The terrible tale of the Night soil collector

Surely one of the worst jobs in history was that of the Night soil collector. As you may well have gathered, the term night soil is not about simply digging up dirt in the middle of the night. The term night soil refers to human waste, and untreated human waste at that. From the seventeenth century onwards it became clear to urban populations at least that human waste was a carry for disease and other illness. Sanitation and the removal of human waste was starting to become an issue. With the development of drainage, cess pits and sanitation human waste was collected at certain places outside of the cities and towns. This created a money making opportunity.

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The night soil men would collect the waste either directly from you or from communal pits. A sense of smell was not one of the required skills. In fact, a complete lack of it was prefered.  This waste was then turned into highly nutritious fertiliser to arable crops. We still do this today albeit the process is now automated and mechanised. Modern methods also remove any of the harmful elements that you get in human waste. Even then it’s now only recommended for non edible plant growth use.

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However for a time these noble collectors were a vital part of the city or towns health. In much the same way that the modern Office Cleaning Forest of Dean way is. The service they provided helped to keep away the worst problems that human waste can cause while putting themselves at considerable risk.

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