Obsolete Household Equipment

Recently, I reached into my kitchen drawer for something and my mind wandered on to how household gadgets and equipment have changed over the years. I started thinking about items which, back in the 1950s here in Britain, were in every household. Some of these are virtually unknown now, others are still seen in some households but are no longer commonplace.


In the 1950s here in Britain there were no washing machines. My mum got her first one in the late 60s and it was nothing like the ones we use now! It seemed like luxury but was really very basic. Before that, clothes were washed by hand. the aids which most people used were 1.) a washboard or rubbing board. Wet soapy clothes were rubbed up and down against it to loosen the dirt. 2.) a mangle or wringer to squeeze more water out of the clothes than hand wringing could, thus shortening drying time, 3.) once people were electrified, a water boiler was invented – here the main brand was Burco – which was basically a very large electric kettle which enabled people (women!) to heat larger quantities of water for family laundry. My earliest memories of laundry in the 50s are the Burco boiler combined with the old fashioned mangle. The washing tongs was essential for dragging clothes out of boiling hot suds into the rinsing water. They were wooden with a meal joint at the top  Big hand wash items, such a blankets from the beds, were washed in the bath.


MAQUINÁRIO 4 - Hand-operated mangle used to wring water from wet laundry at a mental health hospital in Victoria, Australia, circa Manufactured by Nicoll, G. Vintage Iron, Vintage Tools, Mental Health Hospitals, Old Washing Machine, Washing Machines, Vintage Furniture, Furniture Design, Wash Tubs, Vintage Laundry

Always used outside because the water just ran straight out of the wrung clothes onto the floor.

Washboard/ rubbing board

Washboards | Old washboards, Vintage laundry, Washboard

Burco Boiler

Vintage Burco Boiler for sale in UK | View 23 bargains

Washing Tongs

VINTAGE WOODEN LAUNDRY washing tongs metal spring kitchenalia ...


Before the days of fitted carets and vacuum cleaners, there were loose rugs and mats which were cleaned by being shaken and beaten outside, There was also a non-electric gadget called a carpet sweeper which was use for picking up bits and fluff in between beatings.

Carpet beater

Rattan Rug Beater - Home Decorating Ideas & Interior Design

Carpet sweeper

Pin on Bissell Through the Ages




My mum used her mincer every week. Each weekend we had a joint of meat for Sunday lunch in true British style. The leftover meat was minced on Monday and turned into something ese like shepherd’s pie. The gadget clamped on to a table and you fed lumps of meat into the top, turned the handle and minced meat came out of the front.

Jelly mould

Vintage 1950's Aluminium Rabbit Jelly Mould, Chocolate Mould ...

No children’s birthday party would have been complete without jelly! Weekday jelly was just made in a bowl but for special occasions you could use a mould. I’ve chosen this photograph because it’s exactly like the one my mum had. The rabbit jelly was always the centrepiece of the birthday tea.


1920s vintage Pyrex Ad

Pyrex was the what every modern kitchen had to have in the 50s and 60s! Young couples were bought Pyrex oven to table wear as wedding presents,

Hand whisk and rotary beater.

The Magic Whisk | Etsy Blog – Australia                   Stainless Steel Collectable Small Kitchen Hand Mixers for sale | eBay

The electric hand held mixer and later the food processor (remember the name Kenwood Chef?) rendered the rotary whisk obsolete.


Chamber pot

Antique/vintage small cream china potty or planter dated | Etsy

Many of the households I was familiar with as a child didn’t have indoor plumbing. This included my paternal grandparents’ house. When the facilities are at the bottom of the garden, the chamber pot or ‘potty’ was under the bed ready for you.


Paraffin heater

paraffin | Remembrance of Things Past

My dad had one in his greenhouse and we three children had one in the bedroom in winter to take the chill off the air as we were getting ready for bed, also in the morning when we were getting up. Central heating was a long way in the future when I was young!



Pretty Vintage Quilt Eiderdown C.1950s Rosy Floral Shabby Chic ...

Back in the 50’s in Britain, bedding consisted of a top sheet, a bottom sheet, woollen blankets, a coverlet or bedspread and an eiderdown which was a feather stuffed quilt and a sort of precursor to the modern duvet.

Candlewick Bedspread   So new and stylish in the 1950s!

Irish Candlewick Bedspread from 1950s Pink peach color with white ...




