Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Full steam ahead

  Monday was washday, without fail, in my old Welsh home and I can just remember the Victorian laundry which was normally out of bounds as it was full of hot steam, red hot irons and dripping wet sheets. There was a huge copper with clouds of steam and a soapy mix of 'whites' being pummelled with big wooden dollies that pushed the hot water through the cloth and turned it all over again and again. There must have been big tanks full of clear water to rinse thoroughly and then the linen was rolled by the huge iron mangle with wooden rollers that squeezed the surplus suds and water out This seemed to run on a sort of mini- railway and the ends were loaded with stones - I don't know how it worked but it was another no-go area for me!
         After a bath of starch the things were hung on huge racks of poles to dry; these were pulled out on wheels to load. and then, of course, there was the ironing on big tables covered in old Welsh blankets and linen and several heavy irons were heated on special iron stoves and carefully wiped before speeding over the damp linen. At some stage in the rinsing, Reckitts Blue was added to the water and this gave the fine linen an elegant tint that enhanced it.

        Two local women came in to do all the work and they were very pretty with full pink cheeks and strapping red arms after all the rubbing and scrubbing. They shouted and sang in Welsh to each other and told me to keep out of their way¬ nearly all the larger country houses had these laundries built in Victorian times and it was only just before the war that the local towns had proper laundries and deliveries and the old home laundries were gutted and the machinery sold for scrap.

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