27 May 2016

Portslade - Petersfield Laundry

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2016)

copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries
This is how the Petersfield Laundry looked in 1907. Note the horse-drawn delivery van.

It used to be a standing joke that Hove sent its dirty washing to Portslade. This is not quite true because there were laundries at Hove too but perhaps the laundries at Portslade employed more people and had been longer established. Some of the Hove enterprises were tiny affairs employing a handful of people whereas the Petersfield Laundry was a major employer.

When Petersfield Laundry was established at Portslade in 1879 the Old Shoreham Road was still known by its old name – Upper Shoreham Road. The business must have been a success because new works were opened there in 1896.

Arthur Wellesey Green was the sole proprietor and manager. He was a married man with two daughters, one called Ida Florence, who remained unmarried, and Vera Olive. Mr Green was certainly not bashful about his name being advertised because it was emblazoned on the roof of his establishment in large letters next to the words ‘Petersfield Laundry’. On the fa├žade of the building between the two floors, slightly smaller letters proclaimed ‘Shirt & Collars Cleaning Works (&) Laundry’.
(Brighton Season 1927-1928)
An advert for starched collars & shirts

Shirts and collars had been a speciality of the firm since at least 1896. In those days gentlemen wore shirts with detachable collars that were washed separately and crisply starched, hence the need for collar studs to keep the thing in place. These starched collars must have been very uncomfortable in hot weather but a gentlemanly appearance was all-important. Old habits die hard, and City gents were still wearing such items in the 1950s.

In the 1907 Hove Year Book there was an advertisement claiming Petersfield Laundry was ‘the only Gold Medallist in the County for Shirt Dressing’. It also advised the fashionable public that ‘Ball Dresses, Blouses, Gents’ Clothes, and every description of Fancy Goods Cleaned by the Dry Process, without unpicking’.

Petersfield Laundry offered a most up-to-date service too – carpet beating by machinery. This must have been more efficient than requiring a maid to drape such an item over the washing line and then whack it with the aid of a special lightweight beater. 

Petersfield Laundry was certainly a large employer of female labour. In 1911 it was claimed there were 100 ironers – that is ladies wielding the flat irons.

By the time of the Great War Petersfield Laundry did not just collect Hove’s dirty washing because the firm also had receiving offices at 1 Temple Street, Brighton and 80 London Road, Preston. In West Sussex there were receiving offices at High Street, Shoreham and Shelley Road, Worthing.

(Brighton Season 1917-1918)
An advertisement in 1917/1918 made sure prospective customers knew all about Petersfield Laundry. 

Winifred Pulling

She was born at 23 Shelldale Road and had six brothers and one sister; she worked at Petersfield Laundry in the 1920s. She remembered the huge washing machines and a vast drying shed where sheets were placed over lines. Then it was a quick press under the long rollers before the sheets were ready to fold and place in wicker baskets in which all deliveries were despatched.

Winifred did not mind the hot, steamy work but she did mind the grudging way overtime money was paid – you had to go and ask for it. Her basic wage was 15/- a week.

John Tidy

Petersfield Laundry employed John Tidy as a maintenance engineer in the 1920s. He was familiar with the place because he had worked there before the Great War but left to serve with the Royal Horse Artillery. During his service days the scream of exploding shells shattered his eardrums and he returned home to Portslade totally deaf.

A war artist sketched this six-horse artillery team near the Front in 1918. (Illustrated London News 2 November 1918).
The well-known Portslade photographer H.W. Tubb took this portrait of Jack Tidy and Daisy Blaber in the 1920s (copyright © Betty Figg)

Nobody expected that he would be able to hold down a regular job again but he was determined to get back his old job and he managed it. He also married one of the laundry workers, Daisy Blaber, and after the wedding the couple lived with his mother at 50 High Street, one of the old flint cottages.

(Brighton Season 1923-1924)
The Laundry & Cleaning Works in Upper Shoreham Road (Old Shoreham Road, Portslade). 
This 1923 drawing of the Works is based on the above 1907 photograph showing a horse-drawn delivery van

Sources

Brighton Season 1917-1918, 1923-1924, 1927-1928.
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Hove Year Book 1907
Internet

Copyright © J.Middleton 2016
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