Chinese laundries first began to appear in Britain in the Liverpool area at the turn of the 20th century.

Hop Lee's Laundry in Castor St

Hop Lee’s Laundry in Castor St

One of the first in London was that run by Hop Lee in Castor Street, now long gone.    The Chinese only moved into laundries in a big way because they were often denied other business opportunities.  They were often successful at it because they offered a cheaper and better quality service than existing laundries.


Yau Lee Laundry

Yau Lee Laundry



The success of the laundries brought resentment.  There were outbreaks of violence, the worst in Cardiff, where in 1911 every single one of the 30 Chinese laundries in the city was ransacked by rioting mobs.

The myth also was put about by a sensation seeking press, that white girls were lured into these laundries, drugged and abducted to serve as sex slaves to satisfy the lusts of their masters. This negative view of Chinese laundries was reinforced by the tradition of comedy Chinamen in music hall and pantomime performances.