A Lift Operater on the London Underground. London, Centre, - c1910. TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

By Mark McConville


STUNNING pictures have revealed some of Britain’s forgotten occupations which became obsolete or less common as the job market changed.

Wheelwrights at Work. c1890.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


The incredible images show a life operator on the London Underground around 1910, children selling newspapers on the street in London and workers operating machinery at a cotton mill in 1906.

Workers at machinery in a cotton mill, c1906.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


Other striking shots show salt workers on a mine train, a group of pillow lace makers around 1900 and a lamp lighter in Warrington.

TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


Throughout the course of history, as technology has advanced or society has moved in a different direction, jobs have always become obsolete.

Cockle Gatherers on the Beach. – Llanstephen, – c1890.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


There has simply been no need for people to perform jobs that a machine could now do or where demand for that service has vanished.

A Picture Palace Barker With His Drum. – OCCUPATIONS c1904.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


A 2017 Oxford study found that all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years.

A man uses stilts for the stringing of the hop poles . 1937.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


This projected loss of jobs has been attributed to advancing technology where machines will continue to replace the jobs of humans.

Hop picking in Paddock Wood Kent, one of John Topham’s key images. 7 September 1962.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


Mechanisation has always cost humans their jobs. The mechanical loom for instance put weavers out of business, but it’s also created jobs. Mechanics had to keep the machines going, machinists had to make parts for them, and workers had to attend to them, and so on.

TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


A lot of times those in one profession could pivot to another. At the beginning of the 20th century for instance, automobiles were putting blacksmiths out of business. Who needed horseshoes anymore? But they soon became mechanics. And who was better suited?

Workers From Brock’s Firework Factory Holding Giant Fireworks. – London, Cheam, – 1930.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


The middle class is apparently most at risk in the coming technological revolution as computers will be able to perform those tasks more efficiently and at a cheaper cost.

A Milkman With His Cart. – London, Norwood, – 1923. TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com


According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyse and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient.


Salt Workers on a Mine Train. c1927.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com