The Wash-House and Scullery

One hundred years ago the household wash-house or laundry, like the bathroom, was just starting to be included in the plan of an ordinary house.  Before this the washing of clothes was usually done outside.  Clothes were either boiled in a large cauldron or pot over a fire, or in a copper tub set in a brick fireplace or in a cast-iron fire-box like the one in this room.  A wooden stick with three or four prongs, called a ‘dolly’ was used to stir the clothes by hand.  This action is done by a washing machine today.


The earliest wash-houses were out-houses: separate little buildings usually close to the back door of a house.  They often doubled as sculleries where the dishes and cutlery could be washed and stored.


By the beginning of this century bricked-in or cast-iron coppers with fire-boxes underneath and pine wash-troughs were becoming standard wash-house fittings.  Early wooden troughs like these were deeper than the later types and always had to have water in the bottom of them to prevent leaking.  One of the troughs has a ‘built in’ scrub-board which was an unusual refinement.  The scrub-board, with its corrugated panel was usually a separate implement.


Before detergents, bar soaps and boiling water was the only way to get clothes clean.  Blue bags were also used in water in which the household linen was soaked to make it brighter, as the soaps of the time turned whites yellow.

Wringers, mounted on the wash-trough, wrung the water out of the washing and mangles pressed the sheets and towels.  These items were just starting to become readily available, but at the beginning of the 20th century they were still luxuries.