Wednesday 3 July 2013

Closet Accommodation for Women

29th April 1887

Streets committee report to Commissioners of Sewers

'Recommending that thereference of tyhe 16th November last, relative to providing accommodation for women, adjacent to the chalet at Ludgate Circus, be discharged; that the propossed underground convenience for men be forthwith substituted for the said chalet; that it be referred back to the Committee to obtain premises in a more suitable locality as retiring rooms for women; and that the report of the Engineer on the subject be printed and circulated ...



With refernece to the provision of closet accommodation for women,. I beg, in the first place, tto remark that the subject it, under sundry aspects, a difficult one to deal with plainly in a report of this sort; that it is also difficult to ascertain whether there is a great neccessitty for the provision of such public accommodation in the City of London; and that the question of free usage of the closet, if provided by the Commission, is a serious consideration from a financial point of view.

As to necessity, - In 1867, when I reported upon the traffic and improvements needed in the City of London, found upon investigation that there entered the City daily about one women to every five men. If the proportion is the same at the present time, there must be something like 160,000 women who enter and leave the City daily. It has been stated to me that a larger proportion of women now come to the City than formerly was ythe case, but the opinion was not based upon statistics, which alone can verify such opinion. My own impression is that the women bear much the same proportion to the men that they did in the year 1867.

The great bulk of the females are employed all day long in manufactories, show rooms, shops and other places of business in City, where ample accommodation is provided, and from which they are not far distant, when they once pass the City boundary. Others come during the day in considerable numbers to large warehouses, and great trading houses, to make purchases: at many of the largest of which special arrangements are made for women; even if there be not, there would, I imagine, be no difficulty in obtaining the use of clossets in case of necessity; and, therefore, for the classes named, I think it may be assumed that there is already sufficient accommodation.

There are, I believe, in some parts of the City, and particularly at certain season of the year, many poorr workwomen, who come mostly early in the morning, but also at other times, to fetch or take home work. I am informed that this class is very numerous, but have no means of judging this. The remainder of the women who come, comprise a certain number of strangers who enter by rail, omnibus, or cab, to see the City, and others who come to look at the shops where female wares are dealt in. Few, I should think, come for exercise or pleasure. It is for these classes, as it appears to me, that the accommodation is mainly needed.

The accommodation for women which already exists must now be enquired into.

There is at the present time a Chalet in Bridge Street by Ludgate Circus; and one in tthe centre of Bishopsgate Street Without, where accommodation for a limited number of women is provided.

There are seventeen railway stations - a list of which is given in the appendix - where it is provided. At twelve of them it can be had without a passenger's ticket having first to be taken; at the others a ticket must be taken, although it is probable that on the plea of urgency, accommodation would not be refused to anyone especially as a payment would have to be made; for at all of the stations a penny is either demanded or expected to be given for the usage of the closet.

The stationsare well known; and are all close to thoroughfares of considerable traffic; but with the exception of those at Ludgate Hill, the Holborn Viaduct, the Mansion House, Aldgate, thewy are not upon  the great east and west lines of thoroughfare, which begin at Temple Bar and Holborn, and terminate at Aldgate.

On those main lines of thoroughfare, or immediately adjacent to them, taverns, dining rooms and pastry cooks abound; at many of these places accommodation can be had; nearer to the City boundary there are shops where humble people can procure food, and where probbably accommodation would be given in case of extreme need; but I apprehend, it would nearly always invvolve in some shape or other, a payment.

With this existing accommodation it seems to me doubtful, therefore, whether there is any great necessity for further provision of public closets for women, but the only way to test this would be to make an experiment in one of the leading thoroughfares. If that were done, a year or two's experience would determine whether it was needful to extend the accommodation or not.

If the Commission should be of opinion that it is desirable to make further provision, the first difficulty to be met is that of finding suitable sites.

Few women, I think, would willingly go to such places if erected in the centres of the public ways. It would be inexpedient, also, according to English notions, to provide it in one and same building for both men and women, yet such arrangement exists at Paris and in many of the large towns in Europe; no objections have been raised against it; nor do I think that under proper regulations objections would be tenable; nevertheless it would here, I think, tend to prevent the usage by women of the well-to-do classes, who now find it and continue to find it at pastry cooks and elsewhere. I incline to the opinion that separate accommodation for women would be deemed necessary, and that it should not be placed in the centres of the public ways, where, indeed, it must be remarked that is may be difficult to find room, as such sites are fast being occupied by conveniences for men.

Room would, therefore, have to acquired by purchasing or hiring the ground floors, or perhapss the basements or first floors, of buildings abutting the great highways, for it would be useless to provide it in bye-streets or out of the way places wher strangers could not readily find it. It must in fact be upon the main lines of thoroughfare. The acquisition of sites in such streets would be very costly, rentals of from #200 to #300 per annum and perhaps still more would have to be given.

The question of payments for the usage of such closets then arises.

It was found at the Royal Exchange that the free usage of the closets was abused, that they were largely used by the same men daily - men who undoubtedly could go elsewhere, but preferred the most perfect accommodation provided gratis by the Commission. The free use of the closets was then discontinued and has since been paid for; the urinal accommodation remaining - as it always was - free.

Directly the free usage ceased, the payments for the closets increased, showing clearly that men quite able to pay would not do so when they could obtain accommodation for nothing. It is by the charges made for usage that the expense of maintaining the closets at the Royal Exchange, Farringdon Street, and King William Street is now largely met.

It seems to me that without charge being made to women, not only would a similar abuse take place, but as it must occur to everyone, it might do so to a very much larger extent, under the plea of a necessity, which no one could deny, whether true or not, and the Commission, to meet it, would have either to provide very needlessly large buildings, or be obliged to charge for the usage.

But if payment be demanded, it is doubtful to me whether sufficient money would be obtained to recoup, in any material degree, the cost of maintenace; however, as bevore observed, with regard to the necessity for closets, this is also a point which could alone be cleared up by experiment.

My conclusions generally are:-

That there already exists in the City of London large accessible accommodationfor women, but that the usage in all cases involves the expenditure of a penny or more.

That if further accommodation be provided for them by the Commission, it could only usefully be given on the main thoroughfares, and that the cost of acquiring sites for that purpose, as well as the cost of maintenace, subsequently, would be large.

That if free usage were granted, the privilege would be abused, and that if payments are demanded, the receipts would not go far towards recouping the annual expenses.

I append a plan of the City showing the situations of the various railway stations, also in the Appendix an account of accommodation given at each of them.

I have the honour to remain,


Your most obedient servant,

Engineer and Surveyor.

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