Sunday 8 September 2013

Defiled Bathrooms

SIR, - I shall be glad if you will allow an outsider to protest against what he thinks an unworthy habit on the part of certain architects, that of placing the watercloset in the bath-room. He noticed a case at Hampstead the other day, where some very fine houses showed this far from refreshing association, which he had not seen before except in certain Scotch hotels and houses. The grouping, in the same small room, of the sewer and the bath is such a bizarre, and is such a very objectionable plan, that it is to be hoped it is rather owing to an odd sense of fitness on the part of certain architects than to any growing sanitary "notion" of the time. The bare idea of a healthy creature going to enjoy his bath in the same cell (for it is never a room) with a watercloset, one would have thought too strong for the nerves of the present aesthetic race of architects, who are, no doubt, responsible for the very fine houses in which he saw this plan carried out. Of all countries in the world, one would expect to meet a thing of this sort least in England, where people happily have, usually, strict notions as to cleanliness. V.R.
[letter to The Builder, 2 August 1879]

SIR, "V.R." in your issue of the 2nd inst. writing on the above subject strikes a chord which will be heard throughout the country, and I for one beg to tender him my thanks, and trust that he will continue to call attention to this matter of defiled bath-rooms. What "V.R." asserts is a notorious fact, and why architects persist in this uncalled-for practice does seem strange to the experienced sanitary engineer.
    It is true that often on board ship, where every nook and corner has to be utilised, want of space necessitates the W.C. being screwed into a cell where there is barely room for the user to turn round, but I am glad to say that great changes for the better have been made in this particular  in most of our large passenger-ships. It is only necessary to pay a visit to the magnificent vessels of any of our great passenger-carrying ocean lines, such as the Peninsular and Oriential, the White Star, the Anchor Line, &c., to perceive these improvements. In the saloon will be seen perfect sanitary appliances working efficiently, - marble baths, with douches, that would grace a palace, with no W.C. in the same compartment, but these latter fitted up apart from the bath-rooms with the greatest care, and supplied with abundance of water for cleansing purposes.
   Now, sir, if on board ship, where every inch of room is valuable, we still are careful to keep the bath-rooms separate from the W.C.s, I wish to know why architects should consider it advisable to join them together in the beautiful mansions which are at present being built. Have them close to each other by all means, but put the latter outside the building, and the bath in a separate room alongside on every floor, taking care to use all the best known sanitary appliances for prevention of disagreeable smells in the closet. It is, unfortunately, only too well known among experienced sanitary engineers and plumbers, that great evils arise from the bad arrangement and construction of the house-drains and soil-pipes and closets from inefficient and bad workmanship, light and flimsy fittings, want of experienced men to supervise, and the inordinate longing on the part of builders to put in the cheapest articles they can get. Is it, then, to be wondered at that, of late years, we have had such an outcry about the prevalence of typhoid fever.
    "V.R." has called attention to one evil which has arisen in sanitary arrangements of late years; but there are, unfortunately, many others besides those which I have indicated above, which often make out modern houses at night, when every aperture is closed, mere gigantic retainers of bad atmosphere, thus slowly poisoning the inmates during the very hours that they are most susceptible to that most stealthy and unseen of enemies, sewer-gas.
[letter to The Builder, 23 August 1879]

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