Cowart's Common Room
Before Washing Machines

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During the Lorient Festival we were staying out in the countryside and made this little walk accompanied by our hosts to the site where the folk (or rather their servants) who lived in the large medieval chateau nearby did their washing. The Chateau was destroyed during the war in one of the many bombing raids in and around Lorient, but this washing place remains.

It consists of a fountain protected by a roof from which the water runs into two basins each of which has a sluice so that you can fill it up. So you can have soapy water in the lower one and clean water in the upper one. Seats are provided (the flat square stones) and everyone would wash together.

I repeated the question I have been asking all my life without receiving a satisfactory answer which was how did they clean coats, tapestries, velvet garments, curtains, anything really not made of cotton? No one seemed to know.

Annie - our Chair is in the green dress and the other two, Denis and Aliette, were our hosts.

Very HappyVery Happy

Posted at 10th Aug 2018 - 10:00AM   Posted by Fennie   Before Washing Machines Comments: 6

Fairy Nuff's Avatar "how did they clean coats, tapestries, velvet garments, curtains..."
Quite simply... they didn't. Laughing
Tapestries and curtains would be beaten. Coats would rarely be washed but then we don't wash our winter coats that often either and velvet and silks were soaked in a vinegary solution made from white wine and green grape juice.
Fullers earth could be used for stains along with soapwort, lye and long long soaks.
Actually I believe they still use soapwort today to wash ancient tapestries as it's so gentle.

I love the set up in your photo, what a clever way to wash things, especially in a warm country where sitting by the stream for hours is a more pleasant prospect than it would be here - no wonder we plumped for a wash house instead. Laughing

Posted by: Fairy Nuff on 10th Aug 2018 at 11:02AM

Camilla's Avatar Morning Fennie and everyone,

Fascinating Fennie, perhaps all garments were washed in there or perhaps the heavier fabrics they just brushed down with a wet cloth.

Much cooler day today here with intervals of sunshine with gentle breeze few puffy clouds in the sky and we are expecting more rain later. Bathroom towels just hung out on line so hopefully they will air before the rains arrive.

Have a good day everyone.Very Happy

Posted by: Camilla on 10th Aug 2018 at 11:04AM

Camilla's Avatar FN has answered the question for us Fennie, thought that might be FN.Very Happy

Posted by: Camilla on 10th Aug 2018 at 11:06AM

Fairy Nuff's Avatar How on earth do I know these things?
Well, I was given some antique lace and old tweed (quite a lot of it) some time ago and needed to know how to look after and clean it before using it and just got deeper into the history of cleaning fabrics.
I think most of it was a from an article by the Hampton Court conservators.Very Happy

Posted by: Fairy Nuff on 10th Aug 2018 at 11:06AM

Withy Brook's Avatar I love those wash houses. I have seen a number over the years in a number of countries. Some are roofed over, with open sides, others are completely open like this one.

Posted by: Withy Brook on 10th Aug 2018 at 08:58PM

Camilla's Avatar In central London Withy in Marylebone where I used to live growing up there used to be a very large Wash House wonder if it is still there... women used to take their washing to be washed and aired and there was also old scrubbing boards, this surely must have been before the Laundrette's.Very Happy

Posted by: Camilla on 11th Aug 2018 at 05:52PM

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