Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper: G

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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.)
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Ghost Town
The ghost town of Virginia City in south-western Montana, not far from Yellowstone Park, boasts a single hotel, with a balcony in front. At the end of the balcony is a double-decker privy, one seat above the other. The holes are off-set; but if you chose to `sit' on the ground floor, remember not to lean to the right!

Gongfermors or gong-scourers were men who went round emptying medieval previes and cesspits.

Where there was no convenient moat or stream, people dug a pit, or used a removable barrel. In either case the sewage had to be removed in due course. In 1281, 13 men took five nights to clear the cloaca at Newgate Prison---on triple pay! At Hampton Court in Henry VIII's time the gongfermors had a formidable task.

See also history, nightmen.

Some people have a compulsion to write on the walls of public lavatories, probably because they have spare time and a public place to write, but can create the work in private---and it remains anonymous. Unfortunately, most of the things they write on the walls are rude, crude and not very funny.

I have seen a few that have amused me; for example in a university biochemistry department GOD IS ALIVE AND WELL AND WORKING ON A LESS AMBITIOUS PROJECT. And along the bottom of a partition between cubicles in the office loo BEWARE LIMBO DANCERS!

The habit of writing on the walls is far from new. On a loo wall in the city of Herculaneum, buried by ash from the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79, is written APOLLONIVS MEDICVS TITI IMP. HIC CACARIT BENE. In other words, ``Apollonius, physician of Emperor Titus, had a good crap here.''

A survey by the London Regional Passengers' Committee in the stations of the London Underground and British Rail found that 77% of men's cubicles were adorned with graffiti, and 79% of women's. An anonymous spokeswoman said ``The answer is simple---we sit there longer, write faster, and have dirtier minds!''

Edmund Beckett Denison, first Lord Grimthorpe (the designer of Big Ben), was annoyed by slovenly visitors. He introduced a cunning device into his lavatory; once the user had locked the door it could not be opened until the loo had been flushed.

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Text extracts from "Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper" copyright Adam Hart-Davis 1997.
Images available from the DHD Multimedia Gallery.
Site content copyright Damon Hart-Davis 1997--2017 unless otherwise stated.