this is a detail required to analyse oakleys case by house of lords
What was a Victorian bathroom like?
Well, for the majority there was no such thing as a bathroom. As people flocked to the cities living conditions were cramped and unsanitary. In London, houses were over-crowded, close together with narrow streets between them. Open sewers and drains, originally intended for rainwater, ran down the middle of the street carrying human waste, dead animals and rubbish to the Thames.
The Public Health Act 1848, the death of over 10,000 Londoners between 1853 and 1854 from cholera and the “Great Stink of London” of 1858 forced the Government (who can blame them, they were sitting right next to its source) to commission a new sewerage system to take the waste away from the Thames and off the streets. By 1866 and with thanks to engineer Joseph Bazalgette, most of London was connected to a sewer network, which diverted the foul water to treatment works. However, many houses weren’t connected to the sewer system or piped water until the early 1900’s.
For the working classes the “privy” was one or two toilets shared amongst the inhabitants of a whole street. These were often nothing more than a wooden bench with a hole in it over a brick built ash pit.
Although flush toilets were invented in 1596, they did not become widely adopted because most houses didn’t have a supply of running water. As water supply and sewerage improved the grander of the Victorian homes featured elaborate embossed and decorated toilets made by Thomas Twyford, Josiah Wedgewood, Thomas Crapper and John Shanks. The earlier cisterns were at high-level supported on cast iron brackets with a china or wooden pull on a chain. Some were a copper or tin tank enclosed by an oak or mahogany box, some cast iron but usually, enamelled porcelain. By the late 1880’s improved siphonic flush pans allowed the cistern height to be reduced to just above the pan. The materials used for the cisterns were much the same, some of vitreous china but rarely as highly decorated as their predecessors. Toilet seats were oak or mahogany.
Until the mid to late 19th Century, even for the upper and middle classes, the bath was made of copper or tin. It was a portable affair used in the kitchen of most homes, the bedrooms or dressing rooms of the wealthy. The poor collected water from a street pump which would heated on the fire. The bath was filled and emptied with pails adding more hot water as each member of the household took it in turns to bathe. The rich, had a pumped water supply and servants to carry the heated water from the kitchen.
By the late 1880s, as indoor plumbing with water tanks and gas water heaters became more widely available, houses for the middle classes were built with bathrooms equipped with cast iron full-length baths. Victorian baths were usually regarded as furniture and tended to boxed in. Bathrooms were often wood panelled with hand painted, porcelain tiles.
Wash Stand and Basins
For the early, wealthy Victorians the wash stand was a piece of bedroom furniture, with heavy ornamentation and white marble tops. Until plumbing became commonplace in the late 1800s/early 1900s a porcelain bowl and jug were the basin and tap.
With the introduction of piped water the washbasin was plumbed in, often set in a floor-standing wooden cabinet or a shallow box supported on legs.
Without a water supply or heating appliances showers were a rarity in Victorian times. In the latter half of the 19th Century some wealthier people had shower fittings, mounted on a frame over the bath with a manual pump delivering the water.
In reality, bathrooms were not commonplace in the Victorian Era. The conversion of older houses to include bathrooms did not take place until the late 1800s. It was not until the 1900s that all but the smallest houses were built with an upstairs bathroom and toilet. Bathrooms in working-class homes were not commonplace until the 1920s. Many of today’s Victorian houses have been converted or extended to include a bathroom.
A modern day version of a Victorian bathroom is unlikely to match the reality of how it was. Freestanding baths were a necessity and in the majority of cases portable. They had flat bottoms to sit on the floor and unlikely to have ornate, heavy lion’s paw or ball feet. It was not until later, when plumbing was commonplace that the freestanding bath was lifted off the floor with feet to allow for a waste. The Victorians encased their baths and basins in wood to make them items of furniture. There were no mixer taps and showers were uncommon and certainly a separate shower enclosure did not exist. A Victorian bathroom was a luxury enjoyed by only the wealthiest and would not be considered to be energy or water efficient!
Well, in Britain right up until the 1970s it was still common for houses in many areas to have outside toilets. This was because much of the housing stock was either Victorian or pre Victorian. I know several English people who lived in houses in the 1970s that still had an outside toilet.
