Mr. Dodd’s dust-yard, illustration from the book Journeys through London, or, byways of modern Babylon by James Greenwood, undated, c.1873
Greenwood describes the dust-yard as being ‘as near as I could guess, about a hundred and fifty feet wide and seventy broad, one end opening on to the main street and the other to the Regent’s Canal. Flanking one side of the yard were a score or so of upreared dustcarts, and on the other side, extending almost from the outer gate to the water’s brink, were great mounds of ordinary dustbin muck; and in the midst of the mounds - literally, so that in many cases part only of their bodies were visible - were thirty or forty women and girls’. Each woman was sifting through the rubbish, and most of them ‘wore coarse, fingerless gloves, and all of them had great lace-up boots, such as carmen wear, and great sackcloth aprons, such as few carmen would care to be burdened with.
Oh, just like in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend!
… And Barbara’s mother beat her umbrella to the floor until it was nearly worn down to the gingham.
Hablot Browne, from Master Humphrey’s clock, by Charles Dickens, London, 1840.