Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crappy Areas Of The Middle Ages (Bathroom Facilities)

Taylor Speer-Sims
March 11, 2012


Crappy Areas
                                                                   Of the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages people still had to “go” just like men and women of any other time. Facilities of a special closet in the castle would have been one place to do it. Urinals and commodes had been other articles of containment. Wiping cloths and servants had been a basic requirement for any noble. Whatever the duty, rest assured that business had not been performed in a bathroom.

The first thing that any pregnant lady asked when entering a castle would be “where is the bathroom?” However, the idea of a bathroom was not considered until recently. This idea would be considered an American idea, also, because European accommodations held separate rooms for the toilet, and in some instances the bath as well. So, how and where did the people of the Middle Ages accommodate their basic bodily functions?

            Bodily functions were not created in the 20th century. These were not something that only recent architects had to worry about when creating a building. And, even though the title of interior decorator was instituted recently, that does not mean that there had been no one to actually do any type of decorating. Areas of ease had not always been full rooms, sometimes they were just pottery. Whatever the size, these areas had not only been utilitarian, but there had also been a little bit of comfort to help with the business and make everything move easily.

            Doing one’s business had been a part of humanity since the first man walked the earth. Indeed, almost every animal has had to do the same type of business. Perhaps the idea of doing it in private goes back to the original sin of Adam and Eve. When they became knowledgeable of their nakedness they could have become shy of relieving themselves in front of others. Of course, not all had worried about discharging waste in public. Public excrementation had been popular in Rome, for instance.

            Roman baths had been popular up to the Middle Ages. There had been some locations that continued the practice even up to the present time, but by and large when the Romans evacuated territories, the baths fell into disuse. Toilets had been in the baths placed in a row, or in a square with many openings for socialization.[1] Unfortunately, many things linked with the Romans had been destroyed because of possible associations with demons.[2] Other reasons that baths had started to decline in popularity, was the fact that they started to become associated with brothels, a different type of personal business.[3] Any, or all, of these reasons could have been the catalyst for moving the duty into a more private area.
                                         http://ptoday.blogspot.com/2008/10/union-county-going-green-with-smart_11.html
Private areas of the “necessary” would not have been literally solitary for any of the nobility. The private came to be called the privy, and also the privy chamber. A servant would have assisted the lord or lady before, during, and after, use.  Clothing had to be adjusted. Cloths for wiping had to be given and then discarded, and then clothing had to be readjusted afterwards. Wiping cloths had been used because neither newspapers nor toilet paper had been invented yet.[1]
            So, while toilet paper had not been invented yet, the latrine had. The general idea of the Roman latrines had been used for the design of the Medieval castle potties. These lavatories had usually been in a corner, or closet space, within the private chambers of the lord.[2] Another difference between Roman latrines and Medieval garderobes had been that it was only one hole, instead of many. And, these necessaries had been built in an upper floor, out over the lower wall to empty toward the outer wall.[3] Others emptied out into the moat, which made trying to take the donjon even more of a nasty experience.[4] If the castle had no moat, the privy shoot would empty out at the bottom of the wall, where locals would collect the waste to be used as manure for the fields.[5]
                                                         http://www.sewerhistory.org/images/pr/prf/8.jpg




An interesting point about these privy closets was that some had been lavishly decorated. When one looks upon the area now, they could assume that the men and women of old would have sat directly upon the plank. However, this may not be an accurate assumption. Pillows and blankets were placed inside because of the updraft from the shoot. Double doors had been placed for protection against the smell. [1] Another reason for the double-door could have been another barrier against the wind coming up through the shoot, especially during the winter months.
            When it was too cold, or the resident did not want to get up to the closet, there had been other ways of disposing of their personal waste. Glazed pottery had been created as urinals.[2] Commodes, also called pots, were other sources of relief. Women could not use the urinal, so they had to have something else. A commode was a type of ceramic basin that the person would have squatted over for relief. Going to the pot would have been easy because they had been stored under the bed for easy access.[3] The servant emptied the urinal, and the pots, and took all of the crappy business in general.

