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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as an older child

Drying the wash with the
mid 20th century Flatley dryer

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Why Flatley dryers were so popular

Flatley clothes dryer and airer, popular in the middle of the 20th century

Flatley clothes dryer and airer. A computer enhanced version of a photo on the internet, which has no obvious owner. If the owner would like to contact me, I will gladly acknowledge the source.

For drying and airing our wet washing in the early 1960s, we had a Flatley. This was a very popular piece of electrical equipment because few families back in the 1950s and 1960s had radiators to dry wet washing on. Fewer still had tumble driers, and although it was possible to dry washing at the laundrette, it involved the delay of waiting around there.

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Description of a Flatley

From the outside the Flatley was simply a free-standing white cabinet with a metal lid.

Schematic diagram for clothes drying inside a Flatley

Schematic diagram of inside a Flatley, taken from a sales brochure, courtesy of Tim Trounce. I am certain that our Flatley did not have the protective mesh at the bottom. So it must have been an earlier model or more basic model. It certainly did not have the 12 different heat levels advertised in the brochure.

Inside it had an open heating element at the bottom which consisted of zig-zags of coiled wire, and at the top were removable wooden slats. Damp clothes were placed over these slats and the Flatley, with its lid still off, was plugged into the electrical supply for as long as it took for the clothes to dry.

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Safety issues with Flatleys

More safety issues

My family had a Flatley when I was a child in the early 1960s. It didn't have any safety mesh at the bottom. Also if you inadvertently touched bare knees or elbows to the metal sides, it was an ouch and a flinch. In the end Mum draped a large towel over it, but there was something about ventilation that that could have been a problem. I seem to remember that it was expensive to run because it ran on electricity, and Mum only really used it to quickly dry off things like underwear and shirts.

Mary Craig

That safety mesh

The dryers were always fitted with a mesh cover over the heating element but for some strange reason a lot of purchasers removed this mesh and discarded it possibly thinking that doing so would allow more heat in the cabinet.

Fred Walton

Another use for a Flatley

In the shivery coldness of a Scottish Winter, Mum used to put the Flatley on early in the morning and our vests, pants and socks, gloves and scarves, etc were put inside to heat up while my brother and I ate our porridge. Then, when we got dressed, it was with lovely warm clothes to go off to school.

Mary Craig

Flatleys pass the test of time

My mother bought a Flatley dryer in 1959 and I am still using it 55 years later.

Averil Sumners

It is possible that later versions of Flatleys were adapted to be more in tune with safety require­ments, but the sort that we had would never have passed the health and safety regulations of today.

We had to be very careful indeed with how we draped clothes over the slats, because the mesh covering the heating wire was so widely spaced that anything small like a child's sock could have fallen through onto the heating wire. Even if it had just fallen onto the mesh it would have got overheated. Then there would have been a fire.

Fortunately we had no mishaps, but we never left the Flatley on while we out of the room.

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The end for Flatleys

In spite of the safety issues, we were very pleased to have our Flatley. We used it regularly after our visits to the laundrette. We only got rid of it when we much later put central heating into a new house and could dry and air clothes over radiators.

Other people probably fared the same or got rid of their Flatleys as they bought their own washing machines with tumble dryers. Also perhaps, safety issues did play a part in the demise of Flatleys.

The real reason Flatley went out of business

The reason for the demise of Flatleys was that its owner A J Flatley copied the Hoover single tub washing machine and started to market it. Hoover took action over infringement of patents which was very expensive for Flatley and ended in insolvency. I worked for him at the Long Mill, Pickford Street, Ancoats, Manchester in 1958 and found him a good employer. He provided a good daily meal for his employees and good bonuses for anyone willing to work hard. After Long Mill burned down Flatley moved to Kearsley Mill near Farnworth, now a grade 2 listed building.

Fred Walton

A J Flatley, the entrepreneur

Andrew Flatley was born in 1916 and died in 2005 aged 89. He was a serial entrepreneur. After the Flatley dryer he made lots of different things, for example, a radio that looked like a toy train, grandfather clocks and all kinds of furniture, including those round and kidney bean shaped chipboard tables with table clothes over them.

Camilla Wood, Great granddaughter of A J Flatley

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.