Most of us, these days, use an automatic washing machine. You load it, select the setting and switch on and go and do something else. Later, you come back and remove the washing which already has most of the water out of it. You can easily transfer it to somewhere else to dry.
Of course, it wasn’t always like that. Our curator recalls his mother slaving away at the kitchen sink, washing sheets, scrubbing shirt collars etc, from when he was a lad. Our archivist even recalls helping her mother wash clothes using a dolly tub and posser.
When washing needed a transfer to the next stage it was often very wet, hot and covered in whatever cleaning agents were in use. Tongs were essential.
Then, in the UK, we reached the time of the twin tub washing machine. This had one container for washing and a separate spin dryer. Once again, the washing had to be manually moved from one place to another whilst absolutely sopping wet. Those tongs were needed again.
These days such tongs are largely museum pieces. We have some at Market Lavington Museum.
This pair of laundry tongs looks almost unused although they are 50 or more years old. They date from the time of the twin tub. The construction is simple. Two ‘blades’ of wood are joined by a spring steel hinge. The wood looks like beech although we don’t claim to be experts.
Very similar items can still be purchased so presumably some people still use them and of course, they’d have uses other than for laundry. The home dying of wool or other fabrics comes to mind.
These tongs, at Market Lavington Museum, were used by a White Street, Market Lavington family.