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Jill Guest brings back memories with this account of "doin' a bit of washin'" in postwar Cradley



In 1948 when I was six months old, my mom and dad were lucky enough to move into a new council house in Stourdell Road, after living in very cramped conditions with my grandparents. The house was very modern with hot and cold running water, an upstairs bathroom and a downstairs toilet. My mom also had a washing machine, not for her the dolly tub and maid of some of our neighbours, we was posh!


Mom's washing machine lived in the shed with the boiler, which had to be plugged in through the kitchen window. The washing machine did not, it relied on hand power. It consisted of a large metal base with a lid with a handle on and a mangle on the side. The base was filled with hot water heated in the boiler. Then the clothes and washing powder (Omo or Tide I think) were put in, the lid replaced and the handle turned from side to side so that the paddles underneath turned the clothes to get rid of the dirt. The whites were boiled first, then the colours and last of all dad's overalls. Everything had to be mangled by hand, swilled (rinsed) in cold water and mangled again to get rid of as much water as possible. If it wasn't raining it was pegged out on the line, pushed as high as possible by the line prop.


Some of the washing had to be starched, chairback covers, tablecloths and some of dad's best shirts. The starch was mixed in a small hand bowl and the washing dipped in before the final mangle. The whites had a quick dip of the blue bag in the final rinse to bring out the whiteness. When it was hot we had bathfuls of water coloured blue with the bluebag to play with, to pretend we were at the seaside.


Dad's overalls were always left till last and were attacked with buckets of hot water, a bar of Fairy or Sunlight soap and a strong bristle brush on the fode. How did he get them so dirty? Once they were safely on the line the rest of the water would be used to swill the fode and paths off. If it was wet the washing was hung on the clotheshorse in front of the Rayburn until it was dry enough to iron.


I had my own small washing line, buckets, basket and mangle to wash my doll's clothes. The washing was usually out on the line by dinnertime and if it was a nice day it was dry enough to iron during the afternoon. Mom always ironed on the kitchen table on a thick blanket with a sheet over the top. She never had an ironing board, although she did have an electric iron. Everything was then carefully placed on the clotheshorse to be aired. Sometimes we were allowed to turn the clotheshorse on its side and with a blanket draped over it, it became a tent or house for our dolls.


My grandmother washed in a similar fashion with a washer and boiler in the shed but her boiler was gas. She had a length of runner piping, which ran from a tap by the gas cooker out to the boiler in the shed, something which I am sure would not be allowed today. I remember helping with Granddad's overalls, which seemed to be as dirty as my dad's! We always had a good supply of baths and buckets, courtesy of Granddad who drove a horse and cart and then a lorry for the Bucket works down Cradley.


Some things were still rationed, as the war was not long over. We usually got a Bluebird toffee from Mr Southall when mom took the grocery order into his shop at the top of Windmill Hill. The order was usually delivered on a Friday afternoon, which was also the day that Mr Boxley came round with his fruit and vegetable van. My sister's favourite was always Mr Guy's icecream van, no musical chimes just his horn, which I am sure she could hear before he even reached out street. He had a small blue van with a window in the side; his icecreams and lollies were delicious, all homemade. On Sunday afternoons we would take out our own dishes to be filled with icecream with a wafer on the top as a special treat for tea.



This essay is © Copyright 2002 Jill Guest,

who has generously granted permission to

Cradley Links to reproduce it on this web site.


Doin’ a bit of washin’

"For WASHING MACHINES and MANGLES of all descriptions, go to Harold Raybould 22, High Street, Cradley [...] your Old Mangle taken in Part Exchange" - advertisement in the Cradley Parish Magazine, 1940


Jill Guest shows how to 'mangle' the washing at Cradley Day, October 5th 2002 (photo. courtesy Halesowen News)