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Occupations

 Introduction

As I have peered at 19th century census images and at birth, marriage and death certificates, I have often been puzzled by the occupations quoted.   Perhaps some of them puzzle you too.  So this section simply tells you something about some of these occupations.  They are in alphabetical order.

Some occupations may seem familiar, but often the environment in which the occupation was carried out was very different from today's.   One area in which this is most obvious is transport.   Thus cab driver, van driver, carter, carrier, furniture remover, wagoner are occupations still in use today, but in the 19th century and the early years of the 20th they nearly always involved horses.   My grandmother's 2nd husband was a coal merchant, who gave up the occupation in the 1930s because he realised that to carry on he would need to replace his horses with a petrol powered vehicle.

Not all occupations I have come across are listed.  Those which are still commonly understood today are ignored.

Occupation Description
Boatman One who worked on a boat, predominantly on rivers and canals, also a boat repairer.   Some of Irene's Banbury ancestors were boatmen.
Book folder One who folded paper to make books.
Brick setter Brick layer.
Carman Carter
Clogger One who made clogs, ie wooden shoes.
Cordwainer A shoemaker. Also a person who worked with Cordovan, a special soft leather from Spain.
Cork cutter A person who worked with cork.
The cork was mainly used to make stoppers for many different sizes of jar and bottle.   The cork was usually burnt on the premises, to seal it before it could be cut.   Most firms employed perhaps only 5 men, but in the early years of the 20th century the trade declined as contintental manufacturers concentrated into larger firms.   The trade continued in London and Liverpool even after it declined elsewhere.
Farrier A horse doctor, or a blacksmith, one who shoes horses.
Flatman Navigated a broad flat-bottomed boat used for transport, especially in shallow waters. Common in the salt trade.  
In my family, these occur mostly in the Northwich area in Cheshire.
Flax dresser One who prepared flax prior to spinning.
Gas stoker One who stoked the fire in a gas works.
Groom One who looked after horses.
Husbandman A farmer who cultivated the land, tenant farmer.
Journeyman This is not an occupation, but a status as applied to an occupation.
A journeyman was a craftsman who had fully learned his trade and earned money but was not yet a master.
Mule spinner This was simply a spinner in a cotton mill.   However, a mule spinner used a multi-thread spinning machine, known as the 'Self Acting Mule', which was invented by Samuel Crompton of Bolton in 1779.
Ostler One who looks after horses; stableboy.
Plate layer One who laid and maintained railway tracks.
Quarry man A stone cutter.
Rigger Hoist tackle worker; works on a ship's rigging.
Rockgetter A salt miner (rock salt).  
In my family, these occur mostly in the Northwich area in Cheshire.
Salt boiler Someone who obtained salt by boiling water.  
In my family, these occur mostly in the Northwich area in Cheshire.
Shipwright Constructor or repairer or ships; a shipbuilder.
Skip maker Someone who made the skips used in mining and quarrying for moving men or materials to the surface.
Straw plaiter One who made straw braids for the hat industry.   Luton was a major hatting centre (Luton's football team are still called the "Hatters"), and in Irene's family, a number of people living in the area had this occupation.
Striker Blacksmith's assistant.
Team owner This is part occupation, part status.
One who owned a team of horses.
Waterman One who worked with or on boats usually on rivers.
Wharfinger The owner of a wharf, or one who is in charge.
Wheelwright One who made the wheels for a variety of vehicles.   These were wheels made of wood, with a metal rim outside the wooden rim.   Because so many carts were in use during the 19th century, wheelwrights were in great demand.  They often also described themselves as carpenters.
Yeoman A farmer who owns his own land; a freeholder, the next class down from gentry, or an assistant to an official, or a ships officer in charge of stores.

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