Woking on the Wash Before machinery was available for washing clothes, laundry was often done in a communal setting. Villages that could afford it built a wash-house, rather than washing directly in streams. Large metal cauldrons, called coppers, along with a mangle or wringer, were the tools of the time. Washerwomen took in the laundry of others, charging by the piece to supplement their families' income. The first mechanical washing machine was invented by Henry Sidgier in 1782. Further technological advances led to commercial laundries being set up, and in Woking, Rose Cottage Laundry developed from a domestic operation to the large premises of Ashley Cook. Learn more about Woking's laundry history in this new Heritage Display, free to view outside Woking's Story.