The rotary airer

This contraption deserves a place in history for being a fine a piece of domestic engineering, a design that is both clever and attractive and because it is one of the most popular pieces of design ever. I love artefacts that symbolise 20th-century life, especially those that are a part of British culture. No matter how small the space outside your home, there is room for this fold-up ‘baby’, which boasts enough wire to let the wind go to work on your weekly British wash (a headscarf, a twinset, three pairs of slacks, a dozen underpants, six brassieres, a pair of long-johns, various tea towels depicting members of the royal family…) I love the fact that there isn’t a new contraption that will render it defunct. I also like the fact that the designer is not well known in the design world and that his product is bought for nothing more than its simple functionality.

Advertising

Inside story

sometimes known as the whirlygig, was, and continues to be, a staple part of British back-garden life. The first rotary airer is said to have been invented and in use in the USA as early as 1855 but the patent for the design actually belongs to an Australian,

Lance Hill, who developed the hoist mechanism in 1945 after his wife asked him if he could devise something better than her old clothes line. His hoist is operated by a crown-and- pinion winding mechanism that allows the frame to be raised and lowered. For this reason, this type of washing airer is also know as a Hill’s Hoist washing line. The multiple wires ensure that up to 150 linear feet (50m) of washing can be dried and, because the laundry spins in the wind, the rotary airer was an eco-friendly way to dry clothes long before environmentalism became fashionable.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising