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Radio Times articles, from 2003-2005

Sounds Familiar
The Hounding of the Royals 
Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells?
The Mystery of the Stones
Going Loco
Pedal Power
Genius Sperm
Sandals, Slaughter and Sex
Greased Lightning
Flying Saucers
The Stuarts
The Ascent of Man
Test-tube Tantrums
RT Mastermind
Medical Marvels
Engineering Triumphs
Surreal Estate
Offshore Wind Farms
Nothing to Loos
A Bridge Too Far
Flogging a Dead Horse
Worst Jobs
Asteroid Alert
Eureka Years
The Man Who Missed Dinosaurs
The Sagger-maker's Bottom-knocker
The Master
Naming Nature
Albert Einstein
Environmental Scariness
Ancient Plastic Surgery
The Ancients
Gold in Them Thar Banks and Braes
Animal Magnetism
Panem et Circenses
That Spotty Old Sun
Telling Stories
Beethoven's Hair
A Blind Eye

Other articles

Thomas Crapper  
Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper, 1997
The birth of the bike 
Eureekaaargh!, 1999
Romans were streets ahead 
Daily Telegraph, November 2000
The Pioneers who Invented Progress 
Daily Telegraph, August 2001
A tough mistake
Chemistry Review, September 2001
At home and school in 1952 
The Times, June 2002
Newton and the rotten apple 
Daily Telegraph, 11 September 2002
World Toilet Day
Daily Telegraph, 19 November 2004




The Sagger-maker's Bottom-knocker

Do you remember those signs people used to put on their gates: NO CIRCULARS; NO HAWKERS? Circulars are now called junk mail or spam email, and a sign won’t keep them out, but what about hawkers? This week Radio 4 (xxxxx yyyyy zzzzz) revisits some curious old jobs, to find out how people actually earned their living a hundred years ago. According to the Daily News of 19 March 1895 a hawker was a man who travelled about selling goods with a horse and cart or a van, while a pedlar carried his goods himself. A pedlar’s licence cost five shillings (25p) from the police, but a hawker’s licence cost 2 from the Inland Revenue.

When Victoria came to the throne she brought with her the second half of the industrial revolution, and automation on a massive scale, which must have brought an end to dozens of time-honoured professions. Clearly even the Victorians would need grimbribbers (lawyers), piss-prophets (doctors who diagnosed your ills by inspecting your urine), and knocker-uppers, who went around the northern mill towns at dawn, banging on bedroom windows with long poles to wake the workers for the early shift. But would there ever again be a call for braggers (wool merchants) or bottomers (whose job down the mines was to lug the ore from the face to the bottom of the shaft for removal), and how about belly-builders (who made the insides of pianos), bummarees (middlemen in the fish trade), and wanters, who like Crocodile Dundee went fearlessly out catching moles?

Some of the jobs in these programmes are slightly obscure. Obviously a feather-curler spent his or her time curling feathers, perhaps to go in hats or pillows, but I can hardly wait to find out the day-to-day routine of a sagger-maker’s bottom-knocker. Saggers, as I am sure you know, were large containers of pottery – made from sagger clay – in which fine porcelain pieces were placed for protection while they were fired in the kiln. When you were making a set of delicate bone china cups and saucers, for example, you would not want to expose them directly to the fierce flames; so you put them in a sagger, which would moderate the heat, rather like a bain-marie for the gentlest baking of egg-custard in the oven. The sagger-maker must have made saggers, but the bottom-knocker? Well, your guess is as good as mine.


Page last updated: Friday, 19 October 2007 13:01