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19 Nov 2019

Here’s looking at loo, kid

An old-fashioned toilet with a wooden seat and a wooden cupboard beside it.
Today is World Toilet Day and we thought it was the perfect opportunity to look at some of the classic cludgies around our properties. Here’s our top five:

Kellie Castle

Kellie Castle, near Pittenweem, is known more for its artwork than its lavvy, but it was once home to a well-known dunny designer.

Robert Stodart Lorimer, one of the country’s foremost Arts & Crafts architects, stayed at Kellie Castle in summer from when he was a teenager. He considered himself the ‘captain of the ship’ when it came to the design of the house itself and led on building projects of some its features.

In 1930, his passion for architecture took a tolly turn when he decided to design a toilet, which he named the Remirol (a palindrome of his surname). It could be purchased though Shanks & Co. and although not in an area that visitors see, one remains in place at Kellie Castle to this day.

An old-fashioned toilet with a wooden seat and a wooden cupboard beside it.
One of the toilets at Kellie Castle designed by Robert Lorimer

Culross Palace

The streets of Culross have appeared in American mega-series Outlander, but the beautiful ochre-coloured palace at its heart is significant for positively less glamorous reasons – namely its ancient ‘dry privy’.

Situated at one corner of the High Hall in Culross Palace, the dry privy is a stone stall in a small, cupboard-like room, where the contents of the ‘piss pot’ were emptied once it had been passed around the dining room. Crude though it may sound, the dry privy’s historical interest shouldn’t be underestimated – it actually dates back to 1597, when the first part of the palace was built as a family home and place of business for Sir George Bruce.

Within the dry privy itself is a small shelf (possibly to catch more solid deposits) and a hole at the bottom, from which it would drain out into a lane beside the palace. As this was just 10 feet from the main water supply, residents stuck to wine and ale – a safer bet.

Vile but valuable, the urine was used in the dyeing and tanning process, as well as being added to ale to add flavour and colour which was called ‘lanting’. People would ask to buy the first morning urine, which was the strongest. If you had none to sell you were ‘piss-poor’ and if you had no container for it you didn’t have ‘a pot to piss in’.

The Georgian House

Situated in the heart of Edinburgh, the Georgian House is a restored townhouse with a collection of stunning artwork and other historical artefacts.

The water closet is an early portable contraption, made from mahogany with an earthenware pan and copper fittings. It flushes – but only to the pot in the bottom drawer that still had to be emptied by the housemaid. Toilet paper consisted of straw or strips of newspaper.

The chamber pot in the house is pink and ornate, and was a wedding gift from the best man to the happy couple. In a symbolic gesture, it was filled with salt and/or money to represent wealth, health and happiness.

While one side of the chamber pot is decorated with a ship in full sail, the other side displays a verse:


This Pot it is A Present Sent.
Some mirth to make is only Meant,
We hope the same you’ll not Refuse
But keep it safe and oft it Use.
When in it, you want to P-ss,
Remember them who sent you THIS

Keep me clean and use me well
And what I see I will not tell

wooden commode in a very narrow room
The water closet at the Georgian House

The Tenement House

Visiting the Tenement House, a classic late 19th-century home, is like taking a step back in time. Although in Glasgow city centre, it’s a portal to an era before electric lighting, central heating and televisions. Miss Toward, who lived in the house, kept everything exactly as it always had been – and so it remains to this day.

The toilet at the Tenement House remains a conversation starter for a number of reasons. The Izal toilet paper is a throwback to times gone by, when the rough and unforgiving loo roll was a mainstay in public buildings, schools and many homes. Luckily, those living in tenements today can enjoy a more delicate cleaning process.

For children visiting the house, the sight of a chain-pull flushing system rather than a button is a perplexing one, again highlighting just how different it was to use the toilet in even relatively recent times.

Old-fashioned toilet with a high-level flushing system
The old-fashioned toilet at the Tenement House

The Hill House

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s domestic masterpiece was commissioned by Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie, who along with his family called it home.

Now sporting a protective metal cage to protect its exterior from harsh weather, the Hill House is an iconic piece of architecture and tourist favourite.

But that popularity has had consequences for the toilets in the property. Two sets of original toilet seats from the time of the Blackies remain – they’re thought to have been made as long ago as 1900 and are rather fragile.

In the past, visitors kept trying to use the toilets in the house, so we had to produce signage discouraging this – not least because these rooms have no running water. Our solution was signs stating: ‘Blackie family reserved’, which has so far worked, and visitors tend to giggle when they see them.

Old-fashioned wooden seat and lid from a toilet
The wooden seat from a toilet at the Hill House

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