Holland Street Public Laundry

Holland Street Public Laundry
Whit Lane, Salford

The following contribution has been made by Linda Parton who lived in the accommodation from October 1956 to 1961 when her father retired.

Surprisingly I can find no reference to Holland Street Wash House or Public Laundry in any of the documents available on the web about Salford Baths and Washhouses.

In October 1956 (approximately) my father was appointed to the post of manager of this public laundry which was being lauded as ‘the first all-electric laundry in Europe’. It was first known as a Washhouse but after much discussion and visits to other establishments elected and salaried officers of Salford Corporation decided that ‘Public Laundry’ was more fitting for this flagship endeavor.[1]

I do not remember when the laundry officially opened. We moved into the attached flat sometime in October/November and the laundry was not open at the time. I remember lots of electricians and workmen being around and my father working long hours getting the plant ready and functioning properly before it could be opened. I do know that the working of the laundry remained problematic and made demands on my father’s time from very early in the morning until late at night.

The laundry area itself was spacious and light. There were 20 industrial size washing machines placed in four banks of five. There were a number of hydro-extractors (I can’t remember how many) and there was a double sink facing each washing machine. These machines occupied the first part of the laundry, closest to the entrance. At the far end of the laundry there were 10 large dryers and two huge ironing machines with large folding tables in the centre. The ironing machines were meant for flat cotton articles such as sheets and curtains. My father displayed a ‘melted’ nylon underskirt to show what happened if the ironing machines were used incorrectly.

Midway down the laundry was a set of double doors leading to the plant room. In there, were the huge tanks used for heating the copious amounts of water needed, the banks of control panels and the ladders up to the roof and the water storage tower. Although young and female I thoroughly enjoyed being in there with my dad and climbing up to the roof with him. As a concession to health and safety I was shown the posters and taught what to do if anyone was being electrocuted by the plant.

Once open, the laundry became a focus of community and places in the most popular times were at a premium. Slots were allocated every 30 minutes and groups of friends would make sure they were booked in at the same time. The laundry was situated in an area where houses were mostly of the two up, two down variety and had outside lavatories and no bathrooms. Anyone who had a washing machine had an old fashioned one with a mangle attached – or even a free-standing hand operated mangle and the only drying areas were the backyards of the houses. The public laundry was thus very popular.

Women (I never saw any men coming to the laundry) came with their week’s washing (often brought in an old pram) to spend two hours getting their laundry done. The washing took one hour. Whilst washing was in the machines the women would work at the sinks doing their hand washing. They used the hydro-extractors as needed to spin the hand-washing and the washing from the machines. Laundry workers (who I think we’re all male – Dan was the chief of these) were on hand to help and instruct. After an hour the women moved to the dryers and whilst the clothes were in those machines they had half an hour to get a drink and snack in the café area and chat to their friends.

Once the clothes were dry the women moved across to the ironing machines (5 to each machine) and were able to finish any washing which could cope with the high heat of those machines. At the end of two hours they loaded their clean washing back into the prams and went off with a major chore done!

Of course, our washing was done in the laundry. I often helped with putting washing into the hydro-extractors and even putting sheets through the ironing machines. I also spent quite a bit of time with ‘Auntie Annie’ in the café – enjoying the drinks and snacks and helping with serving and with Auntie Edie (I think – it could have been Evie) in the office welcoming the women and making future bookings.[2] As an only child and a ‘Daddy’s girl’ I spent a lot of time with my father whilst he was working and got to know the laundry, and it’s workings, well.



[1] This is based on my memory of overheard conversations. I was an intelligent, inquisitive only child who was confident enough to meet and talk to senior officials and listen to adult conversations.

[2] As was usual at the time, in the north of England, familiar adults were known as ‘uncle’ or ‘auntie’ rather than Mr or Mrs – and certainly never called by their first name. I found the same practice amongst the native population in Namibia in 2000 which I and my colleagues found most interesting.

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