Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Talley man


Talking about adopting children has anyone heard of a functionary known as the Talley man? Apparently, he was sent in to the slums of Liverpool to count the number of children living in a house and if there were more than there should be, he took them away, presumably for them to be adopted or sent to the workhouse

Sonia Morris


  1. Hello Sonia,

    my understanding of a Talley Man was someone who was a travelling salesman for a firm specialising in hire-purchase. They sold bedding and clothing door to door and collected the payments weekly.

    In poorer parts of England (including the North of the country and East End), the tallyman was a common sight and visited each week to collect the payments for goods purchased on the never never, or hire purchase. These people still had such employ up until the 1960s.

    Another definition is a person who called to literally do a head count, presumably on behalf of either the town council or the house owners. This is rumoured to have occurred in Liverpool, in the years after the first world war.

    Rob Ainsworth
    Liverpool History Society

  2. When Liverpool city centre was full of unsanitary and overcrowded courts in Victorian times and beyond, Dr Duncan and his associates identified the courts as the prime cause of the diseases rife in the city. He pointed out three main culprits which were lack of hygiene pertaining to toilets and washing, lack of hygiene pertaining to rubbish removal and not least --overcrowding.
    The thousands of ubiquitous two-up and two-down houses which swamped the city from the late Victorian era up until the 1960s were the direct result of Dr Duncan's researches. The two-up and two-down terraced houses each had their own water supply and each home had its own outside toilet and they had a municipal weekly rubbish removal. The answer to the overcrowding problem lay in the formation of a staff of municipal oficers called Tallymen who visited houses usually in the night to make sure that there were never too many people sleeping in any given house. Although it was a well intentioned move on the part of the City Council, the Tallyman became an object of fear and was soon stood down in favour of a more humane system.
    The word was then attached to men who collected "Tontine" or weekly debts in the era of buying "on the drip".
    See "The Light of Other Days" for a comprehensive history of Liverpool 7 including the terraced two-up and two-down era house era

  3. In your comments about the Tallyman and the removal of persons if there were too many sleeping in a given house. Is there any known relationship between this and the massive child migration of the 19th and early 20th century from Liverpool It appears there were charities set up to relocate ophan and vagrant children. Even as a child in the 1950s,I can remember the threat of "the tallyman will get you if you are not good".

  4. My Granddad told us stories in Liverpool of the Tallyman, and the removal of children because of overcrowding. He said that when he was seen in the streets and knocked on the door the parents pass the extra children over the back-yard wall to the neighbours then back again with their children, when he went next door. It was later on that the debt collectors got the name, Tallyman!