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The weird names of Victorian occupations

In my previous blogs I’ve mostly talked about the women. They are the stalwarts of the time: staunch, loyal and committed. But let’s talk about some of the occupations their menfolk undertook to feed the household.

Do you know what a cordwainer was? It’s similar to a snobscat. Or a cooper, or bodger? No…?

Then I’ll let you into the secret – I promise, you have used them all – although it’s not much of a secret when you can look them all up on Jane Hewitt’s extensive and detailed website. It’s deciphering the writing that is the hardest part when you have no idea what the word should be.

Are you still with me? Or did you get lost following the numerous links for words you’ve probably never heard of?

Here’s another few for you to puzzle over.

There were any number of endholdernn along The Back where the trows lined up.

Confused? You wouldn’t be if you lived in Victorian, England.

Shall I put you out of your misery?

You know those lovely, soft leather boots and shoes you wear – they were made by a cordwainer or a snobscat and maintained and repaired by a cobbler.

Fortunately, you probably never had to manhandled anything a cooper made, but if you’ve ever had an ale with a head on it, a good wine aged in oak, or a good whisky (or many other barrel-fermented spirits), then you can thank the cooper for the barrels. And to save you from falling down when you’ve had a drop too much of the distiller’s product, the chair you collapsed into was made by your local bodger.

If you’ve been reading my earlier blogs, you might remember the mention of licensed victuallers who were people who purchased a license through the Brewster Session to operate houses where alcoholic beverages.was sold. Interestingly, many of those license holders were women.

Over the centuries the descriptions of these houses has changed, but there were four main styles.Those with and without accommodation, and those with full licenses and partial licenses (see below).

Believe it or not an endholdernn was an innkeeper or publican. In Bristol in the mid 1800s, pubs lined the backs (wharves) where the trows (a type of flat-bottomed cargo boat with a mast that could be lowered to go under bridges) were towed by the bow hauliers.

Since the Severn was tidal, when the water levels were low, innkeepers would hire bow hauliers who had a contract with the captains to ensure right of way to bring the boats outside their establishment.

So there you have it… a publican runs a pub when it’s a pub except when it isn’t.

Needless to say, this is all research for the next book and a new series. Watch this space for more information. In the meantime, similar stories inspired the New Zealand Immigrant Collection.


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