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Week 2: My ancestor was a laundry worker

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  • Week 2: My ancestor was a laundry worker

    Week 2: Laundry worker


    This is an opportunity to showcase your laundry worker ancestor, you might want to offer a short biography and speak about their work eg
    Name
    Birth location/date
    Family background
    Where you've found them on the census
    Their workplace/employer
    Any tips on researching this occupation?

    This was often women's work either taking in washing or working for a commercial laundry.

    Some general links
    http://www.avictorian.com/servants_laundry.html
    https://recollections.biz/blog/the-v...n-laundry-day/
    http://www.oldandinteresting.com/sitemap.htm

    Next week: Grocer
    Last edited by Jill on the A272; 01-01-22, 09:11.

  • #2
    My 2x great grandmother Harriet Steel nee Glazier ran a laundry in Rustington. In 1891 she was a widow employing two of her daughters, Mary (known as Polly) and Mildred and another live-in worker Ancestry.co.uk - 1891 England Census
    In 1901 the address was named as Bratton Cottage and she was an employer with her two daughters and niece Emily Steel working as laundresses.

    My granny’s mother died in 1902 when my grandmother was seven and my granny spent a lot of time at Bratton Cottage, when Harriet died in 1905, aunt Polly continued the laundry, and granny remembered large wicker hampers of laundry arriving by train from London to be washed and dried in the fresh Sussex breezes away from the polluted London air.

    By 1911 Aunt Polly had married a local publican and my granny’s father Alfred Steel had remarried and was living at Bratton Cottage until they departed to another village, but aunt Polly returned when she was widowed and lived there until her death in 1951 and it was here that my mother and siblings visited and remembered seeing the different sized irons on a stand and other equipment in the redundant laundry at the back. Polly left the cottage to one of her nephews.


    I have no idea where the money to set up the laundry came from as Harriet had no occupation on any census or on her marriage certificate. She had been a servant in Islington prior to her marriage to William Steel a sawyer and occasional sailor.

    Comment


    • #3
      My husband's 3x great grandmother Caroline had a hard life, married at 18 to James Wadey in 1829 at Nuthurst, Sussex but she was already a widow at 24 with three young children, the youngest followed his father to the grave a year later.

      In 1837 she married George Jenner at Upper Beeding, he was 20 and she was by now 26. His father William farmed a little and had a grocers and pub at Faygate near Horsham ,and George worked as a carrier.

      Caroline and George lived in Horsham with her two children and had five of their own (all of whom lived to adulthood) but in the 1851 census, a year after the birth of their youngest child Caroline is listed as Pauper, Mangling. Deserted by husband though I do not know where she did her mangling.

      By 1861 she was a needlewoman, as was her eldest daughter and two of her sons were working. Thereafter she had no occupation, presumably supported by her adult children until her death in 1881.

      George Jenner disappeared from history, I have his father William Jenner's will of 1863, all William's children except George are mentioned so I conclude that he was long gone.

      Comment


      • #4
        My great x2 grandmother, Elizabeth Adams, is the only laundress I have come across so far and I am not sure if she was a laundress or was it just her mother-in-law with whom she was living in 1851? Given the location, I have chosen to assume that they really were laundresses and not being listed under a euphemism.

        Elizabeth was a real trouble to track down. I knew from the later census returns that she was born in Blendworth or Horndean or Forestside in Hampshire but was by then living in London. Her married name was transcribed as Reed/Reid/Read which didn’t help much either.

        I spent many hours looking for Elizabeth born c1829 in that area of Hampshire. I eventually found a possibility living with a Martha Cheeseman in 1851. They were both listed as laundresses, and they seemed to be the “next door” household to Aldingbourne House - about halfway between Arundel and Chichester in Sussex.


        1851.jpg
        © The National Archives of the UK (TNA)

        This turned out to be my Eureka moment as Elizabeth was listed as Martha’s son’s widow, so this helped sort out the correct marriage to Charles Reed, in London, and from there I was able to track down her baptism, parents etc. Finding the two marriages had also needed a lot of cross checking of GRO references - FMP makes that rather easier now.

        Elizabeth had been married in August 1850 in Catherington and widowed by the following April. I eventually discovered that William had died of typhus in Portsea in January 1851 and is buried just down the road from me in Climping churchyard - his headstone and those of Martha and John, his parents, are still there and legible. This was definitely a research task which need certificates and it also involved using newspapers from FMP and my membership of SFHG to establish what became of William.

        I always feel a little sad that they were married for such a short time - she was only just turned 21 when she was widowed, then I remember that I wouldn’t be here otherwise. There are some old cottages at the opening of the drive to Aldingbourne House and I often wonder if that was where she lived, and did she walk through the village I now live in to visit Climping Church? She was married in Hoxton in 1857 so she may not have lived here for long.
        Caroline
        Caroline's Family History Pages
        Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others. Socrates

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks again for another wonderful prompt Jill, this time I will share with you Elizabeth McCracken (great name!) who is the Great-Grandmother of my Wife.

          She was the ninth of twelve children born to James McCracken and Isabella Hose and was born on 09 Dec 1888 in Ayr.

