Seat and door from outdoor privy

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wooden door (in five slats) painted green, with keyhole, (no handle). manufacturer unknown
Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Seat and door from outdoor privy, about 1850-1900.

An outdoor privy midden was a toilet in a small hut consisting of a seat like this built over a pit. Human and household waste collected in the pit below and was taken away about twice a year. Middens often overflowed, causing the streets to run with urine and excrement. The sewage could also seep into the surrounding soil and contaminate the groundwater. Some of the pits did have pipes to take the waste away but these connected directly to the city’s rivers.

Cheap, cramped, poor quality housing was built to accommodate the workers who flooded into the city during the Industrial Revolution. Often only one privy would be built to serve a whole row or court of these densely packed houses. Up to 30 families might have to share the same toilet.


Water Supply & Sanitation
Object Number:
privy seat and door

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