Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pure Bermondsey

Responses to an earlier post about pure collectors have led me to Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (1861). It seems that in Victorian London there really was a job of pure finder or pure collector that involved wandering the streets picking up dog poo (pure) and selling it to the leather trade: ‘The pure collected is used by leather-dressers and tanners, and more especially by those engaged in the manufacture of morocco and kid leather, from the skins of old and young goats... Pure is also used by tanners, as is pigeon’s dung, for the tanning of the thinner kinds of leather'.

Self-employed leather workers, who bought the pure of the collectors, were said to ‘usually reside in small garrets in the poorer parts of Bermondsey, and carry out on their trade in their own rooms, using and keeping the pure there; hence the “homes” of these poor men are peculiarly uncomfortable, of not unhealthy'.

I think both of these jobs certainly qualify for inclusion in the worst jobs in history.

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