The view that greeted the van driver when it came time to unload.
On lazy Saturdays I was the shop girl. Customers like this fellow would bring in their week of linen/clothing and I would check it, mark and sort it to get a head start on Monday. And the customer would pick up his clean laundry at the same time. It was a routine for people who were unmarried or too busy to do their own "Monday wash" (before households had individual washing machines it was all done by hand). It was always quiet and mellow after a week in the back, so I felt this summery reflected soft light captured the softness.
Walking up to the Works
The last thing I saw on my way in. My workplace window from the outside.
The doorway I went through every morning to start the finish ironing. I usually arrived earlier than the other girls, with my father, so I could start with some detailed finish ironing - the things a machine cannot do.
The laundry came off the van and was manoevred through the courtyard in trolley carts to the converted old stable building.
Over the old well-shaft the builders placed a sunken platform supporting a gigantic boiler. This was the source of power and heat for the entire works. My father's first job each day was to go into the pit, under the main tank, and carefully (very carefully) light her up. It was quite the work of art, equipped with several dials, gauges and pressure valves for adjustments according to temperature and pressure requirements for different machines. It was also equipped with a siren as a final warning that the system was about to blow. If that sounded, my uncle had to go in and try to solve the difficulty. Somehow, we always muddled through.
The laundry came off the van and through the cobbled courtyard and up into the hayloft to be checked, marked with the customer number, then sorted into the categories for washing. We took turns heaving the bundles from the trolley up these stairs.
The Waiting Room
After being marked and sorted, items wait in categories for their turn in the machines.
Another shot of the waiting area. The actual washing machines (Victorian wood and copper) were at the far end. I was not allowed that far down because it was on the blind side of the stable, beyond the buckets of sand which were our fire extinguishers. I only had to use them twice - not too bad. On rare occasions the pulley belt which turned the calender and the washing machines would slip and spark. The whole operation had to shut down and the belt "repaired". So no females were allowed in that danger zone.
One of the machines which removed most of the moisture from large items such as sheets.
Audrey at the Shirt Press
Audrey had the more skilled job of doing the presswork on shirts and dresses. Occasionally she would help out with small fiddly presswork while the rest of us were working the calender roller on sheets.
Lucy and Audrey on the calender - a huge cement roller with massive padding which forced flat fabrics through a steam jet and then around a steel "bed". A kind of large iron! As the items came out (very hot) the pair on the receiving end had to lift and fold promptly to preserve the smooth quality. Slow = creases and a redo; drop one and it had to be rewashed entirely. We grew calluses and became impervious to steamed fingers. I rather liked the hellish atmosphere caused by all the steam rising in this particular shot. The girls on the feeder side had to beware of getting fingers caught in the trap as they smoothed out the edges and fed the items into the machine. It happened occasionally, and meant a hospital trip. Again, done poorly, it meant the item had to be washed again to remove ironed-in creases.
Small items were done at the end of the day, letting the older ladies take a break. The small items had to be done singly anyway.