11 Annotations

First Reading

Phil  •  Link

Toilet, latrine, etc.

vicente  •  Link

House of office: mention'd 25 times in diaries so far on search internal:
here typical rooms within from
URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/…
6ft by 4 ft area near the stairs
along with buttery and cellars etc..

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

A popular ref. to the privy be jakes, a term used by the betters centuries later.
"...stretching W to a jakes standing there. The viewers say that above the same jakes, the party [sic] ought to have 8 ft. 8 in. E and W and 2 ft. N and S for the fall of his jakes in a vault lying there between the parties as it was at the time of his purchase....."
more for the enquiring mind.
From: 'Misc. MSS Box 91 [C]: 1550-51 (nos 267-316)', London viewers and their certificates, 1508-1558: Certificates of the sworn viewers of the City of London (1989), pp. 104-18. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/…. Date accessed: 11 August 2005.

cgs  •  Link

lifted from the OED
1652 in Rec. Early Hist. Boston (1877) II. 109 It is ordered that noe house of Office..shall stand within twentie foot of any high way.

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Guardian has an article today on -- well, you read it -- but the part that caught my interest was this:

"The recorded history of human defecation can be read as a series of attempts at differentiation: how do we separate our excrement from our bodies, our sewage from our homes and cities? How do we keep the sounds and smells of our bodily functions from infesting other people’s senses? How do we enforce social hierarchies by dividing the bodies of the powerful from the bodies of the oppressed?

"To these questions, the bathroom with its seated water closet, or flush toilet, was a surprisingly recent but remarkably potent answer. Although sit-down privies and latrines have existed at least since Egyptian antiquity, for almost all of history the vast majority of Homo sapiens defecated squatting, in the open. As the planet filled up and humans clustered together in cities over the second half of the previous millennium, open defecation became a scourge, leading to rising rates of diseases such as dysentery – still a major problem in parts of the world without modern sanitation.

"It’s generally held that the water closet was invented by an English nobleman at the end of the 16th century. But it wasn’t until the industrialisation of Britain’s potteries and ironworks in the mid-19th century that water closets ceased to be the preserve of the wealthy. As they spread to homes across northern Europe, toilets led to revolutions in sanitation, medicine, social relations and even psychology.

"With more and more people going to the bathroom at home and in private, defecation became a solitary and almost unspeakably vulgar act. Some wrongly believe that other people’s bowel movements elicit universal disgust. But as recently as the 16th century, a treatise on etiquette scolded well-to-do Europeans not to flaunt the stinking cloth with which one wipes one’s arse. For several hundred years, into the 18th century, English monarchs did their business in front of literal privy councils while enthroned upon an upholstered box containing a chamber pot. Indeed, “social defecation” has been observed across times and cultures. In the 1970s, the anthropologist Philippe Descola documented it among the previously uncontacted Achuar people in the Amazon; open-plan, ni-hao (“hello”) bathrooms are still common in many parts of China."


San Diego Sarah  •  Link

It's well documented that Louis XIV built Versailles with no bathroom facilities. However, I just found out that in the Parisian code of laws, called the “Costume de Paris,” in 1513, it is expressly ordered, that every house should have a privy. More severe punishments for failure to obey were added in 1533. In 1538 the under officers of police were required to inspect houses and to report the names of those who had not complied with the regulation.

I suspect this means that there had to be a room in the house, but if there were no sewers, what good is the room? The chamber pot needs to be emptied, regardless of where it is kept.

Batch  •  Link

I once read an answer given by a very important person (whose name I have forgotten) to the question "What is the most inportant invention?"
His answer: "the toilet."
To that I would add "the sewer system to which toilets are connected."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Agreed Batch ... one reason to be very grateful for living in the 21st century. Imagine having the job of a gong farmer???!!!

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Pepys and his fellow Londoners knew that their "night soil" was essential to the farmers around London. With careful handling, traditionally it is transformed into fertalizer -- and literally worth its weight in gold.

Today Russia is the world's second largest exporter of fertalizer.
The Ukraine is the world's bread basket.
Shortly we may find ourselves challenged to rethink our relationship with our own priceless asset.
Fortunately people are making this possibility practical in acceptable ways. Never fear, there will be no wooden barrels leaking in your basement:

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Yes, this is a 17th-century word for toilet paper.
According to the OED, a second usage that popped up not long after this one is “Worthless or inferior literature; any written or printed material that is perceived as useless, tedious, or unnecessary.”
In other words, pages you could probably use as toilet paper. Ouch.


San Diego Sarah  •  Link

From: "Sex, Lice and Chamber Pots in Pepys' London"
By Liza Picard
Last updated 2011-02-17

"Diary extract"

20 October, 1660: 'This morning one came to me to advise with me where to make me a window into my cellar in lieu of one that Sir W Batten had stopped up; and going down my cellar to look, I put my foot into a great heap of turds, by which I find that Mr Turner's house of office is full and comes into my cellar, which doth trouble me; but I will have it helped.'

"Background information:

"London had had sewers for centuries but they only carried surface water. Excrement went into the cesspit under the house or in the garden, and was - in theory - regularly emptied. There was a system for rubbish collection, but somehow there were always dead dogs and cats, and food refuse, and an overwhelming amount of animal faeces in the streets.

"Water had to be bought from watercarriers unless you were so poor that you collected your own from the river or one of the few public wells, or so rich that you subscribed to a private water company such as the New River. Their mains were made of elm trunks, and the domestic supply pipes were lead. The supply ran only a few hours at a time, so you had to store your water in lead tanks. No wonder it tasted foul, but it sufficed for boiling meat, and for very limited personal ablutions (Samuel Pepys was sure he caught a cold by washing his feet).

"Household washing used lye made from ashes and urine."


So Lisa Picard thinks Mr. Turner's cesspit had overflowed? Could be, but I always thought the chamber pots and flues from the House of Office empted into barrels in the basement which were then carried out of the house by the nightsoil men and exchanged for "fresh" ones.
In this case, no one had called trhe nightsoil man in time.

How could they dig the waste out in a cellar cesspit? Moving enclosed barrels would be challenge enough. Cesspits would be much easier to deal with in a garden.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.




  • Sep