Plumbing In the year 1867

A Plumber in the Year 1867

Opening a window into plumbing history…

   What was it like to be a plumber over a hundred years ago? Here is a brief look into the past of what is was like to be a plumber in Victoria when the city was beginning to grow. 


The Walk to Work

Most plumbers lived close enough to walk, and the plumbers at this time were known to show up pretty quickly to your home or business when work opened up. There were no cars, only horses. The walk to work was typically a struggle because you walk around the large quantity of horse manure that was caked over every street. It’s estimated that this horse manure came out to 5 tons per square KM. There were also occasionally carcasses of dead horses lying in the streets that would remain there for days until the city came to clean it up.

At Work

Upon arrival at work, if you weren’t sent to start a large project somewhere in or around town, you handled three orders a day as a service plumber. You would receive your three work orders at the beginning of the day and be accompanied by two labourers. The labourers would push a wheelbarrow full of fittings and tools and walk with you to each job. You made three trips back to your supply yard for parts. If you came back a fourth time you were sent directly home for the day, and more than likely replaced with another plumber who had been waiting for employment.


Lunch for the working man consisted of either cornmeal or white potatoes . Fruits were usually missing from the Canadian diet during this time period because of how fast they would spoil, with the exception of apples. Some workers would spoil themselves with a piece of chocolate or tea.

“The art and practice of indoor plumbing took nearly a century to develop, starting in about the 1840s.”

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