|Bath or bed?|
|Garderobe, Peveril Castle, Derbyshire|
|Chamber pot and lid|
Thomas Crapper [yes, that really was the man’s name] was erroneously credited with inventing the first flushing toilet. However, he was a plumber and holds many patents for plumbing products, and had several plumbing shops. Actually, the earliest known flushing toilet in Western history is credited to Sir John Harington, godson of Queen Elizabeth I. It was crude and the Queen reportedly refused to use it.
Bathing rooms were exactly that—rooms in which people could bathe. Using a cistern or a pump from the kitchen range’s water reservoir, water was piped to the bathtub. It was never more than tepid, and bathing was in only a couple inches of water. The alternative was having servants carry buckets of water to the bathing room. Usually, the tub emptied into a pipe that dumped water into the yard, street or a cesspit. These tubs were often set into elaborate wooden cabinets that matched the bathing room wainscoting—not at all suitable for long term exposure to bath water.
|Bathing room with wood paneling tub enclosure|
Although it was not until the 1880’s and 1890’s that American plumbing flourished, early inventors were moderately successful. In 1829, the Tremont Hotel of Boston became the first hotel to have indoor plumbing and featured eight water closets. Until 1840, indoor plumbing could be found only in the homes of the rich and in better hotels. In 1852, J. G. Jennings invented an improved flushing system, and popularized public lavatories by installing them in the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Over 800,000 people paid to use them.
Authors of Georgian through modern times may determine how plumbing was utilized in their time period by seeking publications on home restoration. Books on restoring homes of various time periods detail the plumbing plans with useful illustrations. Information on earlier time periods is available on the web and in history books.