In 1916 the Anglo-American Laundry was the largest of four laundries all clustered in an area bounded by Burmester Road and Huntspill Street. It is still an imposing building, now converted into flats with its original external features still intact. It was opened in 1900, but greatly developed in 1906 when seven houses in the road were purchased, pulled down and the present red-brick and stone building erected on the site. Apparently the company wanted to develop further by extending on the stretch of Burmester Road to the right of the building but a rival laundry beat them to it by purchasing the houses and preventing the expansion. Hence the rather unsymmetrical nature of the frontage. Taking charge in 1902 was a formidable manageress by the name of Mrs Creeke. Incredibly she remained in charge for at least 28 years. An article in the Edinburgh Gazette from 1919 reports on the formation of a national regulating board for the laundry trade. In the company of 17 males, the redoubtable Mrs Creeke is the only woman. By 1916 the staff numbered 500 and their welfare was well catered for with tennis, netball and running clubs. No doubt much of this activity taking place on adjoining Garratt Green. The St Mary’s parish magazines of the early 1930s has a number of accounts of gymnastic dispalys and recitals being put on by the staff. Some of these were elaborate performances with up to forty people in costume.
It was a proper well-run local enterprise employing a lot of people living in the area, including many of the Summerstown 182’s family members. The census records reveal many ‘laundresses’ and ‘laundry workers’, mostly female, but there were other associated roles such as that of William McMullan’s father who was ‘a laundry horse keeper’. His brother Samuel worked there as did countless sisters, wives and mothers, including Edith Port the sister of Thomas, who ironed shirts there for 56 years. It was though extremely hard physical work and there are recollections of people developing serious back problems as a result of their years of toil, most notably Caroline Danzanvilliers, the wife of Louis.
It appears there were a number of receiving offices in different parts of London from which articles were conveyed ‘to be returned beautifully cleaned and laundered’. This was done in horse-drawn wagons emblazoned with the Anglo-American crossed-flags crest and if you have a look at the below Pathe News clip you can see some footage of them in action. A coloured stone relief of this motif can still be seen, high at the front of the building. Not long after the war the horses would be replaced by vans. The Laundry will forever have a strong attachment to the Summerstown 182 story through the fact that it was a substantial last-minute donation from the management and workforce that helped ensure that the war memorial in St Mary’s church was finally constructed. To pay for it collecting cards were printed and collectors despatched to every house in the parish to raise the estimated cost of £200. It was a lot of money for an already over-stretched community and some re-drawing of plans had to be made before the project got the go-ahead. Finally on 30th November 1919 the church was packed to overflowing for the unveiling ceremony. Hats off to Mrs Creeke and her beautiful laundry.