Posts Tagged ‘washing’

A clothes drainer

August 8, 2014

Our curator recalls that his mum used to spend hours at a kitchen sink hand washing clothes. Our archivist remembers that her mum used a dolly tub and posser. The way we wash clothes has changed out of all recognition in a short time – if you call fifty to sixty years a short time.

Today we are looking at an item which dates back more than 120 years. It is really part of history, and yet the reason for having such an object is really very obvious. It is a simple wooden rack.

An 1880s clothes draining rack at Market Lavington Museum

An 1880s clothes draining rack at Market Lavington Museum

Here, the 19th century rack is placed over a galvanised basin, but more probably it would have been over a copper. Clothes removed from the copper could be placed on the rack to drain. The advantages are obvious. The hot water was reused and whilst some heat would have been lost, much of the heat energy was returned to where it was wanted. The other benefit was that the water didn’t end up on the floor or anywhere else.

It’s a simple device and provides a good solution to a washday problem.

The rack came from Mr Joe Wells whose mother and grandmother ran the laundry at Sands Farm in Easterton. Joe’s mother had been Ann Fidler, born in Easterton and his grandmother had been born as Ann Hopkins in about 1839.

This item is on display in the washday area of our museum kitchen.


Wash ewer here!

August 5, 2013

Yes, we have a wash bowl and ewer here. They were used at Crossways, a house on the King’s Road in the past.

Apparently the house had rather primitive plumbing facilities. Pat, who lived at the house writes:

‘The plumbing at Crossways when we bought it in 1972 was fairly primitive. There was a bath and lavatory upstairs and, amongst other facilities a copper for boiling clothes in the kitchen, and an outside lavatory. Like all early houses on the Kings Road ridge, the house had its own well. There was a pump by the back door which was still in place in 1972 though mains water had been available since the 1930s.’

 The previous occupant was Mrs Hawes. She was poorly and a neighbour (Mrs Bee) brought water to her room in a ewer. The water was tipped into a bowl for Mrs Hawes to use.

We have very recently been given ewer and bowl.

Ewer and wash bowl from Crossways, Market Lavington

Ewer and wash bowl from Crossways, Market Lavington

Both items are in a blue glaze with white interiors. We discuss whether they are a deliberate pair or have been put together because they so nearly match.

They are large items – the bowl being similar to a round washing up bowl. There are no makers’ marks to help identify them.

Disposal of the water was now a problem – carrying bowls of water about is fraught with danger. But – in Pat’s words again,

‘It would have been hazardous to carry a full basin of dirty water downstairs so, reputedly, the procedure was to use an exterior drain system.

At the top of the stairs is what looks like a small cupboard.  If this is opened, a small brown earthenware sink is revealed. This can be clearly seen from outside above the back door. The dirty water from the sink runs down a pipe into the main house drainage system.’

Thanks to Pat and Sue his wife, for keeping these items for over forty years and then, when the time came, passing them on to the museum. As we have a ‘Getting up in the morning’ display this year, ewer and bowl have been added to it.

Laundry Tongs

March 1, 2013

Most of us, these days, use an automatic washing machine. You load it, select the setting and switch on and go and do something else. Later, you come back and remove the washing which already has most of the water out of it. You can easily transfer it to somewhere else to dry.

Of course, it wasn’t always like that. Our curator recalls his mother slaving away at the kitchen sink, washing sheets, scrubbing shirt collars etc, from when he was a lad. Our archivist even recalls helping her mother wash clothes using a dolly tub and posser.

When washing needed a transfer to the next stage it was often very wet, hot and covered in whatever cleaning agents were in use. Tongs were essential.

Then, in the UK, we reached the time of the twin tub washing machine. This had one container for washing and a separate spin dryer. Once again, the washing had to be manually moved from one place to another whilst absolutely sopping wet. Those tongs were needed again.

These days such tongs are largely museum pieces. We have some at Market Lavington Museum.

Laundry tongs dating from qbout 1960 at Market Lavington Museum

Laundry tongs dating from about 1960 at Market Lavington Museum

This pair of laundry tongs looks almost unused although they are 50 or more years old. They date from the time of the twin tub. The construction is simple. Two ‘blades’ of wood are joined by a spring steel hinge. The wood looks like beech although we don’t claim to be experts.

Very similar items can still be purchased so presumably some people still use them and of course, they’d have uses other than for laundry. The home dying of wool or other fabrics comes to mind.

These tongs, at Market Lavington Museum, were used by a White Street, Market Lavington family.

Wash Day Items

February 15, 2011

A few days ago, Rog, our curator, went to chat with residents in the care home in Market Lavington. He took along a goodly array of photos of the village in the past and also of some of the artefacts in the museum.

It was this photo which probably attracted most interest. The residents, aged between 77 and 99, remembered using such items.

Mangle and possers at Market Lavington Museum

The main item is a mangle, which is, badged ‘Paragon’.

Close up on the wringer

This item, with a structure of cast iron was made in the 1930s. It is a ‘Paragon’, superior quality wringer, British made and guaranteed for 5 years. The rollers were made of rubber. Its five years guarantee period is well over for it is now about 80 years old, but no doubt it would still work.

For youngsters, unused to such mechanical devices, the operation was simple. Wet clothing was fed in between the rollers, the wooden winding handle was turned and the water was squeezed out of the washing. People with foresight, placed a large bowl under the wringer to collect the water. The springs on either side of the top roller could be adjusted to alter the pressure.

Such items can still be found in use. In fact our curator says he last used one in 2010 on a campsite in the UK.

The other two items, to the left of the mangle in the main photo were known as possers by some and washing dollies by others. In a modern washing machine the clothes and water are ‘agitated’ to help remove the dirt. The posser was used in conjunction with a bucket, a bit like a small metal dustbin, which some called a dolly tub. The posser, on its long handle, then provided the ‘agitation’, stirring water and clothes around. These have more or less vanished from the domestic scene now.

Returning to the curator’s visit to the nursing home – he took with him his own old wind-up gramophone and some appropriate records. The residents regarded this with pleasure but no great surprise. The young care assistants (and what a grand job they do) were more gobsmacked by it. In these days where even the CD is losing out to the ipod, a device which needed no electricity to produce sound seemed just amazing. Perhaps gramophone and records should be in the museum.