Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Old Fashioned Wash Day at Hinckley Museum

We had a lovely time today washing clothes (now I don't think I say that very often!). I took the kids to an old fashioned wash day at the local museum in Hinckley. We entered the courtyard at the back of the museum to be greeted by a group of ladies dressed in old fashioned clothes. They then handed out cloth caps and scarves for the boys and aprons for the girls (I even managed to persuade our teenage daughter to wear an apron!).

Washing the old fashioned way at Hinckley Museum
Old Fashioned Wash Day - Hinckley Museum


The ladies then began to tell us about how we used to wash our clothes; firstly water was only available from a communal water pump several metres from where we were standing. The water was then taken to the boiler house located at the back of the museum. Early soaps were then discussed including those made from animal fat and wood ash (not very appealing to look at but apparently it worked)! Another method was to use the leaves and stems from the Soapwort plants. For today's washing day we were to use blocks of homemade soap.

Old Fashioned Wash Day - Soaps and Grater
Old Fashioned Wash Day - Soaps and Grater


My apologies in advance if I have some of the terminology incorrect, however I was trying to keep up with the little one who wash darting between each piece of equipment whilst I was listening to the washer lady's commentary. The bar of soap was first grated (by what looked like a kind of cheese grater) into a tub of hot water and then pounded with a Posser (a long wooden pole with a wooden handle and metal plunger attached to the other end). Our Dolly Tub was made from galvanised steel however I believe they were originally made from wood.

Old Fashioned Wash Day - Dolly Tubs, Posser and Scrubbing Board
Old Fashioned Wash Day - Dolly Tubs, Posser and Scrubbing Board


A wash stick (or long wooden tongues) were then used to remove the garment from the tub and then placed onto a scrubbing board. The bar of soap was then used to scrub the clothes and then the garment was transferred back to the tub for rinsing.

Old Fashioned Wash Day - Scrubbing Clothes
Old Fashioned Wash Day - Scrubbing Clothes


Once cleaned the garment was taken to the Mangle where the little one had great fun turning the handle. The garment was passed through the mangle several times and after each pass was folded in half before being squeezed through the Mangle again.

Old Fashioned Wash Day - Using a Mangle
Old Fashioned Wash Day - Using a Mangle


We then hung the garment to dry and used some amazing home-made pegs which looked so simple to make (and I can imagine would probably last a lot longer than our modern versions).

Old Fashioned Wooden Pegs
Old Fashioned Wooden Pegs


We all loved the wash day and experienced what it used to be like before the use of our modern conveniences. I can see several advantages of these old fashioned methods though; they are certainly better for the environment, can be a family fun occasion with each person taking on a different task, and it certainly keeps you fit!

Hinckley Mangle at the Hinckley Museum
Hinckley Mangle at the Hinckley Museum


If you have any memories of using Mangles, Possers and Dolly Tubs please share!

Mick