Washing Days at Sutherland Road Baths

Baths Interior
Baths Interior

Story: Nikky Wilson

For many of us, a washing machine and a bath are essential piece of household equipment, used routinely throughout the week and taken for granted. However, a conversation with Joyce Rason and Joyce Wilson from Firshill Local History Group reminded me that washing our clothes and bodies was a completely different experience 60 or 70 years ago and one that often took place outside the home.

At that time, the place to go for a wash in Pitsmoor was the Brightside Baths and Wash House at the junction of Sutherland Road and Earsham Street. Opened in 1937, it was a very large imposing building with a clock tower and a very ‘official’ feel to the place, but one that held happy memories for both Joyces.

Tuesday afternoons

Joyce Wilson recalled visiting the wash house every Tuesday afternoon;

“I started going there when I was 16, in place of my mother who was ill in hospital. It was very organised and efficient with an attendant (Fred, with the kiss curl!) to keep us in order. Once a week I booked a slot in advance and then piled the family’s washing into a pram and headed off for two hours at the Baths – it all had to be done in a single session.”

Joyce Rason described how everything was in one big room, the washroom:

“Once you found an empty boiler and filled it with the week’s washing, the attendant would load the soap powder and set it to work. We would then take a stall (each with two sinks and a scrubbing board and costing sixpence for half an hour) and spend the time scrubbing all the dirty clothes that couldn’t go in the boiler but those detachable collars from our husbands’ shirts had to be sent to the Chinese laundry it was much harder to get them clean in the days before fancy washing powders. Once the wash was finished, we unloaded the clothes into wooden barrows and took them to the spinners and then to the dryers which were big rails set into the wall (two of these per person).

“There was also a big heavy iron that you could use in the washroom and rollers to press sheets through and finally tables for folding clothes. The place was always bustling and fully booked.

It was great for socialising and chat – the same people usually came on the same day and time and you got to know them. In fact the two of us – Joyce and I first met in the wash house.”

Sutherland Road Baths
Sutherland Road Baths

6d Slipper baths

Another important part of the building was the bath house. “For six pence you could have a slipper bath,” Joyce Rason told me.

“That was a real treat; we didn’t have a bathroom at home until 1972 and the usual routine for most people was a Friday night dip in the tin bath in the kitchen. So a slipper bath was a notch up from this! You took your own soap and towel and you could have fifteen minutes in a proper bath with hot water luxury! I used to go once a week. Each bath was in its own cubicle and an attendant cleaned them after anyone used them.”

The bath house also containeda swimming pool wherechildren from all the local schools would go for swimming lessons, with galas and competitions regularly held there. “I loved it,” Joyce Rason told me.

“I used to go there on a Saturday morning at 8am and stay in for three hours!”


During the 1960s and 70s, the wash house began to decline. New houses were built with hot water and indoor bathrooms became an essential part of their design, whilst rising standards of living meant that more people had washing machines at home. Washing became an activity that took place in private rather than in a public building. The wash house finally closed its doors in the 1970’s.

No longer a part of the fabric of Pitsmoor, it lives on in the minds of many Pitsmoor residents as THE place to go for a swim, a bath and a wash cycle.

A big thank you to Joyce Rason and Joyce Wilson for telling me their stories about the wash house!

You can find discussion about Sutherland Road Baths on Sheffield Forum:



Gordon Lawton 2009-03-10 23:09:42

The photo of the swimming pool, although similar is posibly not Brightside pool. There was a spectator balcony all around the perimeter just above the changing cubicles which is not evident in the photo.

The wash house attendant referred to as Fred was Fred Shaw he was also the swimming pool attendant. He was well known for bringing out the high pressure hose when youngsters would not get out of the pool when their allotted time up. Officially swimmers were allowed 20 minutes for 4d and this was strictly adhered to during the hot summer holidays. Any other times providing there was enough spare changing cabins no time limit was adhered to and so my friends and I often had good 3 hour swimming sessions. My last swim in the pool was in 1972 when on a visit to UK I took my 2 daughters but signs a very weary building were evident.

Gordon Lawton Renmark South Australia

Logged in users of the website can add comments to this page.
Login to this site if you'd like to add a comment. Sign-up for an account if you are not currently a member.

<< | Up | >>

Print version

The content on this page was added to the website by Derrick Okrah on 2009-01-30 22:16:31.
The content of the page was last modified by Lisa Swift on 2009-06-26 08:57:20.

Follow us on Twitter @TheBMessenger

All content is copyright © Burngreave Messenger Ltd. or its voluntary contributors, unless otherwise stated, not to be reproduced without permission. If you have any comments, or are interested in contributing to the Messenger and getting involved, please contact us.

Burngreave Messenger Ltd. Abbeyfield Park House, Abbeyfield Road, Sheffield S4 7AT.
Telephone: 0114 242 0564. Email: mail@burngreavemessenger.org
Company Limited by Guarantee: 04642734
Registered Charity: 1130836

The Burngreave Messenger is a community newspaper with editorial independence, funded by the Big Lottery, Foyle Foundation, Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Scurrah Wainwright Charity, local residents and our advertisers.

Help the Messenger with a donation