WASH HOUSE MEMORIES

For many readers of the Scottie Press the photo printed above will be instantly recognisable as the 'Wash-house' they actually used or of such similarity to the many 'Wash-houses' that once where all around the city of Liverpool that the photo brings instant memories back. Memories of doing the weekly wash, memories of meeting people, memories of the lively conversations that were a part of the way things were back then. Long before people had washing machines at home, or before the modern laundrette appeared the vital social service that was the 'Wash-house', ensured that people could have clean clothing.

The last 'Wash-house' in Liverpool was the Fred Robinson in Everton, which closed down about 5 years ago. The first 'Wash-house' in Liverpool was in Frederick Street. It was established thanks to the dedication of a woman who many have termed a 'Saint' - Kitty Wilkinson.

The 'Life and Times of Kitty Wilkinson', written by Mike Kelly has recently been published and has been extremely well reviewed. The book tells the story of a remarkable woman, born in Londonderry in 1786, who fought poverty and adversity to become a legend in her time. Kitty came to Liverpool in 1795. Living in a poor part of Liverpool plagued with disease particularly cholera, Kitty aged 47 disregarded her own safety to care for the sick and dying. Kitty also took in homeless children and taught that cleanliness was the main weapon against disease, turning her own home into a wash-house for the neighbour's benefit. Kitty lived long enough to see the first 'Public Baths and Wash-house' opened in Frederick Street in 1842. Kitty and her husband, Thomas Wilkinson, were appointed as its first superintendents.

Perhaps not all, who used the Wash-house, look back at the buildings through rose tinted glasses but it must be said that they formed a much needed part of community life and social communication. Such forms of regular contact could help reduce levels of stress much in the way that the Factory Canteen, Local Cinemas, Church Clubs and Sport and Social Clubs did.

One of the hopes that Mike Kelly has regarding the publication of his book about Kitty Wilkinson is that from its reading people will gain a much wider appreciation of the 'rights' that Kitty wished to see given to working class people

Mike spoke to the Scottie Press recently and told us that he hoped that people will find the book interesting, and appreciated why Kitty was honoured by the City of Liverpool and Queen Victoria. In Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral the Staircase Window in the Lady Chapel depicts this remarkable woman.

Mike also expressed his hope that people might wish to recall, in photograph or words, their memories of the 'Wash-houses' for the Scottie Press.


Send your comments to ronformby@scottipress.org