The life of a Killerton laundry maid

Explore Killerton's Laundry attached to the main house in Devon

Killerton's working Victorian laundry gives a glimpse of the staff who worked behind the scenes. It was active until 1940, employing three full-time female staff and a number of part-time staff.

Mrs Johns remembers joining Killerton’s laundry in March 1928, at 14 years old. She lived in Broadclyst, walking to work every day.  She was paid 18 shillings a week - as she was the eldest of six, her mother was glad of the extra money.


Killerton laundry



The maids did laundry for Killerton and people like Colonel Harris, who lived nearby in Broadclyst. They washed family clothes, servants’ uniforms, bed linen and household items.

Luckily for them the nannies cleaned the babies’ nappies.

Laundry came in on Monday morning and was divided into whites and coloureds, and laundry to be boiled or not. The maids had to be very careful afterwards to sort out what belonged to which family.

They washed everything in large copper buckets. Mrs Johns remembers climbing into the coppers to wipe out green canker, which would stain the laundry.

Laundry was dried indoors or outdoors, then pressed and ironed through the week.


Servant life



The maids brought their own sandwiches and chipped in for milk and tea. During lunch and tea breaks the housemaids and the cook often came to chat. One of the cooks, a French woman, sometimes brought them soup or a sandwich.


Interacting with the family



The maids had little contact with the Aclands, but when Sir Richard went shooting on Dolbury hill he would bring them a rabbit each. Mrs Johns says this thrilled them –meat was expensive in those days.

The other maids had also known young Ellen Acland, who died in 1924. Ellen used to come and play with material in the mangle, sitting for ages and folding it into patterns.


End of the week



On Friday the maids finished anything left, then carefully sorted the laundry so it went back to the right owners.

In the afternoon, Mrs Johns walked from Killerton to Crabtree Cottage with the laundry for Miss Dudley and Nurse who lived there. She then walked on to her home for the weekend off.