It’s difficult not to become a tiny bit obsessed with Victorian (ahem) personal habits and conveniences. With their combination of growing modesty (the myth of covering chair legs, keeping ankles hidden) and engineering talent, they developed some shining solutions.
Here’s a restored Victorian public toilet at Rothesay, in Scotland.
These are for gentlemen, as you see. Just look at the delicate mosaic tiles on the floor and the delightful system of pipes leading from the overhead cystern. Could anything be more charming? I also think there’s something rather friendly about those central urinals.
By Tim Niblett via Wikimedia Commons
In 1851, at the time of the Great Exhibition, when large numbers were expected to flock to London, a rise in the number of street conveniences became necessary. These were not universally popular. The Times reported a complaint made against an early portable urinal set in a London Cheapside street, and another near The Monument, as they were painted in colours that were “too conspicuous” and surrounded by daily crowds. The inventor, Mr Davis, was required to move the vehicles to a vacant space of ground.
The price of entrance to the early urinal was 1d (one penny), leading to the expression “to spend a penny.”
If you’re fascinated, like me, have a look at a family privy here.
Lee Jackson’s Victorian London website is crammed with information and original source material.
What areas of Victorian life would you like to know more about?