19 thoughts on “Obsolete Household Equipment

  1. I still have a hand beater in my drawer and I use it instead of the electric one at times. I have a pyrex set of bowls from the 1950s. I use them all the time!! The fit together…big yellow bowl medium green, etc. My mom has the same set and she is eighty-six years old. These bowls remind me of my childhood and the foods my mother and grandmother made.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh the rabbit jelly mould! I still have one somewhere in the back of a cupboard. I often used to make a blancmange for Sunday tea for the kids.. You could buy a box of 5 flavours Brown & Polson I think they were. Wonder if they still sell them?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown and Polson! I remember the brand so well. Must check them out. You never hear of blancmange now. One of the best rabbits I remember my mum making was for my younger sister’s fourth or fifth birthday party. She made the rabbit out of chocolate blancmange so it looked like a real rabbit. Then she made a plain green jelly. Chopped it up fine and spread it around the rabbit to look like grass. We thought it was utterly amazing!!!!


  3. Well..loving the picture of the 3 wash boards..and we have, downstairs..an exact one”doubl handy” board. The meat grinder..and during a few times each year..i haul out the meat..for late Fall recipes..and do the grinding..with a will. On all the days..i doNOT need it, i still enjoy seeing it..laying in the bottom of my towels drawer. While i was waiting for the ‘muse’..to hit..with what i would mention..my cancer dr. called. Seems my organs are all doing well..in spite of my 6 ounces of hoppy ale. Bitters..of course. The changeup..says dr. will be dropping me off something called anastrzol (sp?)..and putting me on a stronger hormone..to to stop the weakening of my bones. He will go with..this new routine..for some months..then another bone scan. If needed..then a stronger hormone..with a bit..of chemo. Remembering i am..82 and a half now.. these types of information..may be a help..as others you, on the blog may know..deal with cancer. We fight back best..when we..compare informations. ina puustinen westerholm

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I love that you still have some of these things – and use them.
      What brilliant news that you’re beating the demon cancer. Thank you for sharing that with us. As you say, sharing and comparing can help. Meryl


  4. I fished out my rotary whisk only last night as other half wanted to make himself something that needed it and we don’t currently have anything electric that’ll do the job (I hope that will change soon!) I had forgotten how bloody annoying it is to clean the thing!

    I remember the smell of paraffin heaters from my childhood, I was always rather afraid of them.

    I still use pyrex – and did you know it’s still made and still sold? (Though I think the decorative ones are now only available second-hand.) Carpet sweepers are also still available.

    My mum also had a mincer like that – only her later ones clamped to the table rather than attaching with a screw thingy.

    Mangles were hard work, and washboards eventually got taken up by beatniks for their music (Skiffle) – a bit before our time, but I’m sure we still heard their music when we were small kids.

    I remember Candlewick bedspreads, my mum and dad’s bed was incomplete without theirs! I think I probably had one on my bed when I was a kid, but soon got rid of it, I could never abide the things! The only time I ever slept beneath an eiderdown was on holiday in hotels!

    I can’t remember when my mum got her first washing machine, but I do remember that I was absolutely terrified of it when I was small as there was a hotel we used to stay at (I wrote about it in my Sandie Seashore blog) whose laundry room was near the dining room and whenever I went through there, all the top-loaders were thundering away and terrifying me. So when mum got her first one – which I’m pretty sure was a top loader – I wouldn’t go anywhere near it! When I got my first one, while I was well over the fear of them, I still made sure to get a front loader!


  5. I wouldn’t be without my pyrex dishes, and though they used to be regarded as luxury items, nowadays they seem quite cheap. And I still use a traditional egg-beater. I do have an electric one, but I only use that when making something that requires a lot of beating, like meringue.
    One essential piece of equipment in NZ laundries (or wash-houses, as we used to call them, even when they were just a room in the house) was the copper. A few were gas-fired, but most were equipped to have a small fire built under them. Filling and lighting the copper was a fun task for kids, and we also used to like standing beside the copper stirring its contents with a long wooden pole. The copper had several uses – people also used them to boil their Christmas hams.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. They were certainly substantial items. Here’s a good photo of one – does it look familiar to you?

    The outer cylinder is made of concrete, with a chimney at the back. You can see the door to the firebox at the bottom. The copper got its name from the large copper basin fixed inside the cylinder. Its lid is sitting in one of the adjacent tubs. The tubs would have been made of concrete, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I’ve seen them in old country houses open to the public. I have never known until now exactly how they worked. They definitely weren’t common household items. People used a ‘dolly tub’ in the old days and then, once electrified, a single tub boiler. Most of them were a brand called Burco.


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