          She was counted in the1891census in 31, Paisley Street, Ardrossan, Ayrshire and in 1901 in 50, New Street, Riccarton, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire

          She married John Kirk Jack on 29 Apr 1910 and was living at 24, Campbell Street, Riccarton at the time and her occupation was a Laundry Maid.

          I have no doubt that living and growing up in Glasgow would have been really tough, by all accounts she was a tough lady, but many would say that you needed to be like that to survive.



          You do not have permission to view this gallery.
          This gallery has 1 photos.
          My Family History Blog Site:

          https://chiddicksfamilytree.com

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          • #6
            Love that photo, Paul, you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her!

            I have three generations of Laundresses all living and working in the same house. Purely guessing but probably the laundry work was collected and done by them at their house rather than them working somewhere else.

            The first woman is my 3x great grandmother Harriet SKITTERAL b c 1805 in Streatham (now part of Greater London). She married Thomas Skitteral in January 1825 (probably in a bit of a hurry) and their first of 11 children was born in August 1825.

            In the 1861 census she is a Laundress living in Francis Place, off Gipsy Road in Norwood, Surrey. Living with them are two of her daughters, Mary 32 and Eliza 20. They are both described as Laundress.

            In 1871 the daughters have left but the mother is now 66 and still working and they have a servant with them described as Assistant Laundress.

            I've not yet found Harriet in 1881 (I haven't really looked yet) but in 1891 her granddaughter Elizabeth is living at the same house in Francis Place and working as a laundress.

            When I stop to think about these branches of my tree to write something like this it always makes me want to go off researching all the bits that I have previously left un researched.

            Thanks for the prompt, Jill, this is going to be a very interesting series .
            Main research interests.. CAESAR (Surrey and London), GOODALL (London), SKITTERALL, WOODWARD (Middlesex and London), BARBER (Canterbury, Kent), DRAYSON (Canterbury, Kent), CRISP (Kent) and CHEESEMAN (Kent).

            Comment


            • #7
              Caroline I had forgotten that laundress could be a euphemism for another profession, a bit like needlewoman/seamstress.

              My laundress Harriet had also spent part of her early life in London well away from her native Sussex, I only knew from her marriage certificate Islington that she lived in Cloudsley Square, as she was in Sussex for the censuses. Her husband gave her sister's address in Islington and as her sister was a laundress Harriet may have worked alongside her.

              Paulc Elizabeth McCracken looks like a determined woman!

              Gardengirl the old laundry in the row of former coastguards cottages where my grandparents lived when I was a child in the 1960s still stood as a small separate building, my grandad rented it as a workshop. Originally it was for the use of the six families in the cottages. There was a copper which had to be heated by a fire underneath and there was a chimney, the building was about the size of an average bedroom, I guess your family of laundresses would have had a similar arrangement in an outbuilding. The thought of getting all that cotton dry and probably starched too sounds like a challenge.

              I'd forgotten that my own mother did a bit of laundry work, she was housekeeper for an wealthy elderly bachelor vicar in the 1960s, we also lived in the 6 bedroomed vicarage (dad had his own job but did a spot of gardening too) but mum did not the vicar's laundry, his sheets, towels and clothing were boxed up and went to the local laundry, but mum was expected to wash and starch his surplice and she would also do her own and my choir collar and cuffs, and my brother's choirboy ruff, so when I had to starch a tray cloth at school as part of my domestic science lesson I had no trouble at all, often having assisted. I think I've got some spray starch but I reckon I could still do it the traditional way if I had to.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks, Jill, your description fits what I vaguely had in my mind but hadn't thought about several Laundresses using a central wash house. I must do some googling for some more historical info or images.

                Originally posted by Gardengirl View Post

                I've not yet found Harriet in 1881 (I haven't really looked yet) but in 1891 her granddaughter Elizabeth is living at the same house in Francis Place and working as a laundress.

                When I stop to think about these branches of my tree to write something like this it always makes me want to go off researching all the bits that I have previously left un researched.
                So, off I went to follow up those strands and thanks to FamilySearch I found Harriet in 1881 a widow, still living in Frances Place and working as a Laundress with two young servant girls living with her as laundry assistants. Harriet had been transcribed as Harriet ??Itteral.
                Last edited by Gardengirl; 02-01-22, 11:59.
                Main research interests.. CAESAR (Surrey and London), GOODALL (London), SKITTERALL, WOODWARD (Middlesex and London), BARBER (Canterbury, Kent), DRAYSON (Canterbury, Kent), CRISP (Kent) and CHEESEMAN (Kent).

