution, they later made sure to knock on the homes of people who paid for them.

Many of those who worked in the factories at the time lived in makeshift shelters in densely populated as well as urban areas, where knocker-uppers were common. Low-income factory workers, especially those living in such areas, had to work shifts. In addition, the fact that they do not have the money to buy clocks was another reason why there were so many knocker-uppers in those areas.

Other professions

With the proliferation of alarm clocks in the market, the profession of waking up began to slowly die out. By the 1950s, the knocker-uppers’ was no longer needed and many began to turn to other professions. However, until the 1970s, this profession was found in some densely populated and industrialised areas of the United Kingdom.