The Humble Laundry Trolley

On recent reorganisation of the museum collection, many interesting items have been rediscovered. One such item is the humble laundry trolley – essential equipment for the necessary hospital laundry service.

Laundry trolley, ca 1920.

The hospital laundry, otherwise known as the Washhouse, was responsible for the collection, cleaning, and disinfection of dirty linens, as well as the replacement of fresh linens throughout the hospital. Trolleys like the one above were made sturdily of cane with a metal frame and three large wheels – ideal in transporting large amounts of fabric across great distances between hospital buildings.

The laundry was a busy place – in 1938 it was reported that 30,000 linens were processed every week at the Royal Adelaide Hospital alone.

In early years, workers were known as Domestics and included cleaners, laundresses, and seamstresses responsible for mending linens and uniforms.

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Royal Adelaide Hospital Laundry, 1938.
Matron Tanner with a seamstress at The Queen Elizabeth hospital, ca 1960.

Trolleys were used to restock clean linen cupboards on the wards; a more modern trolley is seen below.

Linen stocking, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, 1959.

Later additions of laundry chutes and service lifts made transportation quicker and easier, although the linens still had to be cleaned!

Laundry chute, Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Service lifts at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital showing chutes for ‘clean” and ‘soiled’ linens.

It is interesting to look at the history of this everyday item!

Written by Jasmin Clark, CALHN Health Museum.