square plain washtub poss tub


Monday was the traditional washing day, but in winter the drying from washday could go on all week!

Washing involved an early start to get the water hot, and lots of hard work, carrying water to the tub or - if you were lucky - the washing machine.

If you used any of these washtubs or machines, we'd like to hear from you. Email us [sue at fellponymuseum.org.uk] or add your comments to the guestbook.

There was no electricity in many areas of the Lake District until the 1950s and 1960s. Washing day meant lots of hard work. Cold water was piped to the house, but often it had to be ladled by hand into a copper and then heated for the day's wash.

Clothes had to be stirred about in the water to remove the dirt, and some items, such as white collars on Sunday shirts, needed scrubbing.


Some of the Museum's washing machines have handles, wheels and gears to stir the clothes, but the most basic is just a box with a soap shelf. This was often used to scrub the collars and cuffs of shirts on a washboard to get serious dirt out before the real wash. Then they went into the "poss tub" or "dolly tub" where clothes were dunked and swirled vigorously with the "posser" or "dolly". Whites, especially white cottons, were boiled, and got a tiny dose of "dolly blue" dye to enhance their brilliance.

washing machine with mangle

The washed clothes had to be "mangled" to get the water out. This was a hot, steamy job calling for strength to lift the wet, heavy material out of the tub using sprung wooden tongs; and skill to feed enough of the cloth into the rollers for the mangle to get a grip. Then more effort to turn the handle and squeeze the clothes through the rollers. There was a skill in getting just the right pressure on the mangle for the type and volume of material. It also helped if you did some preliminary folding, because it did save a bit of ironing later. With luck, the weather would be warm and breezy, and clever pegging out on the washing line would use the wind to get rid of more creases as well as drying the clothes. Finally, the washtub or machine had to be emptied by hand.

"Daisy" washing machine round washine machine with mangle

If the weather was too bad to get the clothes out onto the washing line, they hung round the house on clothes horses or on "pulleys" hung from the ceiling over the kitchen stove, getting in everyone's way. Once clothes were almost dry the creases had to be removed, so they were pressed with a series of flat-irons heated on the stove or by the fire; and finally "aired" before being put away until wanted.