1. Washing a Quarryman's Clothes (Welsh audio)


Mrs George, Pontypool
Mrs George, Pontypool, washing with a dolly tub, about 1900. Photographs of domestic work during this period are rare.

The hardest work for the wife of the smallholder or the quarryman was washing their clothes. Now, the quarryman always wore corduroy trousers. And a linen coat under his jerkin, you see. Well, when he first went to the quarry, they were clean but then there was slate dust all over them, wasn't there? And they were washed only once a month and it was a terrible task. And the trousers got whiter and whiter as you wore them. They started out a brownish colour, you know, and then it would get whiter and whiter through being washed. The quarryman's wife dreaded wash day. She had a big pan to boil clothes and we had to do it all in the kitchen, you see. The pan was egg-shaped, oval, and had a handle like that over it. You could hang it from the handle if you wished. And then she had to boil these clothes, these fustian clothes, in water and soda, mind you!

We used to draw water from a water spout at the side of the house, you see. Not from a tap at all - water good enough to drink. It came through slates, down from the spring at the top of the field, and then down through a slate trough, you see, down to the water spout. Well, Mam, and I don't know how she did it, would carry this big, oval pan, with the working clothes in it, and put it under the water spout to rinse them, in all weathers. All weathers. And it was difficult to get them dry, terribly difficult in winter. But they would probably be put out to hang on the line if the weather was fair. They would drip, anyway, and she would bring them into the house to be washed and to dry.

Dr Kate Roberts, born in Rhosgadfan, Caernarfonshire, 1891.

St. Fagans: National History Museum archive no. 2526. Recorded 1969.