It’s an interesting question, right? Obviously bathrooms are commonplace now, but when did this happen and what was life like before it?
We’re based in the UK, so we’re going to assume you are too. In other parts of the world, the WC and basin will vary with the climate and water conditions and supply there. In some parts of Europe it’s still normal to have a hole where our traditional WC would be, for example.
But most homes now have a bathroom. And when we say bathroom, we mean shower rooms too. It’s pretty much seen as the same thing. In America of course asking to be shown to the bathroom is actually a polite way to ask where the loo is.
Complicated? Well… it’s just the tapestry of life, isn’t it?
But when did bathrooms come indoors?
When did they stop becoming a luxury and start being considered a necessity like they are now?
Historically, bathing was a collective activity. People would bathe together in public baths, some of which still stand to this day. The Romans were the most famous for their love of bathing and places like Bath even honour this with the name and of course their famous Roman Bath Complex on Stall St.
The Romans loved to bath together as they saw bathing as a social activity as well as a way of keeping clean. They even built communal bath houses and you can still visit them, a good example being the ones found at Bearsden in Glasgow.
The baths were a place they could relax and meet up. A social occasion as well as a clean one!
The history of the bathroom spans many centuries
Certainly more centuries than we’ll go into here, but throughout the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, public baths started their decline in popularity here in the west. Public bathing slowly gradually gave way to private spaces and this then led to the trend of private bathrooms.
The changes in the late 19th century made this all possible for the masses. New technology brought about advancements in plumbing and the supply of water, making it more accessible and easier to create the style of bathroom we’re used to today.
And then the world of medicine introduced us to the concept of germs and hygiene, and the way we viewed cleanliness changed dramatically, forcing the view that the bathroom wasn’t a luxury, it was now obligatory in the modern world.
More and more homes were plumbed for water and gas, making the luxuries available to all, and in the 1920’s council houses were built with bathrooms as standard.
As late as the 1960’s, many homes in the UK still didn’t have a bathroom.
Some simply had an outside loo which was a place for brave people to venture to in the middle of winter! The strong structures housing the WC became well known for their strength and the phrase “Built like a brick outhouse” (or similar variations!) became popular.
The lack of a bathroom in these homes simply meant that some people washed in a bath placed in front of the fireplace – a tradition you may remember.
So it’s fairly recently that bathrooms came into our homes as standard. From the 70’s onwards it was more normalised and of course now it’s quite standard to have ensuite bathrooms for master bedrooms and even a second bathroom or downstairs toilet or shower. Wetrooms are increasing in popularity, too.
Some convert their garage to have a ‘dirty shower’ or one for the garden workers to wash off in.
It’s very easy to forget that there are still people alive today who would think that a bathroom in the home is a luxury as they grew up without one.
So next time you pop to the bathroom, be grateful that you were born when you were and not in Elizabethan times…
…or before! And if you’re reading this from the toilet (as many people now do) please wash your hands. Thank you.
Need help getting your new bathroom, ensuite or downstairs WC designed and fitted? Give us a call now or call into our bathroom showroom in Coventry and we’ll be happy to help you.