The first wash-house for poor people in Liverpool (and Britain) was opened by Kitty Wilkinson on Upper Frederick Street in 1832. Ms Wilkinson arrived destitute in Liverpool in 1794. She had set sail with her family from Derry in Ireland.
As they reached the shores of the city, their tiny boat floundered in the waves and her father and sister were swept away.
Despite the tragedy, the Saint of the Slums went on to save hundreds, particularly through the cholera epidemic.
She pioneered the public wash house movement which gave poor people somewhere to clean their clothes.
Frederick Street Wash House
Her wash houses lasted well into the 20th Century - the last one closed down a decade ago. Kitty and her husband Tom were acknowledged by the authorities when they were offered the role of Superintendents at the Upper Frederick Street Baths and Wash-house. She died in 1860 and was buried in the grounds of the Anglican Cathedral.
Frederick Street Public Gardens Wash House
In 1852, Liverpool Council established a Baths Committee to oversee the management of the new baths, as well as the building of new ones. As well as rooms for private bathing and laundry rooms, some of the baths had larger swimming pools or plunge baths for the public to use. By the end of the century, twelve such baths and wash-houses had been opened in Liverpool, including the city’s first free open-air bath, at Burlington Street, in 1895.
Frederick Robinson Public Wash-house
Wash-house in Litherland
Albert Street Wash-house
Former Donaldson Street Wash-house
Liverpool Wash-house Girls !
From great basins in stalls fitted with washboards and hunks of soap, to electrically-charged rotor-tubs to the comparative luxury of laundrettes with their padded plastic chairs, the weekly washday had huge importance in the communities – before we caught up with those rich Americans, who had their own washing tubs and tumble-dryers in the home. Liverpool’s last public wash-house, the Fred Robinson laundry in Everton, closed in October 1995
A stained glass window in Liverpools Anglican Cathedral is dedicated to Kitty Wilkinson
On the 20th September 2012 a marble statue was unveiled in St Georges hall in memory of the woman known as the saint of the slums.
The Statue of Kitty Wilkinson in St Georges Hall, Photograph courtesy of Martin Jones
More information about Cath (Kitty) Wilkinsom can be found via these links
Photograph Credit20th Century Images