After decades of service, Hill Launderette fades in to history

Hill Launderette is one of the longest established businesses on Lavender Hill – we don’t know when it started but it has spanned many decades. It stayed surprisigly well used, even as washing machines & tumble dryers became more widespread in houses and flats. The combination of quick and efficient washing for even the largest items – some of the machines were huge! – with big, powerful dryers that can deal with a large load in 20 minutes, clearly remained attractive. With fourteen washing machines and seven dryers, queues were rare.

Prices varied from £3 for a wash in the 16lb machines, to £6 for the biggest 40lb machine. Three minutes in the dryer would set you back 20p, and these dryers were quick! Many launderettes feel a bit of a throwback to the 1960s (and as somewhat iconic locations it’s not been unusual to see them as backdrops for photography) and the Hill Launderette certainly had quite a classic appearance. But it had moved with the times – with a fairly comprehensive website including detailed prices and services, and a small social media presence.

As a fully staffed launderette, it offered quite a wide range of services, going beyond the self service clean options to include dry cleaning within a day, and repairs and alterations, as well as a duvet service, and expert cleaning of curtains, rugs and soft furnishings. Dry cleaning a suit would be £5, a jacket £2, and you could have ten shirts washed & pressed for £10.

But the launderette closed a couple of months ago, initially with a note on the doors referring to ‘technical problems’, with a number to contact for enquiries. As days stretched in to weeks, it started to look as though the technical problems had turned in to a more fundamental issue about the future of the launderette, and sure enough – the machines started to be removed, presumably being sold to other launderettes.

In case there remained any doubt that this was the end of the line for Hill Launderette, at the end of April a planning application was made to the Council to change the use of the site from “Commercial, Business and service uses” (which includes launderettes) to “Financial & Professional Services“, which includes things like estate agents and employment agencies.

And as time went on, the underlying infrastructure also disappeared – with dry cleaning equipment removed, and revealing plumbing and electrics that had been hidden away for decades. We’re hoping someone rescues the pot plants before the strip out is completed.

Some of our readers will have long memories of watching clothes spin round here, and even more occasional visitors like your author appreciated the helpful and friendly service when we dropped in for duvets and complicated items. And as it fades away into Lavender Hill’s history we’d like to pay tribute to Hill Launderette – less glamorous than the bars and restaurants that increasingly surround it on the street, never the sort of place that makes the headlines – but one of those little things we all take for granted, with the team keeping it open for long hours seven days a week, and quietly and efficiently helping keep Lavender Hill’s clothes clean for decades.

It’s not all over for local launderettes. We still have the Lavender Launderette a few doors down at 13 Lavender Hill – pictured above at some point in the early 1960s (when it had a rather impressive sign spanning Wix’s lane, and when there was an empty ‘space ‘bombsite’ space where Caffe Nero now sits that lasted for decades until it was rebuilt in a joint project with the similar-looking building opposite that houses Sainsbury’s). We also have Lily’s Launderette nearer Clapham Junction at 229 Lavender Hill – both of which are still going strong.

(former) Hill Launderette, 41 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5QW.

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