Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Davis's Portable Urinal

The year of the Great Exhibition saw a sudden surge in interest regarding public toilets - or, rather, London's complete lack of them. Some entrepreneurs rose to meet the challenge:-

A deputation from the inhabitatns of the ward of Farringdon-within waited upon the Court for the purpose of comlpaining of the appearance of a large portable urinal at the west end of Cheapside, and requesting that the magistrates would cause its immediate removal from its present locality, as a much greater nuisance than any of those which it was intended to supercede. The curiosity excited among the female population by so unusual an object, which looked like a monster of the omnibus kind, and was gaudily painted, semed to be the principal objection to the introduction of the stranger, some of the gentlemen of the deputation having been actually put to the blush several times in the course of the morning upon being asked by ladies who popped their heads into their shops, 'Pray, what is that?'

A discussion of some length took place upon the question of the immediate removal of the bulky machine, the introduction of which had been sanctioned by the Court itself as an experiment, and it was argued by those whose delicacy seemd to be most excitable that the model which had been exhibited at a former Court, when the permission of the members was solicited at a former Court, when the permission of the members was solicited and obtained, was by no means copied in the article itself, the one being excessively modest and unobtrusive, and the other being, as a commissioner observed, carried out upon a principle of the "most glaring, attractive and offensive description."

Upon the other side it was contended that the curiosity would very soon be at an end; that so slight an objection would naturally vanish altogether before the great argument of public utility, competent judges of which were crowding the metropolis every day from all parts of the world; that public decency would be greatly promoted by an invention which had been successfully tested in other great cities; and that before the Court pronounced their condemnation, they would quietly watch the process of a little experience. Allusion was made to a vehicle of a similar kind which was placed in King William-street, where it was considered by some members as a very welcome visitor.

Ultimately, the matter was referred to a committee, with directs to report.

Times, June 4, 1851

Mr. Davis, the patentee of the portable urinal, which has attracted the observation of multitudes in the crowded thoroughfares of the city, appeared to answer the complaint of Mr. Macgregor and other respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood of Cheapside, for having unlawfully placed in the public street a machine which was a common nuisance to the residents. . . . . Mr. Daw, chief clerk of the commissionery attended, and stated that the commissioners [of Sewers] had originally, on being shown the model, deemed it useful, and not likely to be inconvenient to the public, but the inventor found he had erred in having the machine painted too conspicuously, and the commissioners, who had that morning viewed it, thought so too, and were of opinion that the site was not a proper one for the purpose.

. . . . For some days past a vehicle, constructed on the principle of the prison van, but painted in conspicuous colours, has been stationed at the western end of Cheapside. It is intended for the convenience of gentlemen only, who are admitted by an attendant inside on payment of 1d. each person. In consequence of the great novelty of the speculation crowds have gathered round the vehicle every morning, as soon as it has taken its station. A similar vehicles has also been exhibited at the Monument, at the end of King William-street.
    Mr. Joseph Payne, a barrister, who attended for the defence, said he had just attended a summons at the Mansion-house with regard to the same affair, and it was there agreed to withdraw the summons on the promise that the nuisance complained of should be removed.

Alderman WILSON said, if the parties would only select some retired spot for these machines no complaint would be made about them. There was a vacant space of ground at the end of Cheapside which was a much more preferable site for such a purpose than the middle of a public thoroughfare like Cheapside or King William-street.

    Mr. Payne said that both vehicles should be instantly removed.

    Upon that understanding the case was discharged.

Times, June 6, 1851

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