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Anyone remember wash houses?

(49 Posts)
grannyactivist Fri 03-May-13 15:55:39

Talk of launderettes on another thread reminded me of when I lived with my dad for a while in my teens and had to visit the wash house to do the family laundry with my stepmother. She was only in her late twenties, but had always gone with her mother to the wash house and didn't trust launderettes. It took two buses to get there and I remember being embarrassed about going to the public wash house with our big bags of washing. The wash house itself also housed the public baths and the laundry was in a huge cavernous room with enormous sinks and banks of machines against one wall. I remember it was always full of really old women, older than my grandmother was at the time, and I always felt as though I'd stepped back into another era. I hated the smell and the noise and the old women who smoked pipes and roll ups which made me feel sick. I was so glad when she finally relented (because of the cost of the bus journeys) and let me use the local launderette instead.

grannyactivist Fri 03-May-13 15:56:16

Ooops - I was so glad when my stepmother finally relented.

numberplease Fri 03-May-13 16:35:27

Never visited a wash house, but remember my grandma talking about them.

grandimars Fri 03-May-13 16:40:19

The only ones I've ever seen are the small ones attached to a house, with a copper in the corner - and these were only at museums.

Galen Fri 03-May-13 16:46:47

There was one ins house my parents bought when I was small. It became my playroom. I remember the copper in the corner. Haven't thought of that for 60 years!

Ana Fri 03-May-13 16:50:02

My granny had a wash house attached to her house. The copper and the mangle were kept there.

numberplease Fri 03-May-13 17:27:35

My grandma had a copper in her cellar. Actually, one of those mangles wouldn`t go amiss nowadays, when I wash stuff by hand, they were great, as long as you kept your fingers out of the way.

tanith Fri 03-May-13 19:04:09

We had one nearby and also a bathhouse which we had to use as we had only a tin bath in the kitchen at home.. I remember going with my sisters and you had to shout if you wanted more hot or cold as the tap was outside the cubicle, I can't remember how much but they gave you a nice white but scratchy hard towel with red stripes and bathhouse embroidered on it... My Nan used the wash house but my Mum had a copper and mangle at home.. we lived on the third floor and had broomstick lines hanging out of the windows with the washing on... memories!!

grannyactivist Fri 03-May-13 19:10:26

No, this was a public wash house, in Manchester there were several of them. They had huge sinks with washboards, coppers for boiling clothes, and I think I remember the dryers were rails which were pulled out from the walls and the washing was dried by hot air circulating round inside. There was a roller thing similar to a mangle that was used to iron sheets and anything that didn't have buttons. It was hot, steamy and smelly and a lot of the women used to take their washing on old silver cross type prams.

baubles Fri 03-May-13 19:13:27

There is an excellent play called The Steamie which is set in a Glasgow wash house on Hogmanay. If this link doesn't work there are several other clips on YouTube.

grannyactivist Fri 03-May-13 19:17:36

Just looked online and found some photo's of the wash house I went to. shock
The wash house
I think they had some launderette type washing machines too, but don't remember them being used, certainly not by my stepmother who didn't trust them not to do terrible things to her washing..

Ariadne Fri 03-May-13 21:17:17

I do remember, as a child in Nottingham, passing the public wash houses on the bus, and my mother (Hyacinth Bucket if ever there was one) expressing her horror. She of course, had a copper in the kitchen. And hot water...

london Fri 03-May-13 22:22:31

MY mother in law used the one on scotswood rd in newcastle when her children were young ..and there was a bath house there x

harrigran Fri 03-May-13 23:31:47

Excellent photographs, I have never seen anything like them before. Just shows you are never too old to learn.

grannyactivist Fri 03-May-13 23:47:05

Baubles thanks for the link. I don't have time to watch it tonight, but took a peek at the first couple of minutes and sure enough, the opening shots showed a woman on the way to the wash house with the washload in a pram!!! grin

Ariadne Sat 04-May-13 11:20:33

There were public baths too, in the same building. I mean private baths in cubicles - were they called slipper baths or was that something different?

Stansgran Sat 04-May-13 12:03:34

I can remember wild camping in Corsica and washing our clothes in a stone wash house with icy water and sloping stone ledges to scrub clothes. Ah we knew how to holiday when we were twenty.

Granny23 Sat 04-May-13 12:06:50

Oh, Baubles thanks for the link. I had never thought to look on Youtube for The Steamie - my all time favourite drama. I have read the book, seen it twice live and about three times on the TV and it still makes me laugh until I cry. I'd have said it was the 4 actresses who 'made' it magic but having seen it last year again with a completely new cast, I've realised that it is the perceptive writing that makes it so good. The section about the mince and tatties is quite the funniest thing ever written and so true to life. The bit where Katy Murphy dreams of her future life with a TV, washing machine and phone is so poignant, because we, the audience, know that in the fullness of time the character is likely to achieve all these things - just as we, who started married life in a rented 2 room & kitchen, with a home made table, no bath, nor washing machine, nor fridge, nor TV, now inhabit a world with all mod cons.

jeanie99 Sun 19-May-13 23:47:27

Our local wash house was attached to the slipper baths.
I remember the women taking their bags of cloths in prams to do the weeks washing.
I went to the slipper baths as a treat from the tin bath we normally used.

Joan Mon 20-May-13 11:21:25

I've never heard of wash houses in England, though I did see a historic outdoor wash house near Orry la Ville, where my sister lives just north of Paris. It would have been a very cold job to use it!! Here's a picture:ésin.jpg

My Mum, born in Wavertree, Liverpool in 1910, remembered the Chinese laundry. She was terrified of the Chinese man who took in the washing through a small hatch, but her Mum used to send her to deliver it. Kids' fears were ignored back then.

We had the washboard, metal tub, posser and rubbing board when I was growing up, until Mum got pregnant at age 42 and Dad bought her an electric washing machine. Mum was so furious about being pregnant and having all that extra washing, that Dad probably had no choice. I was 7, and remember getting upset at one of the arguments and shouting that it wasn't Dad's fault. (I knew Mum was growing a baby in her tum, but had no inkling of how it got there!)

Here in Australia most houses have a separate laundry. Mine just has a single deep square sink and space for a washer and dryer, but older houses had huge double or treble sinks, often made of concrete.

j08 Mon 20-May-13 11:34:11

We had a wash house with a copper and a large sink attached to our house when I was a child. My granny used to take in washing. I remember the flat irons heating up against the upright grate too. She had a hump back from bending over the sink so much.

j08 Mon 20-May-13 11:35:03

Oh yes! And a big old mangle!

soop Mon 20-May-13 11:50:53

jings As a wee child I frequently got my fingers pinched between the perishing rubbery rollers of my Nana's mangle. hmm#neverdidlearnnottofiddle

j08 Mon 20-May-13 11:57:42

grin I loved that old mangle! Folded sheets came out almost ready ironed.

soop Mon 20-May-13 11:59:07

I can almost smell the steam in the wash house...