Wash Day – 1910


I was taken to live at Bingley in the first decade of the century, when my father became landlord of the “Ring of Bells” which is now the Church House.

Washdays as I remember them really started on Sunday night. All the clothes we had worn during the week were put to soak in the big wooden tub filled with hot soapy water. On Monday morning my mother and the little housemaid were up at crack of dawn, sleeves rolled up, a lovely warmkitchen with a delicious small of steamy soapsuds in the air.

The fire was lit under the brick-built copper in one corner and while the water was heating up the clothes were sorted into heaps; bedding and towels in one heap; tablecloths, serviettes and covers in another; and what the maid called “body-clothes” in a third. Becoming more refined she later described this last group as “personals”.

The white clothes were always washed first, put into a tub and pounded with a “posser”; an article like a thick wooden muffin on a stick. This she operated with great vigour. Stubborn stains were rubbed on a rubbing-board which are now used as a musical instrument in certain types of bands. Stubborn places like shirt-necks, collars and cuffs merited special attention. During this time a large bowl of starch and another of blue water were being prepared. Blue-water was made from a small block of blue powder wrapped in a piece of cotton material tucked around a small peg – his was known as a “dolly blue”. After rinsing there was the arm-aching job of the clothes being put through the heavy wooden rollers of the mangle, and finally, weather permitting, they were pegged out on a clothes-line in the back yard. It was considered the mark of a good house-wife to have her “whites out before breakfast”.

Sheets and towels were not starched of course, shirts only slightly, but collars and table-linen came in for real good stiffening.

My mother washed her blouses and children’s garments, lace doilies etc. by hand, using a special brand of soap I have never encountered since those days. It was called “Preservene” and was supposed to come from Australia, and bore the trademark EEEE (Four Es). The other clothes were washed with bars of Watson’s Matchless Cleanser, which I believe was a Bradford firm.

The drying time was a long process in bad weather; a tall clothes-horse in front of the fire and a rack worked by a pulley slung from the ceiling. This was called the breadrack because oval pancakes of Oat-Cakes were spread on it to dry – although not, of course, among the clothes. Small articles were spread out on top of the brass-railed fireguard when the children were at school – a very tedious time-consuming process.

Then came the folding, often a second mangling, lastly the ironing, and airing on the Breadrack.

The daily Washerwomen usually finished her part by about 4 o’ clock, and counted herself well paid at 2/- per day including dinner, tea, and Dad’s contribution at elevenses of “half o’ Tets”.

These were known as “The Good Old Days”.


1 thought on “Wash Day – 1910

  1. thank you. i appreciate what you wrote. i am a recreation assistant in a nursing home and try to recreate that scenario. this is really great. it gets the residents to tell stories

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s