                                                                   http://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/content/view/full/14465
Easy access had also been normal for baths in the Medieval castle. The bath was not in the garderobe, but was a wood tub that was carried to the user. Some rooms had a separate area that the bath would be set in. Others would have the bath set up in the great chamber next to bed. Screens had been set up for some privacy if there had not been a special enclosed area.[1] Bathing had not occurred yet in a bathroom, as such.
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            Bathrooms have been in existence for only a short period of time. However, the uses that these rooms have seen have been around since the dawn of mankind. Relieving oneself had to happen somewhere. Commodes, urinals, and privies had been in existence in the Middle Ages. These items had been in specific areas used for the Medieval crappy business.


Bibliography:

AJ.“Ancient Roman Toilets – Outdoor Toilet System”. Portable Toilet blog. July

25, 2011.             http://porta-potty.blogspot.com/2011/07/ancient-roman-toilets-outdoor-toilet.html. (accessed March 11, 2012).

 

Fry, Plantagenet Somerset. Best Castles. Cincinnati, OH: David & Charles Books, 2006.

 

“History of Plumbing – Roman and English Legacy”. “Plumbing and Mechanical, July

1989”. in Theplumber.com. 1994. http://www.theplumber.com/eng.html. (accessed March 11, 2012).

“Medicine in the Middle Ages”. Historylearningsite.com. 2012.

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/medicine_in_the_middle_ages.htm. (accessed March 11, 2012).

 

“Medieval glazed ceramic bottle or urinal”. St. Albans Museums. (Hertfordshire,

            U.K.: n.d.) http://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/content/view/full/14465. (accessed March 11, 2012).

 

“Middle Ages Hygiene”. The Middle Ages Website. N.d. http://www.middle-

ages.org.uk/middle-ages-hygiene.htm. (accessed March 11, 2012).

 

Speer-Sims, Taylor. “Aurora Illinois: In the Civil War.” Research paper for class.

American Military University, 2011

 

“Toilets, Earth Closets, and House Plumbing”, Sewerhistory.org. 2004.

http://www.sewerhistory.org/grfx/privbath/toilet1.htm#medieval. (accessed March 11, 2012).

Toy, Sidney. Castles: Their construction & History. Mineola, NY: 1984.

 
Originally written for class at American Military University.


[1] Fry, 107.


[1] “Middle Ages Hygiene”.
[2] “Medieval glazed ceramic bottle or urinal”. St. Albans Museums. (Hertfordshire, U.K.: n.d.) http://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/content/view/full/14465. (accessed March 11, 2012).
[3] Bonnie Speer. Personal communication with author. 2012.



[1] Taylor Speer-Sims. “Aurora Illinois: In the Civil War.”  Research paper for class. (American Military University, 2011), 16.
[2] Sidney Toy, Castles construction & History, (Mineola, NY: 1984), 73.
[3] “Toilets, Earth Closets, and House Plumbing”, Sewerhistory.org. 2004. http://www.sewerhistory.org/grfx/privbath/toilet1.htm#medieval. (accessed March 11, 2012).
[4] “Middle Ages Hygiene”. The Middle Ages Website. N.d. http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/middle-ages-hygiene.htm. (accessed March 11, 2012).
[5] Plantagenet Somerset Fry, Castles: England+Scotland+Wales+Ireland, The Definitive Guide to the Most Impressive Buildings and Intriguing Sites, (Cincinnati, OH: David & Charles Books, 2001), 128-129.



[1] AJ. “Ancient Roman Toilets – Outdoor Toilet System”. Portable Toilet blog. July 25, 2011. http://porta-potty.blogspot.com/2011/07/ancient-roman-toilets-outdoor-toilet.html. (accessed March 11, 2012).
[2] “Medicine in the Middle Ages”. Historylearningsite.com. 2012. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/medicine_in_the_middle_ages.htm. (accessed March 11, 2012).
[3] “History of Plumbing – Roman and English Legacy”. “Plumbing and Mechanical, July 1989”. in Theplumber.com. 1994. http://www.theplumber.com/eng.html. (accessed March 11, 2012).

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