Monkey Brand Soap: Untold stories of the First World War through an examination of our objects


This is a message that can be seen on every label of Monkey Brand Soap. So, if not for clothes then for our bodies? Wrong again. Monkey Brand Soap was to be used to scour household items.

Dave Pearse poem Monkey Brand Soap

To expand, adverts list the soap as being used for:

  • bicycles and motors.
  • linoleum and oilcloths,
  • kitchen tables and floors,
  • pots and pans,
  • cooking utensils,
  • and for a thousand household uses.

The Monkey Brand was first produced in the 1880s by an American firm which was bought by the British company the Lever Brothers in 1899. This soap was used in the First World War. This product was especially valuable in places like hospitals where there was mud and blood. Sir Stanley Spencer, a British artist, worked as a young man as an orderly at Beaufort War Hospital during the war. He recounts his experience of scrubbing hospital floors:

‘I Stanley have done nothing else but scrub ever since I have been here… I have to bath patients at 6.0am, I do it in an hour and a half. When I am seeking entry into the kingdom of Heaven, I shall tell God to take into consideration the number of men I have cleaned and the amount of floors I have scrubbed as well as the excellence of my pictures, so as to let me in.’

 Glenside Hospital Museum is commemorating the closure of Beaufort War Hospital in 1919, #GHMtakingpart.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund have supporting us to produce an activity learning package for schools and other organisations to hire, using our handling collection which includes Monkey Brand Soap, the Brodie Helmet and the Hot Water Bottle.

@HeritageFundL_S #NationalLottery