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Cutting Brooms

Cutting brooms involved cutting the stems and fronds of suitable trees or bushes to make brooms and scrubbing brushes for keeping the ship clean.

More often than not shore parties charged with cutting brooms worked under the direction of the carpenter’s mate, who could assess which trees or bushes would likely yield the best stems for broom handles and fronds most likely to make a good brush when dried.

When eighteenth century ships’ parties went ashore to collect water and plants thought to prevent scurvy they were commonly also instructed to cut brooms.

Few English naval captains failed to ensure that all parts of their ship were kept as clean as possible. When men of a watch were not actively engaged in working the ship they set to washing, scrubbing and sweeping above and below decks. This was largely because received medical wisdom held the principal cause of disease aboard ship to be foul air, arising from accumulated dirt and filth. However, captains equally believed that idleness bred mischief. And keeping men on watch not otherwise occupied busy by sweeping and scrubbing the ship was seen by many as essential to preserving shipboard discipline.


Prepared by: Turnbull, P.
Created: 28 October 2001
Modified: 1 December 2001

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000109

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