Our launderette builds on a rich social history in our city and the important role of launderettes and washhouses in our communities. 
Kitty Wilkinson (1786-1860)

Our launderette is named in honour of Kitty Wilkinson, an Irish immigrant to Liverpool who is credited as the pioneer of the wash house movement in the UK. Kitty lived in Denison Street in the only home with a boiler, during a cholera outbreak in 1832, amidst fears of poor sanitation and ill health, Kitty invited her neighbours to wash their clothes and bedding in her house saving many lives. Ten years later with the help of public funds, her efforts resulted in the opening of a combined wash-house and public baths on Upper Frederick Street, the first in the UK. 

Upper Frederick Street Public Washhouse

We’re proud to continue the legacy of Kitty and the many other working class women who frequented the wash-houses of Liverpool with our launderette on Grasmere Street.

Through our early years of development we worked with local auto-didact social historian Michael Kelly, who wrote a book titled “The Life and Times of Kitty Wilkinson”.  You can find a copy of this book as well as other works by Michael on our community bookshelf in the launderette. Michael was a huge supporter of our community launderette and a massive inspiration to all of us.

Our library is also host to other local history books including Talk of the Wash House authored by Peter Ellison and Pauline Howe.

Social History Events and Projects

As part of our community events and activities programme we have been lucky to host a range of local history sessions in our space.
During the first year of our Launderette being open to the public we were very lucky to work alongside side Dr. Kerrie McGiveron on our UK Lottery-funded heritage oral history project, ‘Hanging Out, The Histories of Liverpool’s Laundry Life.’
You can read more about this project here!

We also host regular Local history evenings at the launderette. Our local history events aim to reflect the diverse histories of our wonderful city. The events are always free to attend and you can find out more about upcoming talks on our events page

Here’s just some local history talks/workshops we’ve hosted at the launderette over the past few years:

Dr Emma Copestake – Dockers Humour 
The talk explored how oral history interviews can help to understand the relationship between the past and the present. By focusing primarily on humour, Emma demonstrated how memory and culture work in tandem to produce multifaceted meanings of a particular moment in time.

Dr Greig Campbell – Giz a Job/People’s March for Jobs 

This talk took attendees back to May 1981, hundreds of jobless workers spent four weeks marching from Liverpool to London to highlight the issue of mass unemployment under the Thatcher government. Despite entering the nation’s consciousness and galvanising the trade union movement, the 1981 People’s March for Jobs was largely forgotten… until now!

Dr John Ashton – Public Health in Liverpool

In this talk Liverpool-born Professor Ashton spoke about the people and places that changed the face of Liverpool’s Public health. John spoke to us about how lessons from history can still be relevant today.

The Spirit of Liverpool – DIY Archive Film

Over two workshops Monika and Michael from The Spirit of Liverpool spoke to people about their own journeys into cinema archives. They spoke about the importance of film archive as a way to preserve stories. In the second workshop they focussed on how you can build your own DIY Archive by accessing a world of resources both online and in person.

Are you a local historian and have some research you’d like to present ? Why not get in touch at creative@kittyslaunderette.org.uk We love hosting talk’s and workshops that engage our local community in the world of local history!