The Hills Hoist Clothesline

So, today in the Aussie English fact I wanted to talk about the Hills Hoist. I wonder if you guys have heard about the Hills Hoist.

So, the Hills Hoist is a famous kind of clothesline in Australia. The famous Australian Hills Hoist. It was fashioned in 1946 by a man named Lance Hill for his wife Sherry. Now, he did this because Sherry wanted something to hang her washing out on to dry, so her husband designed this rotary clothesline.

Can you describe what it looks like? Now, that’s a good question.

Google search this. That might be the best bet to be certain about what this thing looks like. Okay? Hills Hoist. H-I-L-L-S space H-O-I-S-T.

So, if you Google search this, you will see something that looks like kind of the shape of an umbrella where it is on a stand, a single pole, and at the top of this shape there is kind of like a cross of metal poles where clothesline or close wire goes from each end of the pole to the next pole on either side of it. So, it creates this kind of wire-looking square on a pole that rotates.

And it uses a rotating gear system to extend it upwards or downwards so that clothes can be more easily put on to the clothesline, it can be then raised up to dry, and then lowered down again to have the clothes removed, folded, taken inside.

Although, many Australians think that Lance Hill’s invention was the first of its kind, a uniquely Australian invention, this is not the case. And I was included in this group of Australians who thought this before researching the Hills Hoist here.

So, at the same time that Lance Hill released the Hills Hoist, there were other variants being released too, for example, the Arc Weld Windmill.

However, 20 years earlier than this, in 1925, the James Hardie company created what they called the Drywell, but this was also not the first rotary clothesline either.

11 years earlier again, in 1914, a company called Adelaide Iron Founders created a rotary clothesline mostly comprising timber and iron fittings, but instead which could be rotated or tilted to the side to be loaded with laundry, instead of load up and down like the Hills hoist or Arc Weld Windmill.

By sheer coincidence, in the same year, 1914, an American contraption also called Hill’s made its appearance on the market. It was called The Hills Champion Clothes Dryer. Despite having the same name, Hills, it was an American company that had nothing to do with the Australian company, Hills Hoist.

The story doesn’t end here, however. Discovered in my hometown of Geelong is the oldest-known rotary clothes line in Australia. The very first one ever produced still sitting in the backyard of the nephew of Gilbert Toyne who created the device in 1912.

Gilbert Toyne had 13 children, which as you would expect resulted in a lot of washing, and in order to lessen Mrs. Toyne’s burden his rotary clothesline was the solution.

Even today, the clothesline has plastic pegs sitting on its wires showing that it has been in use for over a hundred years.

But to my shock horror, it turns out even this clothesline wasn’t the first one to be invented. Not by a long shot.

It actually turns out that in the Journal of Scientific American dated to February 17th, 1855, an impressive 57 years earlier still, James R. Higgins created his Clothes Drying Machine, a not-so-dissimilar design, comprising a metal cross with lines on it for clothing to be hung out on, which could be lowered and elevated via a rotary gear.

So, there you have it. Next time someone tells you about the Australian Hills Hoist being the first of its kind, you can tell them that, actually, an American guy named James R. Higgins beat us to the punch and designed it 90 years earlier.

So, I hope you enjoy this episode, guys. I hope you’ve learned a little bit about Australian culture, and I hope next time that you’re out and about in Australia, wherever you are, you keep an eye out for a Hills Hoist clothesline. And if you see one, take a photo and send it to me, because I would love to see where you find them. Okay. They’re everywhere.


A not-so-dissimilar design – a plan or arrangement of something that is almost the same as another.

A rotating gear system – a set of complex things working together that is based on a series of cogs that turn to function.

Beat someone to the punch – to manage to do or say something before someone else does it.

Keep an eye out for something – look out for something with particular attention.

Not by a long shot – Not by far or at all.

The first of its kind – the very first of something.

The oldest-known something – the earliest type of something discovered, i.e. that is known to humans (maybe there are older out there).

There you have itused to draw attention to a fact or to emphasise the simplicity of a process or action.

To someone’s shock horror – to someone’s surprise.

Turn out – prove to be the case.

Wire-looking square – a square that appears to be made out of long thing wires.