NAVIGATING THE CITY; AN A-Z OF HIGHSTREET - A dissertation essay...

In 1938, Eric Ravillious and J.M Richards published an illustrated book of High Street shops. It contained all sorts of shops that don’t exist anymore, but that were crucial to everyday life at that point in time. As part of my MA dissertation at the Royal College of Art, I went on a High Street safari in London and compiled a list of current shops, looking at what their presence on the high street meant to the communities which surrounded them.  This was a way of navigating the city that I grew up in. It was a type of A-Z of the every changing High Street and consequently the ever changing city...

Below: image of front cover, an infograph included in the dissertation and an excerpt from Chapter 1.  (Julia Georgallis 2013)

The Launderette vs The Dry Cleaner

Fig 19: Character, Dot Cotton, paying a visit to the Eastender’s launderette.

 

The launderette and dry cleaners' shops, though are close relations of one another (and sometimes offer both services on one premises), have different connotations on a high street. A launderette is a place where people can pay to use washing machines. Historically, laundries were:

established in the nineteenth century to improve the living conditions and hygiene of people who lived in the East End.[1]

 

Launderettes were central to a community – even in popular culture today, the launderette on London-centric soap opera, Eastenders, is a place where people confide in one another and share gossip. Launderettes are reserved for areas of low income, for those who cannot afford to buy or run a washing machine (Fig 19).

In stark comparison areas of wealth such as South Kensington and Richmond have an abundance of dry cleaners. The dry cleaner cleans clothes that might be too delicate to be washed by machine.  The kind of clothing that needs dry cleaning is often expensive, as are the services of the dry cleaner itself. Therefore, dry cleaners are reserved for those who can afford to use these services. 

Interestingly, there is a launderette, The Laundry Room, on Broadway Market that combines a laundry service with a vintage shop. Though this falls under the category of gentrification, it also represents a case of “Opposite Street.” Unlike the market itself, which alienates the working class community, the Laundry Room does not.  It is a working part of the poorer community, but its pop up vintage shop also caters for its newest arrivals to the area, the middle class.  

 

[1] Link to article, http://spitalfieldslife.com/2010/04/13/the-lost-world-of-the-laundrettes-2/ 

(First Accessed 24.09.13)