This photo was given to me by another family member, to whom I’m very grateful! It apparently shows my great great grandfather, John Thomas Mason, at another of his laundry businesses, this time The Beach House Laundry at Westgate on Sea, Kent. I think he’s the person at the back on the left, by the window. The photograph I have is a PDF of a very faded image, but I think it gives a good impression of the inside of a steam laundry in the 1890s.
John Thomas Mason dissolved this business partnership in 1895, presumably to concentrate on his other laundry in north London. Recently I was surprised to find a little more information about The Beach House Laundry from The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Gazette. In March 1902 John Samuel Thearle, who had been John Thomas Mason’s business partner, filed for bankruptcy. He had tried to keep the business going but had failed, and eventually sold out to a Mr Rogers in 1902 for £100.
In September 1903 Mr Frank Rogers was charged with arson – the laundry works had allegedly been wilfully set alight on 18th August. The Captain of the local Fire Brigade was of the opinion that the fire had been started deliberately. The prosecution alleged that Mr Rogers had paid an ex- employee, George Baker, £10 to burn down the laundry because it “did not pay”. Mr Rogers denied the charge and stated that since taking over the business he had spent £150 improving the laundry , and had recently insured the premises. At the time of the fire he was doing good business of £20 a week. He swore that he had not known about the fire until he arrived at the premises on the Wednesday morning; he also said that he was quite solvent at the time – the implication being, of course, that he had no need to burn down his business to get the insurance money.
So far I’ve not been able to find the outcome of this case. The interesting connection to my family history, apart from my great great grandfather having been a previous owner of The Beach House Laundry, is that one of the family stories passed down to me is that my great grandfather and his brother burned down another of John Thomas Mason’s laundry businesses, this time in Wandsworth. I wonder whether the family knew about the case of Mr Frank Rogers and this became confused in the family lore? I’ve not been able to find any press reports of a laundry fire in Wandsworth, so I suspect there’s no truth in that tale!