10 things

10 things (and much more) that you didn't know you didn't know about bathrooms

  • THE FIRST WATER CLOSET The Water Closet was first designed way back in 1596 by Sir John Harington, the godson of Queen Elizabeth 1st.  His invention was a great success but it didn’t catch on.  It was too expensive. Only 3 were ever made - one for Harington himself, for use at his home Kelston Manor, near Bath, Somerset. One for his Godmother at her home, Richmond Palace. The third is a non-working replica and is on display at Gladstone Pottery Museum> in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, England.
Replica of Harington's Water Closet of 1596
on show at Gladstone Pottery Museum

  • VICTORIA'S WC The Victorian toilet was designed to flush with 13 litres (3 Imperial Gallons) of water. It was tested to ensure it worked correctly by using 6 apples and a cloth cap.  If it flushed those away it was described as a success – it would flush anything away!

  • LOW FLUSH Today's WCs are capable of a successful flush using just 3 litres (just over half an Imperial Gallon). Compare that with the 13 litres (3 Gallons) which was the flush volume in Victorian times.

  • THOMAS CRAPPER Thomas did not invent the toilet – it is a myth. In fact, no single person invented the toilet.

  • SPEND A PENNY The phrase 'to spend a penny' came into the English language at the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace when the first public toilets were provided for the benefit of visitors by inventor George Jennings. A fee was charged to use the toilet - just one (old) penny.

  • FLUSHING RIM AND S BEND Today's design opf WC with a flushing rim and an S bend dates back to the mid 1880s.  No single person can be credited with its design – it was a combined effort.

  • THE WORD UNITAS – the name of Twyford’s remarkable flushing toilet – has been absorbed into the Russian language to mean 'toilet.' So next time you are in Moscow, or St Petersburg, or Omsk, and you need to 'go' just ask for a Unitas.

  • LADIES URINAL A urinal, specially designed for ladies, was introduced by Royal Doulton in the 1940s.  It didn’t catch on and was withdrawn from sale shortly afterwards. Most people know why!

  • A PURPOSE BUILT 'LAVVY' FACTORY Thomas William Twyford built the first ever purpose-built Sanitaryware Factory in the world in 1887 in Cliff Vale, Stoke on Trent. Twyford has since been described as the 'Father Of British Bathrooms.'

  • INDIA Twyfords as the first company to introduce vitreous china ceramics into India. more>

  • WHICH CUBICLE TO USE In a public restroom the first toilet cubicle in the row is least used and consequently the cleanest.

  • TABLES NOT BASINS Twyfords casters and packers, in the old days, used to call a washbasin a TABLE. But why?  Well, in the late 1800s when large WASHBASINS were designed to stand on legs rather than a pedestal (as is the norm today) the washbasin actually looked like a table. 

The sanitaryware industry referred to washbasins as 'tables' Their correct term was 'lavatories'.  Confusing isn't it?
A Twyford's Table

But the correct word in those days for a WASHBASIN was LAVATORY.  The word lavatory is derived from the Latin word LAVARE meaning to wash.  Nowadays a toilet is often mistakenly called a LAVATORY since this is regarded as polite.  Technically, this is incorrect. Of course while it would be correct to wash your hands in a LAVATORY it would be odd to wash your hands in a toilet. Confusing isn't it?

  • NASA has spent $30 million on developing new 'space-loos' for the convenience of their astronauts when they're travelling in space in zero gravity.

  • TEA  In the early 1900s Thomas William Twyford sent a gift of a crate of tea (a full tea chest was very valuable in those days!) to his customer, Thomas Crapper, every Christmas. 

  • THREE YEARS On average we 'go to the euphemism' 2,500 times in a year. So, in an average lifetime we spend around three years of our life on the loo!

  • HELP TO BUY In 1959 the UK government helped home owners buy a bathroom, if they didn't have one.