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
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.
Charles St. and North St.