Beyond History Blog

The Secrets of the Night’s King

Avatar of Andrea Bentschneider Andrea Bentschneider - 25. August 2015 - General, Professions, Traditions

When working with historical records and church book entries, unfamiliar professional titles let you pause and leave you puzzled regularly. Often the titles refer to occupations that don’t exist anymore or whose names have simply changed: The “oeconomus” for example might be called janitor, or, in a more modern way, facility manager today.

Between spoonfacturers, bucketmakers and pigtraders pretty paraphrases can be found that are quite entertaining once you get behind their meaning. What would you guess used to be the “Goldgraeber’s” (gold digger’s) job? On the contrary to the obvious expectation that this person was looking for gold, his job was rather unpleasant. Just like the so-called “Heimlichkeitsfeger” (secrecy sweeper) he was ordered to clear the streets from filth and faeces.

In the late middle and early modern ages, when water pipelines and sewerage were yet to be established, this job was crucial to reduce the risk of spreading diseases and for the sake of the horrible smell the streets must have had. The “Nightmaster” or “Night’s King” had the same job. Was it mockery or recognition that got these names established? We’ll never know. Thanks to toilets and sewage systems, gold diggers today are only searching for shiny things. And we are looking forward to find more bizarre professions in historical records…

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