Friday, June 29, 2007
Fascinating Invention no.14 - The Indoor Flushing Toilet
At school we call them the 'toilets' (see left). Grandpa jack has a 'lavvie'; at home we have a 'loo' and the metal space capsule with the automatic swishing door, in the middle of our market square is a 'W.C.' There are lots of different names for it but they are all the same thing - the indoor flushing toilet.
The boys' toilets at school are always flooding. This is because certain people do not stick to putting the normal stuff into them but like to experiment with stuff like, smuggled out school dinner or Oliver-James' P.E. socks (they are massive) or four million paper towels. Of course, the flush cannot cope and the water floods out causing the caretaker to break out the lifeboats and Mrs Trundle to break out her high-powered assassin's rifle. I think the caretaker should be happy he does not have to deal with clearing out 248 chamber pots or the stinking tanks from outhouses but for some reason he does not seem to appreciate the history lesson.In about 1596 Sir John Harington may have invented the first flushing toilet for Queen Elizabeth 1. He was her godson and while everybody else thought it was a stupid smelly idea, the Queen was supposed to have had a go on one. Nobody can be certain because he did not leave a toilet to put in a museum and they did not catch on; maybe the queen just got annoyed because when it went wrong there were no plumbers around to unblock blockages because Sir John had failed to invent plumbers at the same time. Whatever happened it was not until 1775 that Alexander Cummings got an English patent for putting a water trap under a bowl (see diagram). GENIUS! But this 'wash out' toilet stayed outside the house until the Victorian times when everything changed. The new 'wash down' toilet came with a jet flush. Woo -hoo. There were lots of companies making toilets then and they were all decorated like flowerpots to make you think that going to the toilet was actually quite a fragrant and royal thing to do. In fact this was the time when ordinary people who had been having a poo for centuries, realised that the Queen actually went to the toilet as well. Queen Victoria asked Thomas Crapper's company to install actual toilets in her palace which as well as shocking a great many ordinary people also made Crapper a household name. The toilet has never looked back. My cousin, Jaspar still likes to pee in the back garden which does not please Mum but is one of the things about him that actually does not bother me.