Outdoor facilities and use there of...


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Sorry on the subject matter, just kinda wondering on how things were back then.

Curious about about the outside 'facilities' for how things were in the time frame of the show. Before they were converted to indoor ones.

I'm drawing a distinction between full public ones such as would be near Sid's Cafe, a pub or other similar type. For instance and more specifically, the one outside of Wally / Norah / Compo's place. I would consider theirs as 'residential'.

Would the one by Wally's place mostly be for the people who lived in that building? Could anyone walking by needing to 'spend a penny' use it? If so that could be really distressing to step out of your door 'needing to go' and finding a queue of strangers!

Were residential ones like Wally's typically locked? I'm guessing early on they were not locked. If so that would be inconvenient to forget or lose your key. Have to hope a neighbor was home to borrow theirs. Plus it could be expensive to supply paper for anyone walking by. Unless you brought your own each time which I kinda figure was the case. Did the local council take care of the building, or the residents?

It seems like in some shots from the show that there are some pipes nearby and below the outhouse. In a situation like at Wally's would the waste go to the local sewage pipes? Or drop into a pit (septic tank) to be cleaned out occasionally? Kinda like a farm outhouse would need to have done. Not sure how wise that would be with the river so close by. Guessing in the early, early days the river itself might have been used!

Would there have been running water in Wally's outhouse? There is fresh water piped into the houses, so I imagine there would be as well. If it went to a sewage pipe then obviously it would have running water. Would they also have a sink in them?

I have no idea what the inside of a unit like at Wally's would have been like. Have used a single / double portal wooden 'farm style' outhouse when I was younger. Was at a farm converted to park type scenario which had no plumbing. Like most also have used a port-o-potty at fairs / events as well.

Just wondering what real life was like for how the characters would have lived their day to day lives. Having grown up with an indoor one I have no idea what it may have been like having an outdoor one. Very cold in the winter time I guess!

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I had similar facilities when I was young some are still retained . Ours was only for the use of our family so one per household but imagine one shared would have been the case in some instances . I do know from my heritage walks that housing on the Gateshead side of the Tyne had something like 4 toilets shared between two hundred dwellings. Ours had a bolt inside but some may have locked.

In days gone by toilet paper was in essence old newspapers cut into squares and stuck on a nail . Whilst the toilet was plumbed in at ours there was no basin or tap for washing hands though sometimes the houses had an outside garden tap other than that you had to go back into the house to was your hands.

In summer it was fine but bloody freezing in autumn/winter and of course being England, rain was always a factor when the facility was down the end of the garden or yard. I was absolutely delighted when we moved to a house with an inside bathroom .
Thank you captain, that really helps gain a perspective on how things were.

I had heard of the use of newspapers before. Clever to cut up and stick on a nail. Did not think about rainy weather either. Seems Clegg was very clever to most always have one handy when outside. Figure that would also be good to keep the chill breeze off as well as rain.

When you mention 4 toilets for two hundred dwellings do you mean 4 outhouse buildings, or a 4 portal single outhouse? Either way that seems like a lot of people per outhouse.
When you mention 4 toilets for two hundred dwellings do you mean 4 outhouse buildings, or a 4 portal single outhouse? Either way that seems like a lot of people per outhouse.

To be fair Rick I am not sure, it was a fact that the guide disclosed to demonstrate how bad conditions must have been . I can't imagine it was a block given the dwellings were basically on the banks of the river I imagine 4 separate single outhouses placed in a position to service the 50 closest dwellings x 4 one perhaps servicing each level of houses as they would have been built as a series of horizontal rows up the bank . Logically I imagine the outhouse would sit centrally in each row which would be a bit of a bark if you were housed on the end of a row but to be honest the conditions would be so bad I don't think it makes a difference
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Having read some of the history of Holmfirth, and the general history of sanitation, I've found that early on, waste dropped from a wooden seat into a basket or barrel, was emptied into an open wagon and taken away by the night soil man to be used as fertilizer. There would probably have been an opening with a door on it in the wall along Scarfold, just beneath Wally's toilet. Later, when municipal water and sewer was installed, all of the fixtures except the toilet were plumbed in inside the house. There was a strong yuck reaction to moving the toilet indoors, so it it was plumbed into the outdoor building. That yuck reaction lasted well into the 20th century - longer for those who couldn't afford further upgrades.
Captain, I agree with you on what could be very poor conditions. With two hundred people in units like that and figure half or so work in nearby factory or mill. Them all getting up to work about the same time equals a lot of people wanting to answer the call of nature for some half a dozen or so outhouse buildings. Thoughts of 1900's Birmingham - (Peaky Blinders show), dense living conditions comes to mind. I know it is not the fabric mills of Holmfirth but I have little frames of reference to go by.

Marianna, now that you mentioned it I vaguely recall some documentary thing about the 'night men' who would come along to clean out the waste to be taken elsewhere. SimpleHistory channel from youtube, maybe, watched it a few years back. Thanks for the reminder.

