Wash-down closets

1880s

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(Picture: Hugh Sainsbury/Crossness Engines Trust)

 

With its detailed exterior patterning, this one-piece pedestal Deluge water closet is designed to look nicer inside, too. Waste falls directly into water at the bottom of the pan, rather than into a shallow pool on a ‘weir’ (as in the wash-out style), and is immediately swept around the bend of the trap by the flush. The result: bowl and trap stay cleaner, and the flush is more effective.

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(Picture: Private Collection © Look and Learn/Bridgeman Images) 

 

The differences between wash-out and wash-down closets are clear in this page from a Twyford catalogue of the 1890s. It’s a subtle evolution from the cottage basin and hopper closets of earlier decades: the water level is higher in the pan, and both bowl and trap are incorporated into one piece of ceramic, making the flush more effective and the pan less prone to soiling. 

 

The point at which the basin became wash-down is debated. Frederick Humpherson seems to have been the first to use the term ‘flush-down’ with his Beaufort one-piece pedestal of 1885, but others of a similar design had emerged around the same time or even slightly earlier. The ‘Westminster Portcullis’ model shown here is another wash-down sold by Humpherson.

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(Picture: © Lucinda Lambton/Bridgeman Images)

 

What’s certainly true is that cottage basins and hoppers, wash-out and wash-down closets, earth closets and even valve and pan closets were in production up to the end of the 19th century and, in some cases, into the 20th. The huge variety of options reflected budget, taste and practical considerations – not least the fact that many people were still without indoor bathrooms and still used privies built outside the house.

 

Over the following decades, though, this style of one-piece wash-down pedestal pan became prevalent across the UK, Europe, the Americas and Australasia.