Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper: B

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Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper
Extracts from Adam Hart-Davis's book.
(Buy the book from Micheal O'Mara Books, ISBN 1-85479-250-4, hardback 1-85479-245-8, or in the US, ISBN 1570760810.)
Bramah, Joseph
DHD Photo Gallery---BOGWASH Joseph Bramah was a brilliant engineer, who invented a lavatory, a lock, and the beer engine, not to mention the hydraulic press.

Born in a farmhouse near Barnsley in Yorkshire in 1748, he would probably have stayed on the farm, but an accident in his youth prevented this, and he became apprenticed to a cabinet-maker. Told to fit a new water-closet, he was struck by its poor design, and in 1778 patented a new one.

The Bramah closet was similar to Cumming's, but had a hinged valve under the pan instead of a sliding valve, which meant it was less liable to become encrusted and to freeze up, and so it leaked less.

The Bramah had a couple of clever refinements. Pulling the handle to open the valve and let out the excrement also turned on the water to flush the pan. Pushing it down again closed the valve and activated a neat delaying mechanism in the shape of a brass air cylinder, which kept water running into the pan for about 15 seconds, so as to fill it ready for the next user.

Bramah closets still tended to leak a bit, since valves permanently under water will leak in the end. And they had another drawback; the complexity of the mechanism meant that they were liable to go wrong. Nevertheless, they were beautifully made; within 20 years he claimed he had sold 6,000, and for 100 years they remained the best lavatories in the land.

British Standards
BS6465, Part 1 (1984) provides a scale of the minimum requirements in the provision of sanitary appliances in cinemas, concert halls, and so on:

Appliances For Male Public For Female Public
In theatres, concert halls, and similar premises
WCs Min 1 for up to 250 males plus 1 for every additional 500. Min 2 for up to 50 females. 3 for 51 to 100, plus 1 for every additional 40.
Urinals Min 2 for up to 100 males plus 1 for every additonal 80. -
In cinemas
WCs Min 1 for up to 100 males plus 1 for every additional 80. Min 2 for up to 75 females. 3 for 76 to 150, plus 1 for every additional 80.
Urinals Min 2 for up to 200 males plus 1 for every additional 100. -

Why the requirements should differ for theatres and for cinemas is not clear; 200 men in a theatre apparently need one WC and four urinals, but if a film is shown there they suddenly need three WCs and only two urinals!

(Visit the British Standards Institute.)

"Bumf" (or "bumph") is a rude word for paper or papers, and is short for "bum-fodder"; ie lavatory paper. See also Latin literature, paper.

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Text extracts from "Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper" copyright (c) 1997. Web extracts first published , updated ✎2023-09-01
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