Jobs In The Victorian Era: A to Z

Jobs In The Victorian Era: A to Z

A cart selling strawberries

One can’t help but be fascinated by the occupations that existed in the Victorian era many of which bear little resemblance to the career options of today.

In 1876, renowned British photographer John Thompson recorded hundreds of thousands of captivating images depicting everyday life amidst the dawning of the industrial age.

The Daily Mail describes how Thompson, accompanied by writer Adolphe Smith, trawled the streets of London interviewing and photographing people for Street Life in London magazine. “The pictures, now stored at the Bishopsgate Institute, capture the lives of street beggars, chimney sweeps, street doctors and market sellers among many others.”

In geneology, it’s common to discover obscure occupations and those from the Victorian era are especially interesting. I thought I’d share with you some favourites courtesy of The 1891 ‘London Census’ Transcription

  • Ashman – Dustman, or Refuse Collector. Also someone who cleans the ashes from a boiler.
  • Beadsman – A person employed to pray for his employer, or the inhabitant of an almshouse, poorhouse or hospital
  • Claker – A magician or astrologer
  • Dog Whipper – When foxes were hunted for bounty the tail of the fox was nailed to the church door as proof of capture. The Dog Whipper was employed to deal with the dogs which disrupted the church service, attracted by the tails.
  • Expressman – One who delivered mail
  • Faker – Photographic assistant who added colour to photographs by hand before colour film was available
  • Groundsel & Chickweed Seller – A street seller of common weeds, used to feed pet song-birds
  • Hoggard – A pig drover
  • Iceman – A seller or deliverer of ice
  • Jouster – A fish monger, usually a female hawker of fish, travelling from town to town.
  • Knocker-Up – A person employed to wake up workers in northern mills and factories on early shifts, going from house to house using a long pole to knock on bedroom windows.
  • Linkerboy or Linkerman – Someone who carried a link or torch to guide people through the streets at night for a small fee, or a general manservant
  • Marshall – A horse doctor or shoesmith. Alternative definition, a horse servant or groom
  • Night Soilman – one who emptied cesspits, ashpits and backyard toilets
  • Oilman -One who sold oil for lamps
  • Phrenologist – Someone who claimed to be able to assess a person’s character based on the bumps on their head
  • Quister – Someone who bleached things
  • Rag Cutter – cut up rags into small pieces to be used for making paper etc
  • Soper – A soap maker
  • Town Husband – Someone employed by the parish to collect money from the fathers of illegitimate children for their upkeep.
  • Upright Worker – A chimney sweep
  • Venator – A huntsman
  • Wainwright – A builder or repairer of wagons
  • Xylographer – Someone who used and made wooden blocks used in printing illustrations
  • Yeoman – A farmer who owns his own land; a freeholder, the next class down from gentry, or an assistant to an official, or a ships officer in charge of stores
  • Zitherist– A player of a simple, flat many-stringed instrument


Do you have an interesting Victorian era occupation you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below.

Lisa LaRue is a registered Career Coach at CareerWorx with more than 20 years’ experience helping people plan, manage and find happiness in their careers.

Lisa LaRue
No Comments

Post A Comment