I visited Castle Ward in Co Down last weekend, a beautiful property owned by the National Trust and was particularly interested to see the laundry. I've written before about how much I love to wash and iron linen, but after seeing the equipment used in days past, I am very glad I am doing laundry in the 21st century!
Huge stone sinks each with a washboard and scrubbing brush at the start of the process, and then huge mangles. Not a spin dryer in sight!!
With all the physical effort of scrubbing and mangle turning, the poor laundry maids must have been exhausted. However, they still had the task of ironing ahead of them. No steam generator irons for these girls, but rather heavy cast iron smoothing irons which were heated on a central stove in the ironing room. I could barely lift them, and I can't begin to imagine how exhausting it must have been to spend hours smoothing linen for the household.
There were special implements for different tasks including a miniature mangle with ribbed surfaces called a goffering machine. This was used to give linen a frilled or goffered edge.
The main bench had a fascinating display of different pieces of linen, embroidered cloths, fine linen tablecloths with drawn thread work, bodices with lace trims, children's clothes with teeny buttons and ribbons and wonderful bloomers! Many showed signs of mending, neatly and expertly stitched.
So, as I tackle the next batch of linen which needs to be washed and ironed, I will thank my lucky stars for my trusty washing machine with high speed spin and my lightweight steam iron!
Castle Ward is well worth a visit if you find yourself in Northern Ireland. Situated on the edge of Strangford Lough near Strangford, it has extensive grounds with cycle and adventure trails, delightful gardens and the house itself is an intriguing mix of classic and gothic architecture - Lord and Lady Bangor, unable to agree on the style for the house, quite simply built one half in the classic style and the other in the gothic!