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Glasgow, Scotland

The Drying Green

The old tradition of drying laundry on poles in the public green is still guaranteed by Glasgow city law. 

Glasgow Green, the oldest public park in Scotland’s largest city, was once where local citizens went to dry their clothes. The green’s location in the city’s east end meant it was easily accessible to the working classes who populated the factories and industries of what some call the “second city of the Empire.”

People would wash their clothing in communal sinks within the city’s tenement buildings or the nearby washhouses, then leave them to dry in the open air at Glasgow Green. The city council provided iron drying poles for this purpose, allowing people to string their laundry between the structures. If all the poles were already in use, people would simply lay their clothing flat on the ground to dry.

Even after the public washhouses were built, many families still preferred to wash and dry their laundry in public on the green. The centuries-old tradition continued right up until the late 1970s. Indeed, to this day all residents of Glasgow retain the right to dry their laundry on the green, as codified in the city’s bylaws. The drying poles are kept and maintained for this purpose, though they’re seldom put to use.