I have a friend in england who actually has a working outside today. He doesn’t use it as he also has an inside one, though.
It was seen as too expensive and too much of a pain to put in the plumbing required to have an inside toilet. Remember, British homes are usually brick or stone built. So it costs an absolute fortune even to build a small addition for an inside toilet.
But, to answer your question.
The wealthy would have had fully plumbed inside toilets that are functionally identical to modern toilets. The lower middle classes would also have had them in cities and suburbs.
Some lower middle class would have had fully plumbed outside toilets, as would the upper working class.
The poorer people got the worse things got. People in inner city slum areas or rural areas without running water would have had outside earth toilets that would have to be dug out (this was known as night soil). If you were really poor you’d basically have a bucket that you would have to empty into the gutter, or into wooden storage area.
Of course, if you lived near to a river, you might just go straight into it, or into a bucket that went into the river.
During the Victorian era human waste (night soil) was often stored and collected, and then sold on. It was used in a variety of industrial processes, such as to dye cloth and to make leather goods.
Poor Victorian Houses
Depended on the social class and quality of the housing. For poorer city housing there was a communal toilet serving many houses, say a dozen or more, in a communal courtyard. In grand houses there would have been a room inside the house, or close to the back door. I once lived in a house (built 1875) in a semi-rural district – the toilet was naturally inside in the 1970s, but there was obvious evidence that it had been an outside small stone shed a few yards from the back door when the house was built in 1875.
You seem to have received plenty of answers already, but none of them has answered your question about use of toilet paper, so I shall tell you of my own experiences.
I am British, and I was born in 1939. My parents were not at all well off, so could not afford to buy, or to rent, a house with an indoor toilet. From about 1940 to 1950 we rented a house (in the north of England) that had been built in about 1875. There were six houses in the row, all butting against each other, and the three flush toilets were at the end of the row (next to number 6). We lived at number 3, and we shared our toilet with the people at number 4. The users of the toilets had to take turns at cleaning their toilet, and it was usually one week my mother would do it, then the next week the lady at number 4 would do it. We didn’t use toilet paper. We tore newspaper into squares (about 6 inches by 6 inches, I think), threaded a piece of string through the squares – near a corner – and hung the paper on a nail that was usually behind the toilet door. Toilet paper was simply too expensive for poor people, and newspaper was a good alternative. My wife was brought up in similar circumstances. She, her sister, and parents lived in a house (in the same industrial town as I did) that was about the same age as the one that I have described above, but they were a bit posher than we were, because they had their own toilet at the end of the garden. They still used newspaper, though! I did not live in a house with an indoor toilet until I was 15 years old. My wife lived in the house with a toilet at the end of the garden until we both were married, so she had lived a long time without an inside toilet.
In the victorian times, many people (average people) had toilets outside, in the yard. These were brick built, with a plank of wood with a hole, but typically did flush. Some newspaper would suffice as wiping material there was no 12 rolls of Charmin padded for 4 quid in those days.
If you were very wealthy, however, you might have had a house with a water closet in it. This could either be in it’s own room, or located in a room with a sink, bath and shower in it.
In the Victorian Age 99% of the bathrooms would have been the outhouse (outside, of course). Although the first toilet was previewed at the Crystal Palace in the 1860’s, they would not become standard use in the U.S. until the 1950’s. In fact, in 1950, only 60% of American households had inside bathrooms; it was mostly the rural/farm areas that did not.
if there was a toilet in ordinary houses (Not mansions and palaces) they were at the bottom of the gardens and many of them would have been cess pits which were emptied once a week,there were toilets but they would be in better class houses In tenement blocks there would be a toilet on each floor,this was still in force in the 1930s. My parents house in 1950 the toilet was still in the back garden.
Toilet paper was not in use in most houses , a piece of newspaper was used even during the war 1939/45 war years,this used to clog the sewers and cause an awful smell, there were ways of unblocking, but I do not think you would want to know.As a child I was in Barts hospital in the 30s and they used a kind of wadding called tow” a kind of cotton waste
I was brought up in a house with a toilet, down the yard. we used cut up newspaper for toilet paper as so many did, I assume the Victorian poor did not have the newspaper because of expense, therefore what was used.