Whilst most towns and cities around the UK use the tales of the bogeyman to frighten good behaviour out of their children. The parents of Leicestershire use the tale of the nine o’clock horses.
The amazing thing about the story is that the nine o’clock horses actually existed.
What is the Bogeyman?
The bogeyman (also spelled bogieman, boogeyman or boogie man) is a common allusion to a mythical creature in many cultures used by adults to frighten children into good behaviour.
It has no set appearance, gender or race. The monsters vary depending on the imagination of the child. And is mostly believed to appear from under the child’s bed or closet.
Parents may tell their children that if they misbehave, the bogeyman will get them.
The Bogeymen may target a specific mischief—for instance, a bogeyman that punishes children who will not go to sleep—or general misbehaviour, depending on what purpose needs serving at the time.
The Being will take many forms and names depending on which country you are from, and this is what makes Leicestershire unique.
The Midlands county in England uses the nine o’clock horses, who are based on historic fact.
What are the nine o’clock horses?
Local by-laws were strict in Victorian Leicester. One of these by-laws was that household waste must only be collected after 9 o’clock at night.
This household rubbish included human and animal waste.
Farm labourers carried out this unpleasant task. They would descend on the city in their hundreds on horse and cart every night to collect this waste to use as manure for the local farms.
Waste problems in Leicester.
Leicester before the 20th century would throw their domestic waste into ditches and gutters. They would also stockpile it in their backyards (if you were lucky enough to have one) or place it in communal neighbourhood yards.
Human waste was treated just like any other ordinary domestic waste and usually joined the same piles and awaited collection.
As a result of this “stock piling”, along with local industry and businesses doing the same, local ditches became blocked and the River Soar that flows through the city became the main sewer outlet.
With the population growth the city was seeing at the time, disease and death was rife in the due to these conditions.
What happened to the waste?
Leicester didn’t developed a decent sewer system until the end of the 19th century. So local farmers collected the human and animal waste for use as manure. Spreading it on their lands.
In the night, farm labourers would come into a city to collect waste products to use as manure on the surrounding farmland. They were the “Night Soil Men”.
Due to the town’s by-laws, the “Night Soil Men” could not come into the City to collect the waste until after nine o’clock at night.
They would travel from the countryside into Leicester on horse-drawn carts. Scavenging the streets looking for animal and human waste.
Sometimes the men would pay for the waste, but this had to be the best quality, well-rotted down and ready to be used immediately.
The reason for the tale being told was not only the fear from the sounds and sights of these men and their horses but the rumor that they took children wandering the streets after nine and took them back as cheap labour for the farm.
There could be truth in this. At the time people were moving out of the countryside into the city to earn their fortune. Farm labour was scarce and child labour was cheap. Any child caught wandering the streets of the city could be collected and taken back to farms as a labourer. The pay for child farm labourers was just basic food and accommodation.
Remember all children should be safely tucked up in bed by 9 o’clock, so that the 9 o’Clock Horses won’t get them!
Night Soil Men
Here is a story (how true it is I will leave you to judge) about a couple of Night Soil Men collecting the waste one night.
“It was a warm night and one of the men had taken his coat off and placed it on the cart’s driving seat. Loading was proceeding well and they had a full cart load of good quality manure. There was still more to be had so they decide to load the cart some more. All of a sudden the horses were startled. The man’s coat fell off his seat and into the back of the cart. Without hesitation the man climbed into the back of the cart to retrieve his coat. His mate then asked “Surely you are not going to wear that again.” To which he replied “No, But my sandwiches are in the pocket”.”
If you are interested in the darker side of Leicester’s history then check out this book on Amazon. (Click on the image or link below)
“Within the pages of this book are some of the most notorious and often baffling cases in Leicestershire’s history. From the appalling double murder at Melton Mowbray in 1856, known locally as the Peppermint Billy murders, to the 1953 murderer Joseph Reynolds who killed because he wanted to know how it felt. This book explores the cases that dominated the headlines, not only across the city and surrounding county but also nationwide.”
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