Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Regency Bathrooms


A rather intimate topic, you might say, but it is one of those things we occasionally wonder about as writers, particularly if we want to have our romantic couple bath together.

I can remember homes that had outside facilities while I was growing up, indeed there were special government grants to convert them to indoor facilities. I recall one row house we lived in for a time, where we bathed in a tin tub in front of the fire. And no, dear reader, I was not born in the Regency. lol. It also had its own air raid shelter on the other side of the road. I still have the scar on my forehead from falling into the stairwell of that abandoned shelter.

So what facilities could they possibly have had two hundred years ago.

More than you would expect, but less than you might hope if you were time traveling.

This picture shows the types of luxury bathing one might find in the very best homes in the Regency.

Around this time, the shower-bath was invented, bath-tubs replaced the elegant but much more expensive plunge baths of the eighteenth century. A shower bath would be a cistern which emptied over the bather's head into a tub or a plunge bath. My guess is you had to be quick.

and most important of all, really efficient water-closets, fitted with valves that worked, at last became available (often still supplemented by outside earth-closets for the servants)

As early as 1813 the Earl of Moira's Donington Park in Leicestershire had two bathrooms and at least six water-closets, on two floors."

People were more likely to install these new fangled items at their country estates than in London homes where space was at a premium.

There was no such thing as municipal water during the Regency. In London water was delivered by wagon and deposited in a cistern located across the area, under the street, next to the coal cellar. Access to both was via hatches in the street. Water was not delivered every day. Anyone with a flushing toilet required servants to hand-fill a smaller cistern located in the attics.

The first flushing toilet was actually invented back in the 1500s. One was installed at Hampton Court for Elizabeth. However, these were very smelly affairs since the U-trap had not yet been invented.


Not until 1780 did advances make flushing toilets practical. By the Regency, new houses built for the middle or higher classes included water closets that emptied into the waste cistern under the servants' privy, but as you can see from the diagram they were not what we think of as a toilet today.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.