This is the one time of the year when we have some chance of drying our clothes outside on a washing line but do you remember the wooden contraption shown in this children’s book illustration circa 1960? My period feature today is the old pulley dryer, symbol of poverty and drudgery from an age before women were liberated from the endless and thankless task of washing, drying and ironing clothes.
For those who have never lived through them the old days can sound romantic but remember houses were generally cold with just a few warm areas before central heating became commonplace. Where to hang clothes to dry was a real problem. It could take several days to fully dry heavy linen sheets or a woollen jumper and up in the warm air of the kitchen was a great solution (provided you didn’t mind them smelling of fried onions and lard). By the 1960s people were glad to see the back of them. However in 1980 a woman named Sheila Johnstone saw a business opportunity in designing her own version which she personalised by calling it The Sheila Maid. The company did well and is now owned by Nutscene, a company in Scotland run by enterprising women like Sheila.
In their new incarnation the pulley dryer has become very popular for utility rooms but has found new uses too such as a period feature of country style kitchens, where they are adorned with copper pots and bunches of herbs and dried flowers.