Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Men’s room

Looking back over the photographs I took on my visit to Lincoln a few months ago, I found a couple more I wanted to share with you. One small group pays homage to a building type I’ve noticed before: the Victorian cast-iron lavatory or urinal. This one is in the Museum of Lincolnshire Life and is a rather more ornate version of a similar one I found some years ago in a park in Bath. This Lincolnshire example was originally installed at Woodhall Junction station, which closed in 1970. It was made at the Elmbank Foundry in Glasgow, the premises of James Allan Senior and Son. The great Scottish city was a major source of iron goods, and in the architectural sphere one comes across everything from barns to pissoirs made in Glasgow and exported in pieces down south.

Such pieces of fine Scottish ironwork are often highly ornate, as we can see here. Every sort of floral ornament that was popular in the the 19th and early-20th centuries, from acanthus to sunflower, was used, and buildings often exhibited more than one, as in my example. There’s also a rich array of abstract patterns – the wavy lines are especially striking (click on the image above to reveal more detail). Impressive too is the way in which the walls are pierced around the ornament near the top. The pattern made by the piercing can be seen clearly in my imperfect photograph below, which shows that even the tops of the screens between the stalls are ornamented. Victorian men were well provided for: it is a shame that less regard was given to the needs of women.


bazza said...

I think the Victorians were rather better provided for than we are today. Gentlemen of a certain age require public toilets but I find the great majority of pubs are quite OK - if one bothers to ask.
Is the one in your picture an exhibit or is it in use?
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s quixotic Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Anonymous said...

There is a fine example at the Chiltern Open Air Museum made at the Saracen Foundry of Walter MacFarlane & Co in Glasgow. It stood on the Reading side of Caversham Bridge. Gentleman visitors can use the facility and then wash their hands with carbolic soap. I did not notice if it was stocked with Izal or Bronco paper or their might have been some newspaper on a nail.

Anonymous said...

It was far less expensive to provide such a facility for men.

You have to remember there were no antibiotics such as we now have so venereal disease as well as bacterial intestinal infections and parasites were major issues during that era. Few women would have taken the risk of using a public toilet.

Joe Treasure said...

Certainly the Victorians fell short of gender parity on this issue. 20th century parity consisted of providing equal space. When I was involved in planning a new school theatre in the late 90s, looking at the plans I asked the architect if he could make the women’s toilet larger so that women wouldn’t have to spend the entire interval queuing. The architect explained that his design followed planning guidelines. Perhaps we’ll do better in the 21st century. Just before Christmas I saw Young Marx in an NT Live performance from the new Bridge Theatre. In an interval talk, Nicholas Hytner said that the theatre gave more space to women’s loos than to men’s. Where I was, in Clapham Picturehouse, this raised a huge cheer.