WASHING clothes is an everyday occurrence, especially since the introduction of domestic washing machines.

However, during the 19th and early 20th centuries industrial laundries were set up – one of these was the Braehead Laundry in Alva.

In 1897, Thomas Watson Henderson sought a site away from the industrial centres to build a laundry.

It required water, not only wash the items but also to power the machinery, and as such, he chose to build his business near the entrance to Alva Glen.

The area was ideal with the burn in close proximity and scope for open air bleaching and drying.

The water was found to be soft and free from impurities giving the washings a better clean.

Alva itself could not sustain the business, but Henderson employed drivers who went with their horses and carts as far as Dunfermline to the east and Aberfoyle and Callander in the west. Later motor vehicles were employed to do this.

The items were always wrapped in parcels so when they arrived in Alva, they were taken to the receiving room where they were given to sorters who carefully counted the articles.

To make sure they were given back to the same people, a small marker, usually a coloured thread, was placed on them.

They were separated using a grading system before being moved on to the washing machines.

These cylindrical machines had heavy lids which were shut once the items and the water required were in them.

A strong solution of soap and water was then poured in and the washing began. Hot water was piped in via a steam pipe connected to the washer.

Once this process was completed the washing was transferred to the wringer where centrifugal force was used. They were then hung up to dry.

Next to the wash house was the boiler room with its two Cornish steam boilers.

These not only supplied steam to the engine to supply power to the machines but also was used as a way of heating the building.

There was a small fire in the detached office, but nowhere else.

The waste steam was therefore used to heat the dry houses where the items were dried, provided heat throughout, and supplied hot water.

It was always preferable to hang the washings out on the drying grounds when the weather permitted though.

In the dry houses was a fan which pushed the warm round to dry the wet clothes before they went to the next stage of the laundry.

STARCHING was an important role carried out by the Braehead Laundry in Alva.

The starch was carefully weighed before it was applied to the shirts and collars.

This was done mechanically where a steady flow of the starch and water mix gently passed through the fabric of the shirts.

Collars were done in the same way but in a different machine. The next process was ironing.

The laundry had several ironing rooms. Single roll Decoudun machines were employed to iron the items that did not need to be done by hand.

These were made up of a steam heated cylinder wrapped in a cotton jacket revolving slowly on a concave bedplate.

The bedplate was polished every day to keep it clean and in good order.

It took four workers to feed through and receive the damp the garments, two to feed them through and two to receive them.

These were used for the likes of sheets, tablecloths, towels and so on.

There were also shirt machines which could iron the breasts and cuffs and a skirt machine which could do the skirts of dresses.

Upstairs of the laundry was where lace and other curtains were laid out on frames to dry once they had been starched.

The hot and cold water storage tanks were housed here too.

The final area was the packing room. It was conveniently placed near the ironing room.

The garments were checked, and the coloured threads removed before they were wrapped up for the customer they had been received from.

They were then placed into the correct vans and dispatched.

The Braehead Laundry had one other department. This was dry cleaning.

Due to the chemicals involved, this was sited away from the main building on its own.

Inside was a steam engine, washing machine, a spinner and so on.

The goods were washed in benzine in a machine and could be applied to any article liable to suffer from shrinkage during a normal washing cycle, or one which could potentially lose its colour.

In particular, dry cleaning, or French cleaning as it is also known, was recommended by the firm for tweed suits, golfing outfits and tapestries.

Aside from being a laundry, Henderson also offered a carpet beating service.

This was performed by a machine using straps on a revolving shaft on the ground floor of the building.

It is known the laundry was still working during World War I but around 1921 it closed its doors as the business became unviable in Alva.