Victorian London - Health and Hygiene - Sewers and Sanitation - Public Toilets and Urinals

[nb. regarding quotes from 1851, that demand for public toilets increased with tourists flocking into London for the Great Exhibition, ed.]


    The Council of the Society of Arts on the 14th of May requested the following noblemen and gentlemen to act as a committee for establishing forthwith a certain number of model water-closets and urinals in public thoroughfares, with the object of proving that these public conveniences, so much wanted, may be made self-supporting:- The Earl of Carlisle, Earl Granville, Mr. Henry Cole, Mr. S.M.Peto, M.P., and Mr. C. Wentworth Dilke.
    The committee consider that the following regulations should be adopted in commencing this experiment:-
    "1. That these conveniences be established on a moderate scale, in connexion with shops, in some public thoroughfares, and be called 'Public Waiting-rooms.'
    "2. That the public waiting-rooms for men and women be established in distinct shops, on opposite sides of the street.
    "3. That in each shop there be a waiting-room, having two classes of water-closets and urinals, for the use of which a penny and two pence should be charged.
    "4. That each set of waiting-room be provided with a lavatory for washing hands, clothes' brushes, &c., at a charge of twopence and threepence.
    "5. That each set of waiting-rooms have a superintendent and two attendants.
    "6. That the charges for the use of the lavatories, water-closets, and urinals should include all attendance, and be publicly affixed in the shop.
    "7. That the police should be requested to cause these establishments to be visited from time to time."
    The committee recommend that the Council should undertake to lease several ground floors in the Strand, Holborn and Cheapside.
Mr. Minton having offered to present 24 earthenware urinals and a number of encaustic tiles for labels, and Mr. J. Ridgeway having also offered to present some of his new fountain washhand-stands, the committee recommended that their liberal offers be accepted with thanks.
    The committee recommend that it be suggested to manufacturers of lavatories, water-closets, and urinals, who desire to bring their inventions before the public, immediately to present samples for the object in question.
    The committee recommend that no time should be lost in inviting respectable persons holding shops in public thoroughfares, who may be desirous of connecting the proposed public waiting-rooms with them, to inform the secretary, Mr. G. Grove, of the accommodation which their premises offer for the purpose. The shops which appear to be most suitable for waiting-rooms for ladies are staymakers', bonnet-makers', milliners', &c. Those most suitable for gentlemen's waiting-rooms are hairdressers', tailors', hatters', taverns, &c.
    All communications should be addressed to Mr. George Grove, secretary of the Society of Arts, John-street, Adelphi.

The Times,  May 26, 1851

Mr. Davis, the patentee of the portable urinal, which has attracted the observation of multitudes in the crowded thoroughfares of the city, appeared to answer the complaint of Mr. Macgregor and other respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood of Cheapside, for having unlawfully placed in the public street a machine which was a common nuisance to the residents. . . . . Mr. Daw, chief clerk of the commissionery attended, and stated that the commissioners [of Sewers] had originally, on being shown the model, deemed it useful, and not likely to be inconvenient to the public, but the inventor found he had erred in having the machine painted too conspicuously, and the commissioners, who had that morning viewed it, thought so too, and were of opinion that the site was not a proper one for the purpose.
. . . . For some days past a vehicle, constructed on the principle of the prison van, but painted in conspicuous colours, has been stationed at the western end of Cheapside. It is intended for the convenience of gentlemen only, who are admitted by an attendant inside on payment of 1d. each person. In consequence of the great novelty of the speculation crowds have gathered round the vehicle every morning, as soon as it has taken its station. A similar vehicles has also been exhibited at the Monument, at the end of King William-street.
    Mr. Joseph Payne, a barrister, who attended for the defence, said he had just attended a summons at the Mansion-house with regard to the same affair, and it was there agreed to withdraw the summons on the promise that the nuisance complained of should be removed.
Alderman WILSON said, if the parties would only select some retired spot for these machines no complaint would be made about them. There was a vacant space of ground at the end of Cheapside which was a much more preferable site for such a purpose than the middle of a public thoroughfare like Cheapside or King William-street.
    Mr. Payne said that both vehicles should be instantly removed.
    Upon that understanding the case was discharged.

The Times,  June 6, 1851

At WORSHIP-STREET, Dr. JAMES CAMPBELL, residing at 6, Church-lane, Whitechapel, attended in answer to a summons which charged him with having unlawfully caused and procured one Richard Cleverley to affix certain posting bills upon a building without the consent of the owner. Richard Shirley, 286 A Reserve, deposed that on the morning of the 31st October, between 9 and 10 o'clock, he saw the man Cleverley in the act of posting four bills on a urinal situate in High-street, Shoreditch. The witness asked him who was his employer, and he replied "Dr. Campbell of 6, Church-lane, Whitechapel." In answer to a further question from the constable, he stated that he was paid 2s. a day for posting the bills. He had a can of paste and a number of bills with him at the time. The constable called on the defendant Campbell, and on inquiring as to whether he employed Cleverley to post bills he replied in the affirmative. He further said, "I have not been in the business long. I was not aware that I was doing wrong or that it was an offence. I only came into the profession in July last." One of the bills in question was produced and it was understood that in it the defendant had represented himself to be a legally qualified medical practitioner. . . . They related to the defendant's ability to cure certain diseases. The magistrates convicted the defendant in the penalty of 40s. and costs.

The Times, November 9, 1867

George Williams, 21 years of age, was indicted for a robbery with violence.  . . . The prosecutor was Mr. Augustus Delany Smith, a solicitor in Great James-street, Bedford-row. On the night of the 18th of November, about a quarter to 10 o'clock, he was passing along King's-road, going towards his office. He turned into a urinal at the back of Bedford-row. There was a gas-lamp immediately over the urinal, and a boy was inside with lighted candles. He was leaving the place, when the prisoner entered, seized the gold guard chain of his watch, and attempted to take it from him.

The Times, January 12, 1869