Big Stink & Loos

For an audio version of this legend:

Big Stink & Loos

London loos have been an interesting topic of conversation for centuries.  Under the Romans, loos were a place to catch up with friends and business partners and instead of toilet paper, the poor used sponges at the end of wooden handles, but the rich used ostrich feathers…very posh!

By the medieval times, London was an open sewer and toilets called garderobes were emptied straight into the Thames. So, Lord Mayor Dick Whittington (yes, the one with the cat…but the cat didn’t really exist), paid for the public ‘Whittington Longhouse’ which allowed for 100 people in one sitting.

London commemorates public toileting in the street names of Pissing Lane, Dunghill Lane and Sherborne Lane (originally Shiteburn Lane).

The heatwave of 1858 caused the most famous ‘Big Stink’, when London and its filthy River Thames smelled like one giant toilet.  This encouraged the government (which had to take a break and leave Westminster as the smell was too much, even after they had perfumed the curtains), to start the construction of a modern sewer, which was complete in 1865.

Today the river is cleaner than it has been since the Romans arrived….and public toilets?  Still not always the most inviting.

Dawn Denton©

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