England’s loveliest outdoor loo restored to its Victorian grandeur
The poshest privy in England is back looking its best.
A Victorian outside toilet built for the exclusive use of a wealthy family and their guests has been fully restored after decades hidden under a mountain of ivy.
English Heritage said the the brick structure in the grounds of Brodsworth Hall, in South Yorkshire, is England’s poshest privy and a rare surviving example.
When the hall was built near Doncaster in 1864 the Thellusson family installed nine flushing inside lavatories but decided they needed a toilet outside in case they were “caught short” when touring the grounds.
A spokeswoman said the privy was not built for servants, but only for the family and their guests. As there was no running water to the building, servants had the daily task of emptying the bucket below a wooden bench and using the “night soil” as fertiliser in the surrounding gardens.
She said it was designed so it was hidden behind yew hedging and surrounded by heavily scented flowers – roses, geraniums and orange blossoms – planted at nose-level to help cover any lingering smells.
English Heritage, which now run the hall, discovered the posh privy and the path leading to it under a mound of ivy, although the spokeswoman said there were hints of its original grandeur, including the remains of an elaborate porch.
It has now been restored to its original appearance, including a pagoda-style roof and pergola trellis porch. A simple wooden bench has been installed and gardeners have recreating the strongly-scented nose-height flowers.
Brodsworth Hall head gardener Daniel Hale said: “Interesting buildings come in all shapes and sizes. Toilets may not be glamorous but they can be a fascinating source of social history.
“This privy sheds a light on the Victorians’ love of gardens. Lost for years under ivy, we’re delighted to have rescued this lovely loo and share its story with visitors – although we’d ask them not to get too familiar with it!”
English Heritage said the privy is a rare surviving example of a gentrified decorative garden privy and it was treated as an “at risk” element of an exceptional historical landscape of the Victorian era.
The Privy Garden around the building continues the Victorian planting scheme of the 20-acre garden at Brodsworth Hall, the spokeswoman said.
Samuel Taylor designed the garden so visitors did not see the next part until they were upon it. The Privy Garden continues this approach as it is surrounded by hedges and can only be seen once close to it.
Although smaller than typical examples of the time, Brodsworth has all the key garden features of a grand Victorian garden of the period.