PEAR TREE LOG

pear tree log: I started this blog to keep my younger son, Jonny, in touch with life in Lincolnshire, while he spent a year working in China. That was two years ago...he's still in Shanghai and I am still writing. There will be nothing clever, witty, or well written; nothing to impress. It is simply a patchwork quilt of some of the things I enjoy - life in rural Lincolnshire, our animals, friends, architecture, books, the gardens, and things of passing interest.


I have moved over to my new blog: Bramble Rambles - you are welcome to call in and have a read.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

A Privy, An Outhouse, A Necessary Room...

...Call it what you will, we all need them.  Preferably the modern, indoor, flush version.

Regular readers will know that one of my favourite walks takes me through a barley field and past this dinky cottage - follow the path, then look to the left, you can see the roof.

Set away to the side of the cottage is a small, brick, outbuilding.  A privy!  The very necessary, outhouse.

Of course these days the cottage has modern plumbing, but it is an old cottage and this outhouse is what passed for the conveniences.  Imagine trekking down there on a cold, dark, wet night... either that or use a chamber pot.

Those of a sensitive disposition should read no further!


It would have been dark inside there, even on a bright sunny day.  Note the sloping roof which lets the rain run down and off the building.  This one may have been a double seater - there are two holes at the back where the waste could either drain, or buckets could be removed.











with thanks to www.1900s.org.uk
There were a couple of methods of dealing with the waste products.  In the diagram above,  it was left to rot down in some sort of stinking 'compost heap'.  If the heap was too large, or the privy became blocked ''The Night Soil Men'  could be hired to come and dig it out - during the night - hence the name.  What a job.

An alternative method was to use buckets, which could be either emptied onto the compost heap periodically, or, The Night Soil Man would come around to do the emptying and carting, for a fee.

When we moved to the Byre there was a very large shrub and ivy covered clump at the back of the farmhouse.  When we finally broke through the ivy, it turned out to be the old privy, still complete with two buckets.  This is one of them.  Note the oval shape and the two sturdy handles.  You really wouldn't want any accidental slips when emptying one of these...
Unfortunately, when the ivy was cut back the building was found to be unsafe and had to be dismantled;  we didn't want to lose all of the history, so we retained the footprint and turned it into a herb garden.  We also kept the old privy buckets!  They were both perfectly clean and fresh, or I wouldn't have kept them!



Jonathan added some huge hunks of wood, left over from the renovations, to create a bench seat.

He mischievously  positioned these so that anyone who sits on the bench would be sitting 'back to back' with those who used the privy in times gone by.  Boys!

24 comments:

  1. My Grandma's cottage didn't have an indoor bathroom. The outhouse looked similar to the one in your picture but I think it was painted white. A lit cigarette took away the rather nasty smell inside (no fancy air fresheners in my grandmothers house).To complete the primative scene...shiny Izal toilet paper.
    Somethings HAVE changed for the better!
    Jane x
    Do guests know the history of the bench or do you titter in secret?

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    1. Hello Jane, Shiny Izal toilet paper.. goodness, that brings back memories. Horrible stuff! You were posh. We had squares of cut up newspaper threaded onto a string! At least the toilet was a flush model, even though it was outdoors and very cold in winter. I refused to go out there at night time.

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  2. Among my relatives' outhouses, some were cleaned out and some were simply removed to cover a new pit. They weren't built of brick. That bucket is nicely made. Like Jane, I wonder if guests know this is the location of the old privy.

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    1. Hello Joanne, The buckets are beautifully made and a really nice oval shape. I guess the old wooden outhouses were the forerunners of the Portaloo.. Some guests do, they find it fascinating. I love the idea of sweet-smelling herbs growing where once it must have been rather less than fragrant.

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  3. All the outhouses of my youth were made of wood. Most did not have a clean-out trap door in back, so when the pit was filled to capacity, the structure was moved over a new pit. Dirt would be thrown over the abandoned pit. Of course, it did not have a solid base and I remember hearing tales of those poor souls who accidentally walked over that spot and sank in. Now, that would haunt a person to the end of their days!

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    1. Hello Ms Sparrow, That is awful, my imagination is wildly supplying the smells and sensations, the horror. I am so thankful to have modern plumbing, some things are definitely better today. I do sometimes wonder where the buckets got emptied around this place..

