Old Trades, Jobs and Professions

Now that most of the items we buy seem to emerge from large factories and production lines we thought it might be nice to try and track down the names once given to jobs, trades and professions, particularly those associated with our countryside and rural landscape.

Some trades were obvious from their names, while others were rather obscure as you will see below. If you know of any more, or think there's a misinterpretation in our list please drop us an e-mail.

ALE-DRAPER - keeper of an ale-house.
ALNAGER - examiner of wool cloth for quality and measurement.
ARKWRIGHT - chest, box or coffer maker.
ASHBURNER - person who kibbled or burned lime for use on fields or iron-making. [Cumbria]
BANDSTER - sheaf binder.
BAXTER - baker.
BODGER - turned wooden furniture legs. Also maker of furniture in 'green wood' [Cumbria].
BOLTER - sifted meal.
BONDAGER - a female worker who worked in the fields as part of a tenancy agreement. Term confined to Northumberland and Scotland.
BOOT / SHOE CLICKER This was one of the skilled and best paid jobs in the shoe industry. A clicker CUT out the leather for the different parts that made up the shoe and the term comes from the sound made when carrying out the job.
BOTCHER - a tailor or cobbler who mends and repairs.
BOTTOM-SAWYER [and TOP] - refers to old sawing pits where timber was cut with long saws. The trunk was placed across the pit with one man standing above and the second below,
BROOM SQUIRES / SQUARERS - makers of brooms and besoms.
CHAPMAN - traders who bought and sold; usually buying in towns and selling to country folk.
CHEAPJACK - a travelling hawker who offered bargain tools, cutlery and utensils.
COOPER - an obvious one, this, as coopers are still around. They were/are makers and repairers of wooden casks and barrels.
COSTERMONGER - an appleseller, but widely used to describe people selling fruit, veg, and even fish, in the street.
DROVER - moved herds and flocks across the land to markets along drove roads [which are still visible in many upland areas]. The animals would rest at 'stances' and be collected at 'trysts' which sometimes developed into markets.
HIGGLER - bought dairy and poultry produce from country folk and - there are two theories here - either exchanged them for small goods, or sold them at market on behalf of the food producer.
HUFFLER - labourer who offered services to help a canal boat through a flight of locks.
HURDLER - in this case not the sportsman of the same name, but the maker of hazel, ash or willow fencing used for sheepfolds.
JAGGER - transported ore to smelters [18th century], also a hawker.
LEGGER - casual labourer who helped unpowered canal boats 'leg' through tunnels.
LENGTHSMAN - responsible for maintaining a piece of country road. Sometimes apparently called a Linesman.
MILLWRIGHT - a person who constructed windmills, set their sails, and dealt with all the mill's innards like the millstones, cogs and gears. It has also been pointed out that the term Millwright was also used to describe the mechanics who kept the woollen and cotton mills running and is still in use today in many factories - particluarly those in the North. In another instance we know the term 'Millwright' is still used to describe Machine Tool fitters and Boilermen.
MOUCHER - a sort of tramp-like figure who would harvest whatever the hedgerows had to offer and then sell this at market.
NEATHERD - cowherd.
PLEACHER - someone who lays hedges. Derived from the word 'pleach' which means to plait or interlace.
POT BOY - a youngster starting out in the gardening world whos job it was to sort, wash, clean and stack clay pots ready for use.
SWAIN - a shepherd, but in times of yore an attendant to a knight or servant.
TALLYMAN - collected installment payments for clothes and goods bought on credit... [the mind boggles at how many Tallymen would be required to deal with the equivalent of today's credit cards]
VAN DYKER - boatyard employee who did decorative painting.
WAINWRIGHT - builder and repairer of wagons.
WARRENER - a servant or employee who managed rabbit warrens for the meat and skins that they produced.
WHEELWRIGHT - as the name suggests. However, constructing a spoked wheel from wood was a real art.

If you know of any more trades names, or perhaps a local variation in your area of the country, please pop us an e-mail.

A visitor to the page came forward with the trade of SKIN DRESSER from 1901 and two possible explanations... Someone who specialised in top of the range leather working, or possibly the workman who shaved or pared leather, maybe in bookbinding. If you know please drop an e-mail.


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