The Knocker Upper

581d8310e94ae8ddb1c4d10355704befThere are some wonderful gems in British Social History. I love reading about them. Yesterday I came across what they called a “Knocker up” or “Knocker upper” probably old hat for my British friends, but certainly new and intriguing for me and others I know. These were the guys, and I believe there were women as well, who during the Industrial Revolution in the Victorian age, were hired to tap on the windows of the homes of workers to wake them up early for the day’s work. Alarm clocks didn’t exist, they only came later. So these knocker ups or uppers were a kind of human alarm clock.

They had these long sticks for high windows, often made of bamboo, and would use them to tap on the windows to rouse the people. They also used a little truncheon-like thing for tapping on the doors, and a contraption called a “snuffer outer” used to put out the gas lamps at the same time.

Apparently, the role of the Knocker up was described in the TV series, “The Worst Jobs in History.” Not sure why it was classified in this way. I’m sure there were far worse jobs than that in Victorian England.

Pondering on all this I couldn’t help but wonder who woke the Knocker upper, up. Perhaps the Knocker upper of the knocker uppers.


About Don

I love life. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not. Discerning its underlying patterns and beauty always provides great reward and meaning and is a passion I ineptly follow. I feel deeply attached to nature and love the sea with its distinct moods and colour and find walking along its beaches wonderfully inspiring. Writing, sketching and photography is a sheer joy for me and the blog is one of the places I am able to express these pursuits.
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30 Responses to The Knocker Upper

  1. nrhatch says:

    Ha! A fascinating bit of pre-alarm clock history, Don.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought they were cleaning the windows … which still exist here … but no knocker upper around, just very disturbing alarm clocks ! Many thanks, Don !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. perhaps they stayed awake at night and slept during the day??? ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robert says:

    Some many ‘specialist’ jobs back then!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fabulous bit of history, Don. Do you know of Henry Mayhew’s ‘London Labour and the London Poor’? I think you would find the stories there fascinating. I love it! He and two collaborators interviewed thousands of people living and working in London – flower girls, watercress sellers, bird sellers, pickpockets et al! His work was published in 1851 and is a mine of odd and intriguing information.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I too wondered who woke the knocker up, up? Don! It seems funny now, but I’m sure they were happy they had a job of any kind 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dan Antion says:

    That’s pretty interesting, Don. From my experience, the knocker uppers probably owned cats. Nothing is a more reliable alarm clock than a hungry cat.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I LOVE this, Don. I was 19 and in London for the first time, a college English major attending a course. Fresh from the airport, I checked into an inn. After signing and paying, I was surprised by the question from the young man behind the counter. “And what time would you like to be knocked up?”
    Didn’t want to be late for my first day! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. tiramit says:

    Interesting, I suppose somebody had to do that job. In Bangkok they used to have a man going round dinging a bell every hour through the night. In India a man on a bicycle with a long cane would aggravate the tribes of barking dogs and whack the hour on a convenient wall with his cane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don says:

      Isn’t that incredible. I just had to smile at what you described. So simple and yet so effective.Thank you for that wonderful snippet of information.


  10. Val Boyko says:

    “I’ll knock you up in the morning” always gets a good laugh 😂 thanks for the background info and photos Don.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hariod Brawn says:

    Is it April 1st, Don? No, though this article did come out just four days before it:


    • Don says:

      Hariod, this is brilliant. What a wonderful article. I just loved all the little details in the telling of the story. It certainly answers the question as to who roused the Knocker upper. Really appreciate the link. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. ladyfi says:

    Ooo – I love the whole concept of human alarm clocks!


  13. What an interesting post, Don!
    Pretty could use one of these guys in the mornings!!
    Merry Christmas!


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