It wasn't until the beginning of the 1920s that alarm clocks became readily available, in any kind of reliable form, so how was it that the hard-working people of Ireland and Britain managed to get up in time for work every morning?

The answer is the knocker-upper!

The knocker-up went door to door, literally using a baton or short, heavy stick to knock on their client's doors or using a long stick, often made of bamboo, would tap on the higher windows of the houses.

At least one knocker-upper, a woman called Mary Smith, used a pea-shooter (see below!) The knocker-up would not leave the house until their client was roused.

In the larger industrial cities, such as London and Manchester, there were large numbers of people employed to carry out this role.

Generally, the job was carried out by older men and women but sometimes police constables would supplement their pay by multi-tasking during their morning patrols.

Alternatively, larger factories and mills would employ their own knocker-up to ensure employees made it to work on time.

Although the clock was certainly the main replacement from the 1920s the BBC reports that until the 1950s and even '70s the knocker-upper's work continued in part of Britain. 

Next time your alarm clock goes off spare a thought for the knocker-uppers and think of how far technology has come!

*Originally published in Aug 2019. Updated in 2023.