In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before the widespread use of alarm clocks, knocker-uppers played an important role in waking people up for work in many cities, including East London. The job of a knocker-upper involved going door to door, using long sticks or pea shooters to tap on windows or throw peas at them, ensuring that individuals woke up on time.
One interesting aspect of East London’s knocker-uppers was their unique method of using peas to wake up oversleepers. This method was seen as a gentler alternative to forcefully knocking on windows, as peas hitting the glass would create a noticeable sound without causing damage. It was also a cost-effective solution for both the knocker-uppers and the people who hired them, as peas were inexpensive and readily available.
The knocker-uppers were typically reliable and punctual, making their rounds early in the morning to wake up factory workers, tradesmen, and others who needed to start their day early. Their services were especially crucial during the Industrial Revolution when many individuals relied on timely waking to maintain their employment.
While the advent of affordable alarm clocks eventually made the role of knocker-uppers obsolete, their unique profession holds historical significance. It is a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of individuals who found unconventional ways to meet the needs of their communities during a time when alarm clocks were not widely accessible or affordable.
The knocker-uppers of East London, with their pea-shooting techniques, were an integral part of the city’s social fabric, ensuring that people did not oversleep and risk losing their jobs. Their role provides a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life and routines of the past, as well as the innovative solutions people devised to address practical challenges.