Rare gas washing machine donated to Museum of Science and Industry

By Graham Pembrey | 10 December 2009

One of Britain's last gas-powered washing machines in action

One of the last gas-powered washing machines in Britain, which was brought by a couple in the 1950s and became an enduring symbol for their marriage, has been donated to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

It was worked by hand, heated by gas, and opened at the top. Built before automatic washing machines had taken over, the rare object was used by Levenshulme residents' Joan and Arnold Brown shortly after they had been married, and was in use by the family until recently.

The couple's daughter, Shirley, donated the item. She reminisced about how she had used to help with the washing before going to school: "Usually stuff was put through twice," she explained.

"The first time was to get the drips out and the second time, after more careful folding, was to get more moisture out and help reduce creases and ease the task of ironing."

The humble machine gives a glimpse into the lives of the lives of the Browns after the war. It meant they didn't have to use a public launderette, and was a valuable family asset in those difficult times. Joan died in 2005, and Arnold in 2009.

Joan and Arnold Brown, who owned the washing machine

The machine will now become part of The Museum of Science and Industry's gas collection, which shows the history of the use of gas power in Britain. The museum is keen to hear from anyone who knows about the Slaxon company who made the machine, as the business seems to have disappeared without a trace.

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