King’s Lynn Arts Centre irons out part of West Norfolk’s Victorian history

Linda Theophilus and Richard Layzell turned heads in King's Lynn as they went to work on their ironing boards on Saturday.

They gave away doilies, napkins, tea towels and other freshly-starched gifts to intrigued town centre shoppers, as part of an ongoing arts project exploring the lives of every day objects.

Mrs Theophilus was one of six artists who chose an object from Lynn Museum for the centrepiece of a new work.

'I chose an iron called a goffering iron,' she said. 'Having realised what a difficult piece of equipment it was to control and get right, I started doing some research.'

Goffering irons are heated by a separate poker, which would have to have been heated to the right temperature in a coal-fired range, before being used to press hems, cuffs and other fine detail - without burning the garment.


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Mrs Theophilus also researched the story behind the women who would have had to use the crude irons to earn a living.

'In the 19th century, there were laundresses all over Lynn, they were recorded in census records,' she said.

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'It was really hard work, a skilled job. I thought we should start celebrating the people who did such hard work.'

Four of the laundresses Mrs Theophilus uncovered form part of a display at the nearby Lynn Museum, in Market Street.

Their names are scorched into a piece of cloth - Keziah Waterson, Elizabeth Shawl, Pleasance Ketterington and Martha Crome.

Mrs Theophilus and fellow artist Richard Layzell staged their five-hour ironing marathon under cloudy skies at Baxter's Plain, on Saturday.

'I really enjoy it, I like all domestic rituals, they keep chaos at bay,' said Mrs Theophilus.

Mr Layzell admitted he was more of a late convert to the joys of ironing.

'I used to hate it when I was a teenager, I couldn't see the point of it,' he said. 'But I quite like it now, when I turned 40 I started liking it.

'I do like a cotton hankerchief, and if you've got an un-ironed hankerchief, it feels a bit naff.'

Works are on show as part of the Re-Home exhibition at the King's Lynn Arts Centre and Lynn Museum (Tue - Sat, 10am - 5pm) until March 10.

As part of the same programme, a replica 1960s flat is on show at Flat 149, Hillington Square (Tue, Thurs and Sat, 11am - 3pm).

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