In the fork of the two railways, in a road just beyond the
buildings & near Blue Anchor lane, a dreary lonely way, I met a very strange
looking girl, without a bonnet or a shawl, wearing a soiled ragged gown, and
boots to match; having her arms hare, & her throat wrapped up in flannel; for
she was very hoarse. A tall hulking wench of eighteen, rolling along like a
sailor . . .
C onsidering her in vain, I asked her if she worked in the market gardens. No, she did not, she answered civilly. Then, said I, what is your trade? 'Sir', she meekly replied, looking me straight in the face, 'I scrapes trotters'. The answer was so comic and the speaker so serious, that I hardly forbore to laugh: but perceiving that this was a find', I went on to ask particulars. The trotter-scraping institution was close by, and full in sight: a group of low wooden buildings, standing suspiciously alone in the field. And straightway a second girl, of the same age, came out of it and joined us . . . she was a stout buxom lass, rosy and healthy; with wavy black hair, & bright eyes, and pleasant sprightly face.
I learnt from her (and afterwards from the toll-keeper near) that these Works are Glue, Offal, Bone, works, & belong to a Mr. Brier or Bryant: and that forty or fifty girls and women are employed there. 'We scrapes' said this belle of the Boneworks, 'not only trotters, but also bullocks' feet, Sir, and horses' feet. We scrapes the hair off 'em, and steeps 'em in lime, & prepares the hoofs. We makes a place in the lime for ourselves to sit down in: it do burn one's clothes so (this is lime on my frock), - and we has to wear these old boots': and she held up her prodigious chaussure. And is it nice work? 'Well Sir, it's nice for them as likes it': & she, for all her comeliness, seemed to be one of them.
We earn two shillings a week, but you can earn as much as three: it's piece- work, and we begin about 8 or 9 of a morning, & leave off when the foreman lets us.
The smallness of the wage seemed almost incredible: but each girl stated it thus, out of hearing of the other . . .
Arthur Munby, Diary, 27 May 1864