Tuesday 27 February 2007


scavengers DUST-HEAPS

The Victorian dust-heap has long been of interest to scholars through it's literary place in Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. We are now very keen in recycling as a society, of course, and the Victorian system of rubbish-sifting seems very "green" to modern readers, albeit tainted by the poverty-stricken lives of the scavengers involved. These days, of course, we outsource some of our scavenge-able waste to third-world countries, where they can do our scavenging/recycling for us, in conditions not dissimilar to those described herein, in an 1850s piece from Household Words, to which I've added other links on the subject.


  1. In the 19th century, dog waste was known as 'pure,' and collected for the tanning industry, I believe. I've always wondered why it was called 'pure.' Pure what? The imagination boggles. :-)

  2. The ash and cinder waste went to the brick makers; its addition to the brickearth made the burning process more efficient. In earlier centuries 1670=1770-? it was called 'spanish'.. does anyone know why this particular waste materiasl was called 'spanish'?