The earliest reference I could find to the Laundry, Balby Road, Doncaster, was 1894.
It was operated from an old Girls’ Reformatory west of Balby Bridge and set back from the road and run by Elizabeth Gardom and her sisters Sarah and Maggie May.
Another daughter Grace (jnr) married erector John William Whaley in 1883, yet the couple do not appear to have been connected with the laundry until the turn of the century when, on joining forces with the others, the company was styled Gardom and Whaley.
Maggie’s involvement, seems to have ended in 1899 after her marriage; Sarah and Elizabeth never married.
The sisters’ father, Thomas Gardom, had married a Grace Kerr in Pittsburgh during 1855.
By 1881 the couple and their children were in England and the census for that year informs that Thomas Gardom, a tanner, aged 58 and born in Cantley, was living in Low Road Balby, with his Irish-born wife Grace (snr) aged 50.
Two of their children, born in the USA, were also with them: John aged 19 and Maggie May, seven.
The census revealed that Sarah, 17, was a servant in Hall Gate. Grace (jnr), 23, born in Pittsburgh, USA, was a servant in Horse Fair (Waterdale). There was also another daughter Rebecca, but she died aged 28 in 1888.
A shock for the business occurred on February 8 , 1901, when the following advertisement appeared in the Doncaster Gazette: ‘New Local company – Doncaster and District Steam Laundry Company Limited: This company has just been registered with a capital of £5,000 in £1 shares to acquire from WS Arnold a plot of freehold land fronting Balby Road in Balby, enear Doncaster to erect suitable buildings thereon and to carry on the business of steam and general laundry, proprietors dyers, cleaners, carpet beaters, window cleaners etc.’
So, a new laundry was to be built immediately in front of Gardom & Whaley’s!
What had the sisters and John Whaley done to deserve this treatment?
Or more to the point, why should a new laundry company want to build its premises so close to an existing business?
Sarah and Elizabeth appear to veil their anger well in a notice they placed in the newspaper a week later: ‘Misses Elizabeth and Sarah Gardom wish to inform the gentry and general public of Doncaster that it is their intention to still carry on in business at the old establishment No. 1 Balby Road and that they have no connection with any other laundry or company.
‘They also take the opportunity to thank their customers for past patronage and hope for continuance of the same.’
Gardom & Whaley’s laundry was called the Doncaster & Balby Old Laundry whilst the competitors called theirs the Doncaster & District Laundry Co. Ltd. and for the first quarter of the new century at least, they seemingly co-existed well enough.
Doncaster & District Laundry Co. Ltd advertised extensively in local newspapers throughout this period, whereas Gardom & Whaley appeared to rely on word of mouth.
It may be surmised that the customers of Gardom & Whaley, and probably their competitors, were from the large houses along Balby Road as well as other well-to-do areas of the town.
The Gardom sisters and John Whaley were keen Methodists, being strongly connected with Balby’s Primitive Methodist Church.
Whaley, over a period of time, held all the offices of the church including choirmaster and treasurer. He also worked as a member of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows (Lord Milton Lodge) and was secretary for 25 years.
He was also life governor of the Doncaster Infirmary. He and his wife had no children. Maggie was the only sister to produce a child, a girl who took her mother’s name.
In 1926 Gardom & Whaley decided to retire from the laundry business as announced in a sale notice which appeared in the Gazette of January 21.
John Whaley only saw four years of his retirement.
His wife died in 1945, Elizabeth in 1940, Sarah 1955 and Maggie (snr) 1959.
The Doncaster and District Laundry Co. Ltd continued iuntil the building was demolished for redevelopment in the late 1960s.