London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry

1851

Statement of a Cesspool-Sewerman.

I GIVE the following brief and characteristic statement, which is peculiar in showing the habitual of the mere labourer. My informant was a stout, hale-looking man, who had rarely known illness. All these sort of labourers (nightmen included) scout the notion of the cholera attacking

Work, sir? Well, I think I do know what work is, and has known it since I was a child; and then I was set to help at the weaving. My friends were weavers at Norwich, and 26 years ago, until steam pulled working men down from being well paid and well off, it was a capital trade. Why, my father could sometimes earn 3l. at his work as a working weaver; there was money for ever then; now 12s. a-week is, I believe, the tip-top earnings of his trade. But I didn't like the confinement or the close air in the factories, and so, when I grew big enough, I went to ground-work in the city (so he frequently called Norwich); I call ground-work such as digging drains and the like. Then I 'listed into the Marines. Oh, I hardly know what made me; men does foolish things and don't know why; it's human natur. I'm sure it wasn't the bounty of 3l. that tempted me, for I was doing middling, and sometimes had night-work as well as ground-work to do. I was then sent to Sheerness and put on board the Thunderer man-of-war, carrying 84 guns, as a marine. She sailed through the Straits (of Gibraltar), and was three years and three months blockading the Dardanelles, and cruising among the islands. I never saw anything like such fortifications as at the Dardanelles; why, there was mortars there as would throw a ton weight. No, I never heard of their having been fired. Yes, we sometimes got leave for a party to go ashore on one of the islands. They called them Greek islands, but I fancy as how it was Turks near the Dardanelles. O yes, the men on the islands was civil enough to us; they never spoke to us, and we never spoke to them. The sailors sometimes, and indeed the lot of us, would have bits of larks with them, laughing at 'em and taking sights at 'em and such like. Why, I've seen a fine-dressed Turk, one of their grand gentlemen there, when a couple of sailors has each been taking a sight at him, and dancing the shuffle along with it, make each on 'em a low bow, as solemn as could be. Perhaps he thought it was a way of being civil in our country! I've seen some of the head ones stuck over with so many knives, and cutlasses, and belts, and pistols, and things, that he looked like a cutler's shopwindow. We were ordered home at last, and after being some months in barracks, which I didn't relish at all, were paid off at Plymouth. Oh, a barrack life's anything but pleasant, but I've done with it. After that I was eight years and a quarter a gentleman's servant, coachman, or anything (in Norwich), and then got tired of that and came to London, and got to ground and new sewer-work, and have been on the sewers above five years. Yes, I prefer the sewers to the Greek islands. I was one of the first set as worked a pump. There was a great many spectators; I dare say as there was 40 skientific gentlemen. I've been on the sewers, flushing and pumping, ever since. The houses we clean out, all says it's far the best plan, ours is. 'Never no more nightmen,' they say. You see, sir, our plan's far less trouble to the people in the house, and there's no smell— least I never found no smell, and it's cheap, too. In time the nightmen 'll disappear; in course they must, there's so many new dodges comes up, always some one of the working classes is a being ruined. If it ain't steam, it's something else as knocks the bread out of their mouths quite as quick.

 
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 Title Page
 INTRODUCTION
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Of the Streets of London
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Sweepers of Old, and the Climbing Boys
Of the Chimney-Sweepers of the Present Day
Of the General Characteristics of the Working Chimney-Sweepers
Sweeping of the Chimneys of Steam-Vessels
Of the 'Ramoneur' Company
Of the Brisk and Slack Seasons, and the Casual Trade among the Chimney- Sweepers
Of the 'Leeks' Among the Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Inferior Chimney-Sweepers -- the 'Knullers' and 'Queriers'
Of the Fires of London
Of the Sewermen and Nightmen of London
Of the Wet House-Refuse of London
Of the Means of Removing the Wet House-Refuse
Of the Quantity of Metropolitan Sewage
Of Ancient Sewers
Of the Kinds and Characteristics of Sewers
Of the Subterranean Character of the Sewers
Of the House-Drainage of the Metropolis as Connected With the Sewers
Of the London Street-Drains
Of the Length of the London Sewers and Drains
Of the Cost of Constructing the Sewers and Drains of the Metropolis
Of the Uses of Sewers as a Means of Subsoil Drainage
Of the City Sewerage
Of the Outlets, Ramifications, Etc., of the Sewers
Of the Qualities, Etc., of the Sewage
Of the New Plan of Sewerage
Of the Management of the Sewers and the Late Commissions
Of the Powers and Authority of the Present Commissions of Sewers
Of the Sewers Rate
Of the Cleansing of the Sewers -- Ventilation
Of 'Flushing' and 'Plonging,' and Other Modes of Washing the Sewers
Of the Working Flushermen
Of the Rats in the Sewers
Of the Cesspoolage and Nightmen of the Metropolis
Of the Cesspool System of London
Of the Cesspool and Sewer System of Paris
Of the Emptying of the London Cesspools by Pump and Hose
Statement of a Cesspool-Sewerman
Of the Present Disposal of the Night-Soil
Of the Working Nightmen and the Mode of Work
Crossing-Sweepers