Into the Crapper


English: "Crapper's Valveless Waste Preve...

And so it has happened.  I have plunged headfirst into the crapper.  No, not really.  But in a way I have.  I am doing research.  Necessary, secretive stuff, this research.  Don’t ask.  I won’t answer.  But you will probably have noticed the addition of a new category: From Bonnets to Bluebells – A journey into Victorian History.  Here you will find some interesting (and maybe not so interesting) bits about Victorian England.  I hope you enjoy this journey with me.

And now, back to the crapper.  No I am not being rude.  There really is someone aptly named John Crapper (although I would like to think that when he was born, his mother did not think at the time that his name would eventually be used ‘loosely’ to describe the habits relating to his own designs – although I must point out here, that design does not equal invention).   Toilets were invented long before the Victorians and indeed long before Mr John Crapper himself, as was waterborne sewerage, although you would probably be surprised by that considering the common knowledge of the wide use of privies back in the day.  But it was the Victorians who changed the way toilets and bathrooms were designed and used.  The use of outdoor toilets or privies were common place but a lack of adequate facilities with an ever-increasing population led to what is now widely known as The Year of the Great Stink (1858) and as a result of many illness and deaths relating to waterborne diseases like Cholera (after all, where was all that over-flowing sewerage going?  Think big, wide, long, flowing out to sea and dominating the map of London and you will certainly come up with an answer 😛) there was a call for a great improvement in the sewerage system.  And with great improvement in one area, great improvement in others will undoubtedly follow.

So toilets got their upgrade.  They went from smelly, unsanitary cesspits, which were probably on a par with the porter loo’s you find at car boots nowadays to shiny porcelain bowls and high level cisterns with copper or brass yank chains and leading eventually to symphonic flush and the toilets we admire today.  Although, I must point out that these toilets would have been fairly expensive and, although all new houses of the time were then supposedly built with an added bathroom or at least a connected toilet (which were often still located outside – dirty, smelly things), this was often limited to the rich or upper middle classes with the poorer and often also older houses losing out on the waterborne sewerage and fancy toilets and instead continuing to use outdoor privies, at least until around mid twentieth century.  Oh, and it is probably worth noting that the improvements in waterborne sewerage lead to the erection of our fantastic network of public toilets and if you ever go into one, study the dates on the walls, you will probably find that you need to thank the Victorians for it.  And if you’re wondering:  Yes, they did have loo paper!

12westminster-pan-high-level-cistern-1

Copyright © 121013 by Karen Payze

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7 Comments

  1. The Victorians were complete mentalists. Every time they came up against a problem, some bright spark engineer would simply build his way around it. If there was a gigantic meteor heading towards earth, you know what they would do? Smelt iron for months and then build some stupidly big steampowered device that would smash it to smithereens.

    There was a BBC documentary series called Seven Wonders of the Industrial World and one of the episodes was about this sewer system. It doesn’t seem to be on iPlayer but I found this link for it – http://vimeo.com/20403418

    This is the series – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Wonders_of_the_Industrial_World

    • Thanks, ill check it out!

  2. The eradication of cholera in London is the most importan health development in the UK ever!

    • Cholera is (or should I say was), by all accounts, a most unpleasant disease and I am glad it has been flushed out of the system 🙂 Well, here in the UK anyway. It’s still quite problematic in many developing countries. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. Well, well, well, what a woman will do for her craft.

    I never thought about what they did in the big city during that time. Sickness and smell would have had me in the country as fast as I could run.

    • Haha indeed 🙂 Yes, I would also have been in the country!

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