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Rat Catcher

Rat Catcher

Rat-catchers were employed in England to control rat populations. Keeping the rat population under control was practiced in Europe to prevent the spread of diseases to man, most notoriously the Black Plague and to prevent damage to food supplies. … Payment would be high for catching and selling rats to breeders.

Rat breeding resulted not only in higher pay for rat-catchers, but also in the popularity of what were called “fancy rats.” Fancy rats were, basically, pet rats that fancy, rich Victorians would keep in gilded cages. A man named Jack Black was most famous for breeding unusually colored rats and selling these designer vermin as pets to the likes of Beatrix Potter and Queen Victoria.

Many children preferred catching rats to cleaning chimneys, working in coal mines, or hawking wares. One reason rat catching was popular with the youth was because it was lucrative. De-ratting English manors and businesses earned rat catchers wages that ranged from two shillings to one pound. However, because rat catchers had to make an investment and at least own a terrier or a ferret, many rat catchers were older youths. Rat catchers caught rats by hand, attracting them by rubbing a mixture of sweet-smelling oils on their hands and rummaging around in haystacks.

In Victorian England the rich ate rats, one dish on the menu was a recipe for grilled rats, Bordeaux-style, calls for the use of alcoholic rats who live in wine cellars. These rats are skinned and eviscerated, brushed with a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots, and grilled over a fire of broken wine barrels

Many farmers in the countryside employed rat catchers. In 1844 George Lacock a rat catcher pleaded guilty to the charge of killing a hare. It appears he was employed by a farmer of Felmingham, to destroy the rats on his farm, when, on searching the banks, adjoining Mr Hyltons land, a hare was started and killed by Lacocks dog for which he was sentenced to pay a fine of 5s.

In the Lynn News in 1919 it was reported that the salary of Mr A Ketteringham as a rat catcher has been increased to 20s per week, on the understanding that he submits a weekly report on the work done.

At the meeting of the Lynn town council in 1924 rats were the topic of conversation. They were trying to find out who was in charge of having the rats killed, Mr Lock said “I say whoever it is done by should do it efficiently. We should see that someone exterminates these rats. In two cases in which I know, the rats work from our old calverts. What is a woman to do who has property and is served with a notice to exterminate rats? We ought to have a man on the spot doing the work. It is our business. We have to appoint someone on the docks.”

Did you have any rat catchers in the family?

Source: Find M Family

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