                Comment


                • #9
                  Jill, have loved reading the stories but don't have any blacksmiths or laundry workers that I can think of in my tree. Looking forward to see what is next weeks. Will post when I have someone to add.
                  Lin

                  Searching Lowe, Everitt, Hurt and Dunns in Nottingham

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Lin Fisher View Post
                    Jill, have loved reading the stories but don't have any blacksmiths or laundry workers that I can think of in my tree. Looking forward to see what is next weeks. Will post when I have someone to add.
                    Grocers next week, I'm giving advance notice of the following week on the initial post for each occupation and have a year's worth planned, towards the end of the year I will ask the membership to suggest anything not covered.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Jill, you have been busy. Have some grocers so will be looking them up.
                      Lin

                      Searching Lowe, Everitt, Hurt and Dunns in Nottingham

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My husband's granny Victoria Lily May Cole is on the 1911 census as a calender hand when she was 13, at a steam laundry. I had to look this up and it turns out to be a long machine with a roller used for pressing flat things like sheets.

                        The Coles lived next to the laundry in Lindfield, Sussex but I have only just found out that it had been built as a charitable venture in 1902 by the Dowager Duchess of Tankerville to give employment to women in difficult circumstances, including unmarried mothers, and there was accommodation for them. I don't think Lil fell into this category, she just lived next door with her family.

                        The Salvation Army took over from 1912-1922, then it was sold as a business and was called Mid Sussex Laundry. Lil's daughter Joan worked there rom the 1940s, then when it closed in the 1970s moved on to the hospital laundry. My mother in law worked in the Mid Sussex Laundry offices prior to her marriage in 1947, and her sister's husband was a delivery driver.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A calenderer as they were often called in Scotland did the same thing but usually in a different environment - operated a machine which pressed using two large rollers (calenders) used to press and finish fabrics or paper. There were many calenderers in Dundee where the machines were in the jute mills although the machines were also to be found cloth and paper mills as well as steam laundries.
                          Last edited by GallowayLass; 03-01-22, 12:51.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My grandfather Charles was born at Ipswich in 1889 and was an apprenticed coppersmith when he signed up with Royal Navy for 12 years. Unfortunately he was invalided out in 1918 with thyroid problems and goitre. He worked as a coppersmith and taught apprentices. One day, according to family anecdotes, he nailed his tool box to the floor and declared he would never work for anyone again.
                            About 1925 Charles and Annie, whom he married in 1917, opened a dairy at Church Farm in Aldeburgh about 25 miles from Ipswich. Their three children, including my father, were left with his brother William and wife Hilda in Ipswich for couple of years. This venture failed when Annie died from pneumonia in 1927. My father was only 8 years old.
                            Charles returned to Ipswich and promptly started a laundry in his kitchen at Spring Road, earning 13 shillings in his first week. They had a huge boiler, an old bathtub, washboards and a mangle. Grandad never slept on Monday nights and all the laundry was washed, starched, dried and ironed by Wednesday night ready for delivery on Thursday mornings. He married Amelia, his housekeeper, in Dec 1927 only 10 months after Annie had died. He later turned the stables in the back yard into a laundry with a washing machine, electric wringer and overhead pulley airer/drier. An old boy with a horse and cart used to bring in baskets of washing on a Monday.
                            They moved to bigger property over one weekend, opened up the Lattice Barn Hand Laundry and rented out the Spring Rd property. They bought a van which had chairs for seats in the back! Charles and Amelia had more three children in the years between 1929 and 1932.

                            a6d69ca0-692f-4763-8f92-1e76dff6ece0.jpg
                            The Van with two of the youngest children.

                            As business grew they contracted out work to the Sanitary Steam Laundry for items such as stiff collars, maids aprons and caps and things where goffering was required ie frills.
                            Charles became ill with gastric ulcers and the older children, all at Grammar Schools, had to do many of the chores taking time off school in order to do so. It was a very hard life. My father, his brother and sister left home as soon as possible to the RN, RAF and Nursing respectively.
                            Grandad sold the business and after hospital treatment for his ulcers he took a one year retirement before buying a Newsagents shop in Oulton Broad, Lowestoft. Despite or because of their hard working life, Amelia was 85 and Grandad 95 when they died.
                            Last edited by Katarzyna; 04-01-22, 20:10.
                            Kat

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                            • #15
                              That’s a great family story! I can’t see the picture though, just the caption.
                              Main research interests.. CAESAR (Surrey and London), GOODALL (London), SKITTERALL, WOODWARD (Middlesex and London), BARBER (Canterbury, Kent), DRAYSON (Canterbury, Kent), CRISP (Kent) and CHEESEMAN (Kent).

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Katarzyna what an interesting life, he sounds like a very hardworking and resourceful man.

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                                • #17
                                  Oh - strange. Logging out and back in I can still see it (?)
                                  Can you see the image Jill on the A272 ?
                                  Last edited by Katarzyna; 04-01-22, 16:59.
                                  Kat

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I can’t see the image in #14 either. What a long and fruitful life Grandad Charles led - a hard worker who wouldn’t give up.
                                    Last edited by GallowayLass; 04-01-22, 17:52.

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                                    • #19
                                      Katarzyna no, just the caption.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I can see the image, lovely stories
                                        Carolyn
                                        Family Tree site

                                        Researching: Luggs, Freeman - Cornwall; Dayman, Hobbs, Heard - Devon; Wilson, Miles - Northants; Brett, Everett, Clark, Allum - Herts/Essex
                                        Also interested in Proctor, Woodruff

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