In a Medieval home toilets were usually holes in the ground with a wooden seat over them, or chamber pots were used which were then emptied into the street outside the home. If there was a river nearby people built stone or wooden lavatories over them; even better if it was tidal and the waste was then washed away.
For those living In Medieval castles the toilet was called a garderobe which was a vertical shaft with a stone seat at the top. Some garderobes emptied into the moat.
But what happens when you need a toilet while travelling or especially when visiting towns or cities?
Rawcliffe finds that in almost every late medieval city or town there would be records noting the building and maintenance of public toilets. For example, she writes:
The colloquially named ‘pissyngholes’ and privies over the Ouse Bridge in York were maintained, like their equivalents in London, by bridge wardens, who were also responsible for cleaning and repairing the domestic privies in their various tenements throughout the city. The contract made in 1544 with a local widow ‘for keping cleyn’ the conveniences on the bridge and allowing ‘none to lye any wodd or other noysaunce in the same, nor caste no fylthe nor other ramell [rubbish] furthe … into watter of Owse’ continued the medieval practice of providing lavatory attendants and adequate lighting…In 1411-12 the treasurers of Norwich recorded a substantial outlay on ‘scouring an making new’ the privies at the fish market and nearby Guildhall, where the mayor’s court met; and over £10 was spent in the 1450s on the gutters leading from another latrine on the north-west approaches to this crowded area.
There are also some other very interesting topics on Medieval England.
Are you one of the lucky genealogists who have traced a family back to the medieval times? If so, I would love to hear about your research and who your ancestors are?
Until next time