In 1904 an advert in the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard stated that the Tetbury Hand laundry (no chemicals, no machinery) had been opened under a practical manageress and customers could rely on the work being turned out satisfactorily and at a reasonable price. Items could be collected from and delivered to the receiving and pay office, Mrs George Hugginson, Long Street.
By 1905 a similar advert stated that parcels by train were promptly attended to.
In May 1904 an advert for a proposed Cirencester and Tetbury Laundry Company Limited intended to open a branch at Tetbury, with the receiving office to be in the centre of the town. The receiving depot was on Market Place.
Tetbury Hand Laundry was taken over by three "philanthropic" gentlemen, namely Rev. William Thomson, vicar of Tetbury, Major Cosmo Little, JP of Tetbury and Mr C. Harding. On inspection of the business by The Board of Trade, they found that the business was wanting in many ways.
Firstly they were not displaying notices that were required to be posted by law, one reason being given that the damp atmosphere of the laundry caused the paper to disintegrate so as to make the notice unreadable, however 'the notices were there for the staff to see'. One of the directors had said he would see to the matter but never did.
Secondly, the matter of wages. The women were working very long hours, and were accruing overtime, which was not being paid. This was ongoing throughout 1919 and 1920. Letters were written to the inspector and Board of Trade, and are held in the files for the case against the laundry, from the women, asking why they still hadn't been paid the promised arrears. In the words of the Rev. Thomson, in a letter written to the Board of Trade on the 16th January 1920,
“….this small hand laundry was taken over some years ago by Major Little, the late Mr C. Harding and myself principally for the purpose of doing the laundry of these three households. Since then owing to many hand laundresses being crushed out through scarsity of coal and resorting to war work we have taken in additional washing. But our laundry is in no wise a public one. The only trained laundress employed is the head. The other women are simply the wives of working men who live close to the laundry. None of these has been trained in a laundry. They are all unskilled and some of them are ‘casual’ labourers. We pay these ‘unskilled’ women 6d per hour. Paying them this wage the laundry is in debt at the present. We cannot increase the prices charged for the work done as Cirencester steam laundry is in competition. As vicar of this parish I am most anxious to keep these poor women in employment, and the owners of the laundry (who do not run it for private profit) will keep it going even at a loss in the hopes that the prices of laundry – will ere long come down. If your board insists that the unskilled labour in the laundry must be paid more than 6d per hour then undoubtedly we must close the laundry and send our washing to the steam laundry. The women are most content with their nice weekly earnings. We cannot help ourselves in the way of charges. There is only one alternative to our going on as at present, that is closing altogether.
Revd. Wm Thomson"
On investigation, it was found that the laundry did not just 'do' for the three director's families, but laundry was collected from outlying areas and delivered by local carriers. It was concluded that it was a genuine attempt by the Vicar to help the women of his parish, but he was misled, and therefore it was not a deliberate act to flout the law, and undercut a rival laundry. In September 1920 prosecution took place as despite the good intentions of the directors they had plenty of notice to put the errors right. The Reverend and Major pleaded guilty and were fined. The Major took no active roll in running the laundry so was fined 3/- on each summons, totalling £1 1s 0d. Reverend Thomson was charged £2 on each summons, totalling £14. Payments of arrears were to be made to the staff, and costs of £3 13s 6d.
An inspection on the 14th November 1922 found one male, and nine female employees, all paid at the correct rate.
The working week in the laundry was hard. In 1920, Gertrude Sparrow of Northfields, was 20 years old. She had worked at the laundry for 3½ years. Her day started at 6.30am for six days a week. She would light the fires for the boilers to heat the water, and prepare work for those starting later. On Monday to Friday she finished at 8.30pm or later, with two hours allowed for meal breaks. On Saturday she would finish at 4pm or later, with one and a half-hours for meals. After lighting the fires her role was as a sorter, packer and preparer. For her average working week of 68½ hours she was paid 32/6, and later 35/-. [In 2002 this would be a figure equivalent to £42.98, using the Retail Price Index] Mrs Martha Kid of Bath Road was 55 years old. She had worked there for two years as a washer and ironer.
LAB 2/1619/TBI/A/4635 Trade Boards: Correspondence with the Laundry Trade Board concerning the inspection and prosecution of the Tetbury Hand Laundry in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.
Some of the staff employed by the Hand Laundry:
Miss Alice Norris, Northfield, age 40yrs
manageress, employed c1914-22
Miss Gertrude Sparrow, Northfields, age 20yrs
sorter & preparer, employed c1916-22 (by later date assistant forewoman)
Miss Kate Maud Cook, New Church Street, age 36yrs
washer & ironer, employed c1914-22
Miss Mabel Carpenter, Hampton Street, age 31yrs
washer & ironer, employed c1918-22
Mrs Elizabeth Grey, Northfields, age 57yrs
washer & ironer, employed c1916-22
Mrs Sarah Jane Hope, Newmarket, age 46yrs
washer & ironer, employed c1907-22
Miss Margaret [Martha] Kid, Bath Road, age 55yrs
washer, works at home deaf, employed 1922
Mrs Louisa Ann Eldridge, Northfield, age 53yrs
washer, employed 1922
Dorothy Mann, d.o.b. 9 August 1905
washing & ironing, employed 1922
Alice Maud Smith, New Market, age 17yrs
washing & ironing since 27/2/1919
Mabel Russell, Stonehill, Charlton, Malmesbury
In October 1930 the Tetbury Steam and Hand Laundry was opened by Lady Helena Gibbs, the neice of H.M.Queen Mary.
In 1931 it was operating from 4 Hampton Street with telephone number 86. One of the directors was Mr John Branston of Long Newnton, who died in 1935.
In 1971 Tetbury Laundry Co Ltd was offering “24hr laundry, shirt & dry cleaning service” from Hampton Street premises.