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Heyer in General > Laundry

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message 1: by Howard (new)

Howard Brazee I read that clothing was expensive, firewood was a concern, but labor was cheap.

I'm curious about laundry. Did they have a laundry day (especially in the winter when washing in rivers wouldn't work)? Did gentry wear the same clothes multiple times between washing? How about underwear?

message 2: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 1288 comments Hi, Howard, if you want to know—well, more than you ever wanted to—about laundry, read (1) the beginning of the novel Longbourn by Jo Baker (serious ick factor here) and (2) the chapter “Fashions and Filth” from Roy and Lesley Adkins, Jane Austen’s England.

message 3: by Jacquie (new)

Jacquie Scuitto | 261 comments The first 3 chapters of Longbourn are available at

And I'm pretty sure this was how it was done at my grandparents just up the road as my grandfather wouldn't have electricity in house and the pump was across the road. We had both electricity and a washing machine, but still had to heat the water on the wood stove and hang things outside in all weathers.

message 4: by Jacquie (new)

Jacquie Scuitto | 261 comments Amazon shares only the introduction and first chapter (on marriage and weddings ) of Jane Austen’s England but these are worth reading.

message 5: by Critterbee❇ (new)

Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 2579 comments Mod
Ah, I was going to mention the passage in Longbourn, but I see that I was already beaten to the post.

When I was living in China, many people washed their clothes in the river, or in basins with wooden washboards I chose the indoor method! I would believe that in regency times, they carried water, heated it and agitated it by hand. Then rinsing, hanging to dry, and pressing if necessary. Oh! the soap was probably very caustic. All my ideas, no documented facts, so probably incorrect.

message 6: by Jacquie (new)

Jacquie Scuitto | 261 comments When we lived in Italy in the early 1960s we sometimes saw women doing laundry on the banks of streams out in the country.

message 7: by Marissa (new)

Marissa Doyle | 108 comments There's also a good description of 19th century laundering techniques in Lark Rise to Candleford, in the part where Laura was working for Miss Lane in the Post Office.

It's why women wore chemises (changed daily if you could afford it) under their corsets and gowns--the chemises helped keep the upper layers of clothing cleaner. And some gowns were never washed because of their material--only spot cleaned.

message 8: by Howard (new)

Howard Brazee Later on, men had removable collars that could be cleaned more often than their shirts. Riding in the open would splatter mud and horse droppings on cloaks. Brushing hats and cloaks helps, but I suppose even aristocrats were dirtier than we picture.

I remember reading Poldark, when Demelza was talking about her "inside clothes" being in worse shape than her outside clothes. They weren't wealthy, but they weren't middle nor lower class either.

message 9: by Louise (last edited Mar 01, 2016 10:04PM) (new)

Louise Culmer large houses of the sort that most of heyer's characters lived in had their own laundries, and laundry maids to do the washing, ironing, drying etc. a laundry maid's weekly timetable from the 1780s says that on Monday she had to look over the linen in the storeroom and put 'stitches or buttons in all her master's shirts,'. On tuesday morning she rose early to begin the actual wash. That meant having large quantities of hot water available, and there was much manhandling of wet clothes, bed linen, towelling and so on, as well as finer garments for the daughters of the house and the governess. She also washed her master's shirts and neckcloths. on Wednesdays, she folded, and on Thursday or Friday she did the mangling, 'if the odd man is busy' says the timetable ' the other maids may turn the mangle, one at each side'. Afterward there was the ironing. From 'Flunkeys and Scullions, Life below stairs in Georgian England' by Pamela Horn.

message 10: by Louise (new)

Louise Culmer Less affluent households might employ a washerwoman to come in and do the washing, or send it out. An advertisement from 1817 says "WASHING, WANTED, one or two FAMILIES or HOTELS . . . by a respectable Laundress in an airy situation, who has got good drying grounds and every convenience; it will be got up in the best manner, and on most reasonable terms; the most respectable references can be given. Address post paid, AB 21 Queen Street, King's Road, Chelsea." From Flunkeys and Scullions by Pamela Horn.

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