History of the Hills Hoist clothesline

Written by Cameron Bayley for Australian Seniors

Shockwaves reverberated around Australia last year when reports emerged that one of our favourite icons was set to retire. Was it true the company behind the beloved Hills Hoist was going into administration?

Thankfully, it was all a miscommunication — the company that did go bust, Hills Limited, is no longer attached to the product, having sold it to AMES Australasia back in 2017. However, the reaction showed just how attached we are to this homegrown innovation.

The Hills Hoist history is fascinating. It was developed in 1945 by South Australian Lance Hill, though the rotary clothes hoist design was created by another Australian, Gilbert Toyne, way back in 1911, who wanted a way to maximise the amount of clothesline space, but with less of a footprint.

Unfortunately, despite success with his rotary clothes dryer, Gilbert faced some challenges – the arrival of World War I, the Great Depression, as well as some regrettable business decisions and personal tragedies – and his patent expired.

This opened the door for the far more commercially savvy Lance to take this contraption to new heights.

The original Hills Hoist

The rest is history. The newly dubbed ‘Hills Hoist’ became the must-have for a growing Australia in the 1950s, and as suburbs boomed, so did the invention. And as most Aussies will attest, the Hills Hoist clothesline is not just used for drying clothes. We hang lights off it for parties, drape a tarp over it to create a makeshift marquee, and more than a few of us have used it as a swing in our youth, much to our parents’ chagrin.

The Hills Hoist is such a part of our culture that event producer David Atkins included it in the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, where he celebrated “our giant Australian backyard”, along with oversized thongs and Speedo-clad lifesavers.

Alas, the trend for subdividing suburban properties, and maximising the size of homes, means smaller lawns, so demand for a Hills Hoist is not as it once was. Will it eventually be hung out to dry? We hope not.

With many Australians feeling the pinch in the current economic climate, drying clothes the ‘old-fashioned’ way on a clothesline is an economic choice, helping you save money on power bills.

Clotheslines are a fixed item on your property which may be covered under your Home Insurance. Here’s one way to protect your home.

Protect your property and belongings with Seniors Home & Contents Insurance