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Leyden Street Underground toilets

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  • Leyden Street Underground toilets

    A bit late for most of you but interesting just the same, so hope it's okay to post here.

    Many years ago whilst looking through lots of old dusty plans at work, I stumbled upon one dated 1900 that caught my eye.

    Drawn on linen as most old plans used to be (to make them tough enough to last being handled for many years), it showed an underground toilet in Whitechapel. It’s shown as Short Street, now named Leyden Street (name changed in 1913) and is just off of Wentworth Street/Petticoat Lane Market.

    As a draftsman who started knocking out plans in the last years of drawing boards, T-square, scalpels, chalk, blue pencils and ink and knowing a well drawn plan when I see one, I got myself a copy made and hung it up in my garage, along with a Rotherhithe Tunnel beauty I found at the same time.

    A while later I found out that the old toilet, although disused and locked up, still existed. I have taken a few pictures of it over the years, but being a bit peculiar, I really wanted to go down and see it before some developer turns it into a bar, or worse it gets filled in with concrete as has happened to so many over the last 40 years.



    I finally came up with a valid excuse to get the locks cut off and go down to take measurements for a future job on the road above. Not the most pleasant smelling of places, but you can see how well the Edwardians built things. Anyway, here are the pictures I took, starting with the plan that started my curiosity off.

    If you’re wondering, the ‘urinettes’ referred to on the plan are urinals for women in Victorian/Edwardian dress to piddle into whilst standing up. They only had a curtain for privacy rather than a door. Price was a half penny rather than the full penny for using the adjacent water closets. They were probably only in existence here for a few years as women of the time considered them unladylike and they were mostly unused. They would have been replaced with proper water closets or removed all together.








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        • #5
          Outstanding Yen,

          Your posts are always wort waiting for.

          Monty
          Monty

          https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...t/evilgrin.gif

          Author of Capturing Jack the Ripper.

          http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1445621622

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          • #6
            Thanks for that, Yen. Important to have a record of this before it's destroyed.

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            • #7
              Thanks for posting those! The builders do seem to have gone to some lengths to make the place attractive and modern-looking.

              Is anyone else struck by the angular, quite phallic shape of the central structure of the men's room pointing at the rounded central structure of the women's room? The architect was enjoying himself, I think.
              - Ginger

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              • #8
                One of my colleagues said he had to fill in a similar one in Sutton Street many years ago. He said they lifted the lid off and it was in perfect condition with the most beautiful tiled floor, he said it looked like a swimming pool when you looked down into it.

                He watched as they punched holes at regular intervals into the tiles before filling it all up with concrete.

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                • #9
                  The designer seems to have been Matthew William Jameson, Stepney Borough engineer, who died aged 90 and left £9000.

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                  • #10
                    Hi Robert...what year did he die...depending upon the answer £9,000 could be either a hell of a lot, or a hell of a little to leave...

                    Either way it could be an interesting reflection upon how respectable civil engineering was seen at a particular time...

                    All the best

                    Dave

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                    • #11
                      It's unlikely he had any involvement in the design, the designer and draftsman's name (they would have been two different people back then) was probably only recorded in the book that the drawing number was issued from (in case there was an error and they wanted to know who to blame). He might have been at the official opening in his best suit though!

                      Up until a few years ago all our drawing frames had the name of the borough engineer on, followed by his qualifications and professional memberships. The draftsman is only identified by initials.

                      Once we lost the last borough engineer and were headed by an accountant instead that no longer happened, they just have the address of the town hall now.

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                      • #12
                        Thanks Yen.

                        Dave, he died 1949. It would have been enough for at least two double-fronted houses in the suburbs, maybe three.

                        Here's a link to one of his buildings

                        http://events.londonopenhouse.org/building/18534

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Robert View Post
                          Thanks Yen.

                          Dave, he died 1949. It would have been enough for at least two double-fronted houses in the suburbs, maybe three.

                          Here's a link to one of his buildings

                          http://events.londonopenhouse.org/building/18534
                          I used to work in there, temporary placement whilst we waited for another building to be sorted out. I was given a tour of the archives underneath by the head of libraries, temperature/climate controlled with big fire proof doors.

                          They sometimes have open days where they bring out lots of interesting items to look through. Last time I saw a victorian midwife's record book with details of all births she had attended and how much she had charged. Also saw some old pawn shop ledgers, I was astonished to find that the most common things pawned years ago seemed to be sheets and clothes.

                          My desk was in one of the old library areas on the ground floor, if I was late for any reason I had to walk past the head of highways via a large, open, creaky wooden floor in my clumpy motorbike boots whilst trying to look innocent. Plenty of shelving though, although the toilets there were designed for small children, so were a bit low.

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                          • #14
                            Blimey, pawn shop ledgers? When did they date from, Yen?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Robert View Post
                              Blimey, pawn shop ledgers? When did they date from, Yen?
                              I think they were 1920s/30s. Hard times I imagine.

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