Spinning Stories

Austerity Britain on launderettes by cqualmann
November 12, 2009, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Historic Launderettes and Laundrys, Laundry Stories

Rachel alerted me to a mention of the arrival of launderettes in David Kynaston’s Austerity Britain 1945-1951.

Chapter 3, Jolly good as a whole, p.325 “Britain’s first self-service, coin-operated launderette opened, for a six-month trial, at 184 Queensway in Bayswater on 10 May. ‘All that housewives have to do is bring the washing, put it in the machine and come back 30 minutes later (charge 2s 6d for 9lbs)’, explained the local paper.’

An anecdote from Janet Street-Porter in the same chapter ‘as we didn’t have a television, I found the hour or so spent watching the sheets and towels being washed in a machine every week totally mesmeric’. (p.326) echoes Viv Newman’s experience in Kensington 10 years later https://spinningstories.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/laundry-memories-by-viv-newman/


Spinning Stories walk by cqualmann

Some photos from this morning’s guided walk, thanks to Barney Hewlett for taking these.

If you’d like to do the walk you can pick up a printed guide at The Women’s Library,

or download the PDF version here you’ll also need the map PDF version here.

1. Setting off from The Women’s Library


2. Rothschild Arch


3. Bengal Cuisine, site of Cash Wash Launderette


4. Bangla City Cash and Carr, site of the Russian Vapour Baths



5. St Anne’s Church



6. Cheshire Street Baths, Abbey Street Laundry


7. Smarty pants Launderette and Dry Cleaners



8. Princess Launderette



9. The Old Laundry, Boundary Estate


10. The Boundary Estate Community Launderette


Laundry and washing in Medieval Winchester by cqualmann

There’s a contrast in the attitude in medieval Winchester between laundry and personal hygiene and washing.  We know there is one of the first recorded fines for an environmental offence in Winchester when a washer woman was took to court on very wealth man called John De Tytyng for animal offal and other nasty things in one of the open brooks which endangered her livelihood as a washer woman.  And amazing enough her case was upheld… and John De Tytyng this very, very wealthy man, was fined and told to desist from putting pollutants in the brooks because it was seriously effecting this woman’s livelihood as a washer woman.

Now contrast this with what we know about bath houses in medieval Winchester which were regarded as basically a bathhouse was euphemism for a place of ill repute.  Why else would you go somewhere and take your clothes off.  There were several bathhouses but they had to be, because of their bad reputation, outside the town walls.  They were areas of ill repute so by contrast where the open brooks were kept clean so you could do your laundry or have a washer woman do your laundry, personal bathing was a bid odd, somewhat perverse and had to be kept outside the walled area.

Transcript from an interview with Ken Qualmann at the Boundary Estate Community Launderette, 10th August 2009

Cheshire Street Baths, Abbey Street Laundry by cqualmann

Built by the vestry of the parish of St Matthew in 1898 (officially opened on the 11th July 1900) the Cheshire Street Baths, and Abbey Street Laundry (part of the same building, just with separate entrances) still stand. The Laundry closed in 1974, and the baths on the 30th September 1978. The Laundry, despite the removal of the machinery is pretty much intact, and has been occupied by the Repton Boys club since 1978. The baths were turned into flats in the 1990s following years of dereliction and failed proposals to turn the building into a leisure centre. The Museum of London has some of the machinery and fittings

An inquiry into communal laundry facilities, 1949 by cqualmann

At the TUC library I’ve been reading this report, by  Janet C. Wilson, published as a National Building Study (no.9). It’s remit is huge, and the research behind it involved a survey of 6,000 people. As well as statistics ( “approximately 50% of all households wash on Monday”) it includes commentary, opinion and policy proposals such as:

“for all communal laundries and public washhouses, privacy and proper segregation of each user’s washing should be ensured by grouping the washing equipment in cubicles” p.28


“experience during the the inquiry has shown that when the housewife does the washing herself, small establishments are prefereable to large, as the distance from home is less and it is possible to obtain a pleasanter atmosphere and better spirit among the users, and pilfering is practically eliminated”. p.31

Oral history from the Boundary Estate by cqualmann

At our first research morning we meet Doris, who has lived on or very near the Boundary Estate all of her life. She tells us that her mother, Kate Bright, worked at the Old Laundry on the estate, taking over the job in the mid 1950s from a Mrs Watson (or Wilson) who lived in the corner flat of Marlow buildings.

Looking for historic laundries by cqualmann
July 16, 2009, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Historic Launderettes and Laundrys | Tags: , ,

Emily and I go for a walk around Brick Lane looking for the sites of laundries listed in the 1899 Post Office London Directory and the 1911 Kelly’s directory, there’s not a trace but we find some of the addresses:

43 Brick Lane – 1899 Hermann Auerbach, Laundry

by 1911 it’s still a Laundry but now owned by William Wells. It’s a gift shop now.


86 brick Lane is listed Benjamin Schewzik, Vapour Baths, in the 1911 directory – now it’s a gap in the street fronting buildings on Brick Lane, and a supermarket.


50 Hanbury Street is listed as Isaac Peskin, Laundry (1911), today it’s a wedding shop. Isaac Peskin is also listed as owning laundries at 24 Chicksand Street and 193 Brick Lane.


127 Hanbury Street (now a gap) is listed as a Laundry owned by Albert Smith, also proprietor of Laundries at 18 Mansell Street, 88 Old Bethnal Green Road, 100 Columbia Road, 37 Shepherd Street and 13 new Goulston Street.