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  4. Now that's a pretty privy! Gladly, I've never had to use one. I dreamed of out houses last night. There have been a couple of other's blogging about them this week.

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    1. Hello Amy, It is one of the little landmarks on my walks. So nice to see that it has survived.

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  5. ?I have firsthand knowledge of outhouses--very cold place to find yourself in the winter. This one is quite charming and worth saving. Glad you have mementos of the one on your property--and can smile when you see your sons' bench handiwork.

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    1. Hello Faye, It was a shame that it couldn't be saved, too many years of invasive ivy, growing and expanding through the brickwork and roof had damaged it. It had reached the stage of being held together by the grow which had taken it apart. It is a lovely place to sit and enjoy the smell of the herbs!

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  6. I lived in a house with an outdoor loo in 1970/71. We were troubled by slugs in it- it was whitewashed so you could spot them climbing the walls when we opened the door to use it during daylight. We also had outdoor loos at school. They were in a block in the playground and froze up in Winter! It was bliss when I moved to Winchester in 1974 and I went to a school with indoor toilets!

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    1. Hello Scarlet, Outdoor loos at school. I remember those so well - they were freezing, but at least they flushed! Slugs are such a problem - we had trouble with them indoors at one time. Horrible, especially given my fondness for walking barefoot...

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  7. This is quite the fancy outhouse (privy). The only ones I've seen are made of wood with a cutout of a moon on the door--I think that was to let some moonlight in so you could make sure you were alone!! LOL!
    Since I grew up in a house with one bathroom, eight kids and two adults, my Mom kept a chamber pot in her room when it was being occupied for "emergencies!"
    Thank you for the walk through the barley field<3

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    1. Hello Susan, I like the idea of the cutout moon - personalised decoration and natural lighting for the outhouse. I can imagine they would have been a haven for insects, spiders and other horrible critters!
      Wow! I bet bath times and bedtimes really put the pressure on the facilities - I imagine that chamber pot was a blessing! I enjoy walking through the barley fields any time, but especially when the barley is golden - something I look forward to doing in a few weeks time. x

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  8. What a wonderful post! I love these two old outhouses...their charm, believe it or not, is fascinating. I'm sure when they were in use, they were anything BUT charming, though! :-) I'm so glad you shared all the information with us too! How incredible that you unearthed a little privy behind your home! I'm sorry you had to lose the structure, but so glad you kept the base of it and turned it into a lovely garden. It's wonderful you still have the buckets, too. It's so funny that the people sitting on the bench have their backs to the former "sitters!" Dare I admit it....I have actually used an outhouse many many years ago. I wonder how many people can say that!? :-)

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    1. Hello Marie, I do know what you mean. I would love to have retained our outhouse, whitewashed it and kept it fresh and sweet, preserving it for the future generations to think about. You can imagine how deeply disappointed I was. Whenever I go to gather some herbs I am deeply grateful that I have a modern bathroom, it must have been quite eerie at night time going across the yard. The house was built in 1864, so presumably the outhouse was the same age - no electric lighting, no torches, just lanterns..

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  9. Wonderful shots! I love the outhouse!

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    1. Hello Liz, I am so pleased you like them - that outhouse is a little treasure and I hope they hang on to it and don't let it decay.

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  10. My wife would love to build a new 'earth closet' up at a barn we are converting..... I say NO!

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    1. Hello Cro, I wouldn't like an earth closet either, but it is supposed to be 'the way to go'...

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  11. Hello Elaine....A very interesting history lesson! I'm very fond of red doors, especially the on on the "dinky cottage". Personally, I was thinking that cottage is just the right size for me. Ironically, I did a post today with a red door on a church...

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    1. Hello Meggie, I hoped you would enjoy that glimpse of English plumbing! The little cottage is very small, but has great views, the neighbours are normally sheep. Unfortunately you would get the odd, pesky dog-walker passing by!

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  12. The first house we bought had a small room off of the barn. It was a two seater out house. I found it very interesting since it was the first out house I had owned. I wish we had one here, just for interest sake (and maybe emergencies). This was an interesting and fun post. Thank you!

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    1. Hello In My Wild Eden, It seems that it could be quite a companionable experience! They are part of our history and thank goodness that some have been preserved.

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