The Hanging Toilets of Tenby

If you were a prosperous Victorian householder in Tenby it was important to show how modern you were. The go-ahead and dynamic town council were now supplying those new-fangled drains and piped water. You wanted to take advantage of this latest invention. Unfortunately you had two problems in doing so, one small, one more difficult to solve.

Before, using hot water in jugs for your baths was not only inconvenient but was also wearing out servants as they trudged up and down the stairs with heavy loads of hot water.  Now you could install a bath by converting one of the small bedrooms and get the evicted servants to double up in the attic. Problem solved.

The second problem was more difficult to crack. You wanted one of those new water closets. No more cold visits to the outside privy for you. But where were you going to put it? Tenby house sites were very cramped. There was no room in the garden and usually there was solid rock underneath. So no way to install sewers. In any case you wanted it near the bedrooms.

Then came the answer, the half-landing between the first and second floors only had a big window in the wall. Why not put a toilet there? All you had to do was build a wooden box, put your shiny new toilet in it and put some nice big pillars to support it outside the house.( Your only problem then was calm the fears of the ladies as, in effect,  they stepped over a cliff to use the loo. )


A special feature of Tenby was born. A magnificent example of this type of hanging loo overlooks the beach between Castle Sands and the Paragon for all to see, as if to say “Look what I can afford”..

As fittings became cheaper,  later in the century, flush W.C.’s in boxes hung outside the back wall moved downmarket and became more common in Tenby. But they also were more discreet as the Victorians became more prudish. Now they were hidden away and carefully covered in slates to make them less conspicuous.

Once there were dozens. Now you have to hunt down the survivors. The author has counted fifteen. There may be more. See if you can spot them.

One thought on “The Hanging Toilets of Tenby

  1. Mary Wilkes says:

    Thank you to Tudor Thomas for exactly the information I was looking for. I spent some time in Tenby Library recently, and though the very helpful librarians supplied me with a large amount of papers and books, I couldn’t find anything about the Hanging Toilets. They are fascinating to read about, and even more fun trying to spot them in the backs of the older buildings. Now I have some material to help me give a short talk about them to a history group.

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