Old Occupations

Our ancestors did many jobs. Some that still exist and some that do not. Here is a list that may be of some help to you. It is not a complete list but contains many of the jobs that Manchester was known for. It also includes a few terms that you might find in the census.


Ag Lab agricultural labourer (worked on a farm)
Annuitant you may see this term if you are looking on a census. This refers to a person who receives benefits (money) from an Annuity. An annuity was a bit like an insurance policy. Money was paid into an account by a person at regular intervals for a certain period of time (usually the lifetime of that person) and in return when that person died a lump sum was paid out usually to their spouse or partner. That person then always had some money to live on as there was no help financially from the government.
Apprentice trainees bound by a contract to a skilled worker known as a Master or to a Company for a specified time to learn a trade. This was usually for seven years. Many trades had apprentices.
Bleacher a worker who whitened the fabric. May have worked in a mill or for a specialist bleaching company.
Carder carding is the preparation of raw wool and cotton for weaving by removing the knots and tangles. This job was originally done by hand, but later by a carding machine. A carder was normally an experienced worker. If the job was done poorly it was not possible to put right any mistakes and the wool or cotton would then be wasted.
Charwoman a woman who did odd jobs around the house, generally a cleaner. Hired by the day.
Chemical worker someone working in the chemical industry
Coal miner worker in a coal mine. You may also see the term “collier”.
Coal drawer person who worked in the mines pushing or dragging the coat carts to the bottom of the shaft.
Coal heaver person who moved coal from boat to shore or from shore to boat.
Cotton piecers in a cotton mill would repair broken treads on spinning machines. This job was often done by children.
Cotton warper  this was a cotton mill loom worker who prepared the first stages of weaving the yarn.
Cotton winder  a cotton mill worker who wound the thread onto weaving looms
Felter person who worked with a fabric called “felt” in the hat industry
Fettler cleaned the machinery in the woollen mills (also variations of “Fettler’s” in silk & cotton weaving industries)
FWK framework knitter. Framework knitting was the process used to make woollen stockings.
FS female servant
Grinder Grinders worked in the Carding section of the Mill. The term can also apply to various engineering jobs.
Hatter someone who made or sold hats
Labourer did general manual labouring jobs.
Lamp lighter employed to go around the streets and light the gas street lamps. They used a pole to do this job. They might also wake people up for work (called a "knocker-up") as most people had no clocks or watches.
Milner worker in a Miln (Mill)
Milliner someone who makes or sells hats for women
MS male servant
  Spinner the person who spun the yarn that was made into cloth. Sometimes cotton spinner/mule spinner


  Stripper worked in the carding section of the Mill.


  Smith any type of metal worker. Could be a blacksmith or engine smith. A whitesmith (or tinsmith) made buckets, bowls, jugs and other items from tinplate.


  Tanner cured animal hides for making leather goods


  Weaver a weaver operates a loom that makes cloth. There were many types of weavers  There were weavers of wool, silk and cotton. Originally they used hand looms but later the looms were driven by machinery. Other workers in the weaving industry might be known as piecers or doffers. Sometime also known as a “webster”.


  Wire drawer


made wire by drawing the hot metal through dies


  Yeoman freehold farmer (owned the property). A tenant farmer did not own his property he would only rent it.