Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

The Night Soil Men

Sanitation as we know it today is a relatively modern thing. In many towns, sewers were not laid to all of the houses until well into the 1920's. When George was young, their toilet was just a hole in a wooden board with a metal container below, which of course had to be emptied and the contents disposed of.

We used to have 2 or 3 toilets to 5 or 6 houses. One board with a hole cut in and a big galvanised tank with 2 handles, underneath. They used to come every so often to empty it. They would come in rough sort of clothes, rough sort of blokes, they'd come with their horse and cart. It was just an open cart, you see, with roll-up waterproof covers. It would carry about 10 of these things. They would put a big hook on and drag them across the yard. It was a big yard, the things used to come over bricks and there was nothing made on the level, just up and down. They had got to drag them down the entry. They used to overspill and it would be all over the floor. Two men would lift them onto the cart and when it had got the 10 or 12 vessels in, they used to drive it through the main street and down to Crown Street, where they were emptied. 

The Junction pub that was on the corner of Cannock Road. Photo courtesy of Eardley Lewis.

There was a big field there, by the canal, where they emptied a lot of them. Naturally it developed a lot of maggots. Blokes couldn't afford maggots to go fishing and they used to go there to get them.

I went there as a kid, my dad was with me, so he must have been getting them as well. We used to go fresh water fishing.

That was something you used to enjoy. We used to bring the fish home and cook them. We got the maggots free of charge, otherwise you had to pay 4d for a tin of maggots at Shakespeare's.

On night, one bloke went the wrong way and fell into the whatsit, up to his arms in it. They pulled him out and he stank terrible, so they said "We can't do nothing with you" and dragged him, and threw him in the cut. They got him out and took him home. That was down the bottom of Crown Street. Of course the Corporation was in Crown Street, where all of the factories are now.

The first water toilet we had was down a kind of a well. It was about ten feet down and was what they called an offset tip. It was a cylindrical vessel at the bottom that was unevenly balanced so that when it eventually filled up with water, it would tip itself into a sump, which they had got to empty eventually. That was our first water toilet. All your ashes and things used to be thrown into a big hole in the side of the wall and blokes used to have to come and shovel them out. The ashes were shovelled into baskets that they carried across the yard on their heads, down the entry and were tipped into the ash cart. The ashes were also taken to Crown Street. You had to pay them to take them away. Youngsters don't know what they have missed.

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