Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Victorian Vespasienne


London The Unfinished City
A Victorian Vespasienne (Pissoir)

Thursday September 10, 2020

One of the advantages of wandering, sometimes aimlessly, around the great city of London, is that you get to make some unique discoveries.

This is what happened as I made a meandering way from Euston station to Southwark. Taking a left here and a right there, I soon found myself near Lincoln's Inn Fields. As I continued, in a southeasterly direction, I found myself in a narrow alley, named Star Yard, at which point I noticed this cast-iron toilet block.

It is in remarkably good condition, although no longer in use, and is one of the few remaining Victorian Vespasienne (commonly called a Pissoir) in the city. Because of the narrowness, of the alley, getting a good shot was quite difficult.

Brief History

The first public urinals were installed, in Paris, in 1830. 

The original 'Vespasiennes', as they are known in France, were cylindrical in shape, having just one open side. As more and more were installed, throughout Europe, the designs changed and evolved. Some were round, while others were square or rectangular. Some were enclosed, while others still retained the open side. All had a roof or 'cap'.

An oil lamp had a dual purpose, within the Vespasienne. The light illuminated the interior, while the oil helped to neutralise odours.

The one, pictured above, was built in Glasgow by McDowall Steven & Co, in 1851.

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