28 February 2020

A "knocker-upper" at work

A knocker-up (sometimes known as a knocker-upper) was a profession in England and Ireland that started during and lasted well into the Industrial Revolution and at least as late as the 1920s, before alarm clocks were affordable or reliable. A knocker-up's job was to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time.

The knocker-up used a truncheon or short, heavy stick to knock on the clients' doors or a long and light stick, often made of bamboo, to reach windows on higher floors. At least one of them used a pea-shooter. In return, the knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week. The knocker-up would not leave a client's window until they were sure that the client had been awoken.

A knocker upper would also use a 'snuffer outer' as a tool to rouse the sleeping. This implement was used to put out gas lamps which were lit at dusk and then needed to be extinguished at dawn.
Photo source unknown, via British Paintings.

Reposted from 2014 to add this image of a knocker-upper using a peashooter:


  1. My mum remembers knocker uppers in Stockport, Cheshire in the 1930s.

  2. My husband's dad, a Canadian, was posted in England in the army during the Second World War, and started dating a pretty young British girl (who later became my husband's mum). One time, after an evening out, Olive said to Ken, "Come knock me up in the morning." His jaw dropped, along with those of all his envious friends.

  3. An old man who started work on the railway in Swindon in the 1950s told me that 'not long before he started there had still been knocker-uppers'. Apparently some of them, seemingly none too professional, would throw small stones at upper floor windows.

  4. There was still one working for the railways in Manchester in the late seventies apparently

  5. My mom's grandfather used to light and turn down the gas lamps on the street, I wonder if he did some knocking too?


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