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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Grandma and the gym

Before we go through the door into the front of the house, let’s just nip outside.  Go back along the passage, through the back kitchen and into the yard.   Turn left and through a big door and you’ll be in the scullery.

I suppose the modern equivalent would be a utility room but there was nothing modern about the scullery.  Over in the corner was a big, built-in copper, with a fire-hole beneath it so water could be heated for the washing.  Lighting the fire under the copper was grandma’s first job on a Monday morning along with filling it with cold water carried in buckets from the sink on the other side of the room.

After breakfast grandma would go out to the scullery and fill the washing machine with buckets of hot water and set to.  I’ve never seen a washing machine like this anywhere, not even in a museum.  The paddle was attached to a handle through the machine lid so the paddle could be turned by hand.  It was heavy work!  Then the clothes were fished out of the water using wooden laundry tongs and fed through the hand cranked mangle so that the squeezed-out hot water fell back into the machine ready for the next load.  The clothes, sheets, table cloths or whatever were then carried over to the sink for rinsing.  The final rise was done in small tub with a gadget called a posher.  This is best described as an upside down colander mounted on a broom stick.  The clothes were poshed vigorously and finally put through the mangle again, this time the mangle being positioned over a drain so the cold water could run away.

Then out to the garden where there was a washing line between two trees with a home-made prop to hold the middle of the line high in the breeze.  At least it was out to the garden if the weather was dry: otherwise it was to a clothes horse around the fire with sheets and table cloths being hung over upstairs bannisters. 

Grandma never went to a gym.  She never needed to!


  1. Wonderful description and wonderful memories. I remember my nans mangle, I tried to wind the handle when I was little and just about managed to move it a couple of inches.

  2. Great post -- I can just picture everything you describe - you are a very good writer. We didn't have a washing machine until I was grown -- my mom did the laundry in the big kitchen sink and then hung out the clothes on a line. Then there were all the hours of sprinkling and starching and ironing the clothes. She finally followed my grandmother's advice and started sending them out to the laundry -- the Bluebonnet Laundry and Cleaners -- she did that until laundromats became popular and then she would take them there. Finally, when I was grown and gone she bought a washer and dryer. I don't know what took her so long. Isn't it remarkable how life has changed so much just in our lifetime? Progress, I guess.

  3. Brought back some wonderful memories, wash day was always a Monday when I was a child.