Saturday, April 19, 2014
From the sun to the stars
My journey to Bath, which I interrupted to visit the Bristol public lavatory in the previous post, encompassed another pissoir, this one looking sadly dilapidated, although the scars are probably mainly superficial. The building hangs on, locked up and unkempt, in a shady corner of Sydney Gardens, the park behind the Holburne Museum.
This example, like the Bristol one, is made of iron. Apparently it’s a product of the Star Works in Birmingham (the Bristol example came from the Sun Foundry in Glasgow – clearly these Victorian businesses looked to the heavens for their onomastic inspiration). The Star Works produced many such conveniences, although very few now stand. Rectilinear where the Bristol gents is rounded, it has openwork ventilation panels around the tops of the walls and rectangular panels below, each decorated with an abstract design that recalls, without reproducing exactly, a compass rose. This kind of decoration, which leaves behind the curvaceous lines of Art Nouveau, suggests a date somewhere in the second decade of the 20th century. At some stage after this, the pissoir was painted a tasteful grey, although the peeling paintwork on the side in my photograph reveals early green coats beneath – green being the most common colour for such buildings, especially when sited, as here, in public parks.
Sydney Gardens now has new public lavatories in a nearby stone-clad structure that looks very substantial. I don’t know what the future is for the Victorian building, but I hope, in preservation-conscious Bath, that it has some hope of survival.