Sarah Wise
Happy Eliza

Welcome to my website, which I’m filling up with some of the nuggets I found while at work on the dustheaps of historical remains. Here I am in 1905, photographed at a north London ‘dust-yard’. The nickname for us is ‘fairies’ – the women who sort the city’s rubbish in search of valuable materials to salvage and re-use. Jewellery and coins often turn up, and each day around 4d worth of coal, and . . .

Not really – but this picture reminds me more than any other of how I often feel (and look) at work – sifting, sifting, always searching.* In my travels through the archives, I have found mini-mountains of stuff that I couldn’t make use of in my three books, but which deserves to be rescued and put back into circulation. I hope you enjoy the salvaged material. I’m happy for you to make use of it, but please take the trouble to give credit where it’s due if you do want to quote the research in these pages – it’s only good manners, after all, and we fairies are very well-brought-up. . .

* The picture of the ‘fairy’ called Happy Eliza was taken for the London City Mission Magazine’s April 1905 edition, at the Hertford Road dust-yard, on the Shoreditch/Dalston border. The fairies sifted the piles shovelled into their sieves by the ‘bobblers’ – the men who did the spade work at the yards.