Thursday 4 July 2013

Underground Convenience

The first underground toilets in Victorian London ...

The Honourable the Commissioners of
Sewers of the City of London
in the Years 1884-5



DESCRIPTION of the underground Urinals and Water Closets on the Western front of the Royal Exchange, erected by the Commissioners of Sewers of the City of London, 1884-5, and opened on the 23rd January, 1885.

This underground construction is formed around the base of the Duke of Wellington's Statue, on the Western front of the Royal Exchange. It is wholly beneath the street pavement, and was excavated in the mass of solid concrete which surrounded the foundations of the base of the statue.

The base of the statue being oblong, with a railing around it, forming an ellipse, that form suggested itself as best suited to the requirements of the structure.

The area may be said to be dividied into three rings, the outer ring occupied by the water closets, the middle ring by the passage-way or corridor, and the inner ring, or that which is closest to the base of the statue, by the urinals.

The outer ring contains twelve water closets, six on each side, divided by brick partitions, radiating from the centres of the ellipse; space is provided at the ends for four additional closets, should they be required, or the space may be otherwise utilized, as may be found necessary.

The outer ring contains also two rooms for attendants, one on each side of the entrance, and together they command a view of the whole of the interior of the structure.

The corridor or passage-way is 3feet 6 inches wide, and gives acces to the water closets on one side, and to the urinals on the other side, and passes completely round the ellipse, giving a clear passage-way from the entrance to exit.

The entrance and exit to the structure are by two flights of stone steps - parallel for part of their length and diverging right and left as they approach the floor. These entrances are in the rear of the statue.

The internal dimensions of the structure are as follow:- lenght 38 feet 4 inches, breadth 33 feet 8 inches. The depth from the street paving level to the floor of the corridor is 10 feet.

There is no external evidence of the structure other than the entrance steps leading to it; the cast-iron railing which heretofore surrounded the base of the statue is retained in its original position, and the levels of the pavements are unaltered. The railings and curbs enclosing the entrance steps are of the same pattern as those surrounding the statue, and are flanked by ornamental iron lamp standards on stone bases. These lamp standards are used for ventilation. Ornamental cast-iron gates are provided for closing the structure when required; these gates lay back out of the public-way when not closed.

The street pavement over and forming the roof of the structure is carried by three rows of cast-iron ornamental columns, which carry rolled iron joists filled in with breeze concrete, the whole being covered with asphalte. These columns at the same time form the points of sub-division of the urinals.

The structure is lighted by prism pavement lights let into cast-iron frames lying outside the curb of the railings surrounding the base of the statue, and forming also the footway pavement, and is ventilated by perforated iron panels and gratings laid at the pavement level.

An ellipitical grating formign the outer border ventilates the water closets, and the gratings immediately at the base of the statue inside the railings surrounding it ventilate the urinals. Ventilation is also obtained to the water closets by open fanlights over each of the doors to the same.

The closet apparatus are of the best quality, the whole basin and trap being formed in one piece of white porcelain. The seats are constructed of hard light coloured wood, polished, put together so as to be easily removed when necessary, the seats are hinged with brass hinges and the risers made moveable. A lock and key is provided to each; the attendants are thus enabled to inspect and thoroughly cleanse the surroundings of the apparatus; the walls and floor under the seats up to the height of the riser are rendered in Portland cement.

The urinals in the inner ring are fourteen in number, and are formed with enamelled slate backs, sides and divisions, and fitted with white porcelain lipped pans. The floor of the standing place of each urinal is of slate, dished and covered with a brass grating, with a hinged gulley and trap in the centre.

The whole of the metal work of these urinals is of brass.

The water-service to the urinals is automatic and is supplied by two cisterns, each flushing seven urinals, as well as the dished slate slabs forming the floor, every two or three minutes. By this arrangement, much needless waste of water, is is believed will be saved.

The water-service to the closets is supplied by two cisterns placed in the rooms to be used by the attendants, and the service to them is constant. From these cisterns also the whole structure can be thoroughly washde out by means of the stand-pipes and hose provided.

The drains throughout the structure are to be inspected and kept clear by means of hinged inspection boxes, man-holes and covers, and have ventilating pipes carried up the gas standards in the entrances.

The floors throughout of the closets and the passage-ways are asphalted.

The whole of the internal walls are faced with white glazed bricks with coloured borders and dado.

The wood-work throughout, excepting the seats to the water-closets, is of pitch pine varnished.

In the attendants' rooms are cupboards for tools and hose pipes, &c. A washing basin is fitted up in each. These rooms can be warmed with gas stoves; the flues from them are carried up in the gas standards at the entrance.

The structure will be lighted at night, or whenever necessary, by small gas lamps placed in the fanlights over the doors of each water-closet, the fumes from each burner being carried off by a pipe running round the building and rising into the gas standards.

Six of the water closets are to be free and are to be marked "Public." The doors of the six water closets, for which payment is to be made, are eached fitted with an improved tell-tale apparatus, with lever locks, and a general pass-key.

The building is from the design of Lieut. Colonel William Haywood, the Engineer and Surveyor to the Commissioners of City Sewers.

The builder was Mark Gentry, Contractor.

The structure was opened on the 23rd January, 1885, in the presence of the Streets Committee, by Geogre Rose-Innes, Esq., Chairman of the Commission, and Albert Joseph Altman, Esq., Chairman of the Streets Committee.

23rd January, 1885 


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