Mary Smith the Knocker-Upper

In the early 20th century, a Knocker-upper’s job was to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time, a profession that started in England and Ireland during the Industrial Revolution, before alarm clocks were affordable or reliable.

Mary Smith earned six pence a week shooting a pea into the windows of the sleeping workers. Knocker-uppers mostly used long bamboo sticks, batons, canes, but sometimes to rouse residents of the upper floors, had to shoot at the window with green peas. Knocker-uppers were mostly elderly people, but sometimes, for an additional fee, this work was entrusted to the local Constable.

Photographs from Philip Davies’ Lost London: 1870-1945

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