2nd February 1852. ‘Gardez L’eau’.

In the beginning it was shouting ‘Gardez L’eau (gardy-loo) as chamber pots were thrown from the upper stories. Then the poet Sir John Harrington in the time of Elizabeth I invented the first flushing toilet, the Ajax (slang ‘Jakes’), and who was to write a ‘Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax’.

Cumming's Water Closet.

Cumming’s Water Closet.

However despite having royal approval it wasn’t until 1775 that Alexander Cummings patented a lavatory similar to the Ajax, people being more wedded to their chamber-pots.

It wasn’t until Today in 1852 that the first public urinal was opened at 95 Fleet Street, London, as a result of a Society of Arts Committee of May 1851 which resolved to establish WC.s.

(Sir) Samuel Peto bore the expense of these ‘Waiting Rooms’ charging 2d, with washing and brushing extra; one for women coming on the 11th at Bedford Row.


The opening was well publicised in The Times and in handbills, however they proved to be awkward to use with indifferent flushing and being not self-supporting, were soon abandoned.

Jennings Urinal

Jennings Urinal

Later came George Jennings builders of urinals and inventor of the oval, picture seat and the first to charge 1d.

‘Spending a penny’ for the next 100 years became a euphemism for visiting the lavatory, which until decimalisation (1971), was still the municipal standard charge in the days of public toilets’ widespread existence.


Colyford, Devon, Urinal.

Widespread flushing toilets came in the late 19thc   with Thomas Crapper who did not invent but was a leading manufacturer along with George Jennings, Thomas Twyford, Edward Johns and Henry Doulton.

Crapper was later invited by the Prince of Wales later Edward VII to install lavatories in all the royal houses.


Not until the 1848 Public Health Act were new houses required to have a WC, privy or ash-pit.

The London City Corporation in the 19thc, took over the provision of toilets for London, mainly underground, under the engineer William Haywood (1821-94) and which are still a feature, unlike many Authorities, of that city.


the victorianist/Pic of Jennings Urinal.

wikipedia.org/harrington/Pic of Cummings.

bristolpost.co.uk/victorian .


baus.org.uk.museum/toilet/Pic of cistern

wikipedia.org/flushing WC.s.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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