Tasseler, Tosher, Saggar Maker…

Some fascinating professions from way back when…

  • An abecedarian taught the alphabet.


  • A saggar maker’s bottom knocker was someone who helped the maker of saggars, which were clay boxes used to hold pottery while it was being kiln-fired. The bottom knocker put clay in a metal hoop, and then literally knocked it into shape to create the saggar’s base.


  • Back before there were affordable and reliable alarm clocks, a knocker-up made a few pence a week in England and Ireland by using a long, lightweight stick, often bamboo, to tap on their clients’ upper floor windows and wake them up so they could get to work on time.
A  knocker-up  waking up clients - the early 20th century version of alarm clocks.

A knocker-up waking up clients – the early 20th century version of alarm clocks.


  •  Toad doctors were practitioners of a specific tradition of medicinal folk magic, and operated in western England until the end of the 1800s. They primarily tried to heal the skin disease called “The King’s Evil” (scrofula), but also dabbled in curing other ailments caused by witchcraft. They did this by placing a live toad, or a toad leg, in a muslin bag and hanging it around the sick person’s neck.
  • A ballad monger made a living selling printed ballad sheets on the street.

Ballad monger and family 1847

  • A tasseler made tassels for furnishings.


A tosher at work c.1850

A tosher at work c.1850

  • A tosher was someone who scavenged in sewers (often with his or her whole family), especially in London during the Victorian period. They would go down into the sewers looking for small things to sell. This is similar to what mudlarks did, though they dredged the banks of the Thames River when the tide was out, wading through unprocessed sewage and sometimes even dead bodies to find small treasures they could sell.
  • A bloodman or bloodletter opened a vein to let blood out of a sick person’s body, and often used leeches, as well; this was believed to be a possible cure in days before antibiotics and other scientific medical advances.


  • An eyer carved out the eye of a sewing needle.

Camels in a needle

  • A fear nothing maker. How’s that for a job title?  A job description is as follows: to weave a special kind of strong, thick wool cloth called “fearnought” or “dreadnought.” The material was used as protective clothing or as lining in areas prone to explosion or leaking.woolpack1
  • A hankyman earned his living as a traveling magician in Victorian and Edwardian England.


  • A virginal player is a player of a musical instrument similar to a harpsichord.
virginal player

  • A qwylwryghte — don’t ask me to pronounce it! — is one who makes wheels, or works with wood.



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