How-To Geek


In 18th Century, Human Alarm Clocks Employed In Britain Were Known As?
Bell Boys
Whistle Chicks

Answer: Knocker-Uppers

Long before the advent of reliable and inexpensive mechanical alarm clocks and even longer before the days of customizable smartphone alarm ring tones, there was a long-since-vanished profession: the knocker-upper. The profession emerged in the early years of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. The increase in factory work (and the time tables that factories ran on) made it increasingly important for workers to rise by a certain (and specific) time in order to wash, eat, and arrive at work for the start of their shift. Clocks were expensive and alarm clocks designed specifically to rouse the owner at a certain hour weren’t cheap (nor were they particularly reliable).

Instead, workers across the British Isles relied on knocker-uppers. Human alarm clocks that would, in the early hours of each working day, knock on doors, tap on windows, and otherwise serve as a wake up call to drag weary workers from bed. The role was typically filled by people already up before dawn and willing to rap on some window panes for a few extra pence per week. The task was commonly undertaken by police constables (as they were already walking the beat in the early morning and passing by the homes of the workers), by the lamp lighters (who were up early in the morning to extinguish the gas lights that lined the streets and their lamp extinguisher was a handy tool to reach up and tap on windows), or by elderly women and men who rose early and benefited from the extra income.

The tradition proved to be particularly long lived. Knock-uppers first appeared around the 1760s and the profession persisted well into the 1920s in the more heavily industrialized regions of England.