Wessex Women

Granny Cousins, Poole's earliest alarm clock!

Objects from: Poole Museum

Granny Cousins walked the streets of Poole in the early hours, using her long pole to tap on windows and wake up the workers. 

An early morning alarm

Caroline Jane Bartlett, affectionately named Granny Cousins, was a ‘knocker-upper’. Her job was to wake the workers of Poole from their sleep by tapping on their windows with a long pole. 

Every morning, she walked the streets of Poole, winding her way through all the alleyways of the quay and old town. She was paid a pitiful threepence a week for her labours (equal to approximately £1 now).

A hard but long life

Caroline was born in the mid 1800s, although records of her birth are unclear.  She married Joseph Cousins in Morden, in 1863. 

When Joseph died in 1880,  he left Caroline in desperate circumstances. Together with her sons, Thomas and Solomon, and daughter Dinah Fanny, she moved to the Union Workhouse in Wareham.

Records show that by 1891, she was living in Scaplens Yard (Scaplen’s Court, beside Poole Museum). Caroline died in 1927 aged between 80-90 years. 

Women workers in Poole

Data collected in the census between 1841 and 1911 shows that the women of Poole were employed in typical jobs, such as servants, charwomen, shopkeepers, bakers, grocers, butchers, milliners, dressmakers and governesses.

But the whole picture was more diverse. They were also anchor-smiths, tin-plate workers, ship-owners, inn keepers, confectioners, boot-binders, midwives, clerks, clay cutters and coach builders – to name but a few things.

Lantern and bonnet

The objects chosen to tell the story of Granny Cousins are a lantern and bonnet (shown below). Both are of the late Victorian/Edwardian period, and of the type she is shown wearing in various photographs.

She would have also carried a whistle with which she could hail the police if anyone attempted to assault her.

Black and white photo of a group of people, Granny Cousins in the foreground.
Group with Granny Cousins in centre front.
Granny Cousins funeral
Coffin in a glass-sided, horse-drawn hearse. Reputed to be the funeral of Granny Cousins.
Black and white photo of Granny Cousins wearing her trademark bonnet and carrying her pole.
Granny Cousins, wearing bonnet and carrying lantern and pole.
Replica Victorian lantern.
Late Victorian/Edwardian lantern as carried by Granny Cousins.
Replica of Victorian bonnet worn by Granny Cousins.
Late Victorian/Edwardian bonnet as worn by Granny Cousins.