Think I asked some time ago about why in some shows (On the Buses, for example) they had the toilet in a different room then the bath tub / shower. I think the yuck factor as you say was part of the reason. Along with building space restraints, as well as the option for both to be used separately without disturbing the other.

Oh my! Imagery from an episode of Father Ted just popped in my brain after writing the previous paragraph's last sentence. Where Father Ted was in the bath with the toilet barely a foot away and a guest comes in wanting to use the commode while Ted right there! :eek2:
Well, with all of those descriptions, I am so very, very glad that I have indoor plumbing. I'm sure that everyone else is just as glad and thankful. A few years ago I happened to be driving down a road which was in back of an old neighborhood. And you could see into the backyard of each house and then I noticed that each backyard contained an outhouse. Then I heard the explanation. It seems that the ground was such that it was impossible to install a sewer system. Since then, I heard that they were able to somehow get indoor plumbing into this neighborhood.
There were community toilets that would have been shared by several houses back in the day. Growing up we had an outside toilet until I was about 8 years old then dad had a bathroom built, until then it was a tin bath and outside toilet. I think the one outside Nora's house was probably used by the whole block of houses.
There were community toilets that would have been shared by several houses back in the day. Growing up we had an outside toilet until I was about 8 years old then dad had a bathroom built, until then it was a tin bath and outside toilet. I think the one outside Nora's house was probably used by the whole block of houses.
I experienced exactly the same. Outdoor loo until I was about 9 then we moved house to one with indoor plumbing, what a luxury!
they had the toilet in a different room then the bath tub / shower.

The house I have now had a discreet toilet and bathroom but like everyone and his dog we had it converted to an integrated single room and like a lot of homes installed a downstairs discreet toilet in a downstairs cloakroom. Without that discreet facility I imagine the Father Ted situation of Father Stone needing the toilet could easily arise . A lot of comedy shows usually portray the Father of the household desperate to use the toilet when the daughter is in doing her hair and make up or son is putting wax on and styling his hair etc etc .
I think the one outside Nora's house was probably used by the whole block of houses.
Thanks, Pearl. That is also what I was thinking too.

Only mentioned Wally, Nora and Compo because they are the main ones we see at the house block and know by name. In the pilot episode we do see more ladies outside putting up laundry, so I figured they all lived in the block that we can see.

Remember another episode in which Nora bristles at the fact that a neighbor mentioned Nora's music was too load and could be heard from outside. So Nora had Wally out there to have a listen. Other than that I don't recall many other references to neighbors in the building.
When I was in grade school, 1950-56, the one-room school that I attended had no running water. There were two multi-seat earth closets, Boys and Girls. Water was pumped from a well next to the schoolhouse entrance, and a wash basin with soap and a towel were located just inside the entrance. In the winter, we had to break the ice in the basin before washing our hands. We all used the same water, soap and towel. Highly unsanitary by today's standards, but commonplace back in the day.
Marianna, thank you. I had forgotten about the possibly of using a hand pump to bring up well water.
I remember one episode in which Compo says he had put his ferrets in the outside loo.

Growing up I had relatives we visited each year in Arkansas and Oklahoma and in the early 70's they still had the classic outhouse. Like something out of Dogpatch. Basically, you dig a pit, build a little shack (imagine the "sentry box" in All Mod Conned) and when it got full enough, you dug a new pit, moved the shack over to it and used the dirt from the new hole to finish filling in the old one. My grandma's was a luxury model, a large hole for adults and a small hole for the kids in the wooden board that served as a seat. My cousin came in one morning and told us all about the enormous spider he flicked down our toilet "seat". I was about 4, and not being bright enough to realize everything was going to the same place I refused to use the kid's seat and had to hang on for dear life with all 4 limbs trying not to fall in the big hole for the rest of our visit.
Hi Graham, I tried watching Steptoe and Son long ago but had trouble getting into it at the time. Was more into shows like Red Dwarf, Father Ted, The Young Ones, Absolutely Fabulous, etc. which are a bit different than Steptoe. I'll probably give it a try again someday. I do know it is a popular show. Really enjoy shows like In Loving Memory, Didn't Know You Cared, The Gaffer, etc. currently so may like it now.

From what I remember, I do recall a scene with the father bathing in the sink and think a lady saw him through the window? Liked the son alright but the father put me off with his meddling in son's affairs. Son thought he had a nice thing going with local dancer lady but his dad messed that up and didn't seem to give a care which really put me off him (and the show).
Rickans, you need to watch Steptoe & son. Plenty of outside 'bog' humour & cut newspaper on a nail. They even went to Bognor for their holidays.(on the south coast)

Especially when one of them leaves a holly wreath on the seat and the other sits on it [not sure which way around it was but suspect the Old man sat on it ] . The other memorable one is divided we stand when the house gets split in two including the front door . The old man distracts Harold and dashes to the toilet, when Harold is desperate, pretending he needs to go . As revenge as the old man is sitting on the Toilet Harold reaches in and pulls the chain flushing the toilet and soaking Albert.