Can you think of a more unusual way to spend a few pennies ( Tee Hee ) than booking a walking tour round the old toilets of Manchester?? My friend Fi decided to do just that for her Birthday recently…..and it proved to be a very interesting way to while away a couple of hours. 🙂 Billed as the cities ‘ most convenient tour’ this guided walk explores the history of Manchester’s use of toilets, from the Industrial Revolution onwards.
We met up with our tour guide and the rest of the group ( which included a band of poo enthusiasts ! ) at The Lass O Gowrie Public House on Charles street , just off Oxford Road. This old tiled Real Ales pub is situated on the site of the oldest ‘Pissotiere’ in Manchester. A pissotiere is a much pleasanter sounding word for public urinal. It was a public toilet ( with no privacy ) , where gents could relieve themselves into the river below. As you can imagine the river Medlock soon became a very smelly cesspit.
The Lass O Gowrie and nearby The Sailisbury are situated in a part of Manchester known as Little Ireland, a former slum area in the city. Anne ( our guide ) told us that Irish immigrants moved here in the 1820s to work in the factories and mills. Conditions were dyre with inhabitants living in crowded squaller in back to back terraces with
whole streets sharing just one toilet. And that toilet was little more than a big bucket that was emptied once a week. 😦 With the smog and pollution and insanitary filth , it must have been one hell of a miserable life here. 😦
On a more cheery note our next stop on The Toilets of Manchester Tour, was a former public toilet which is now a subterranean bar ! The Temple Of Convenience on Bridgewater Street was one of the Victorian-era lavatories originally built for businessmen and gentlemen visitors to the city. I don’t think ladies went to the toilet in those days, not public ones anyway! It would have been fun to bob inside the Temple for a quick half, but alas a drink in a former loo was not part of the tour. ; (
Anne regaled us with more tales and information about Manchester’s toilet history as we walked round the city in the wind and rain. It was therefore a nice surprise when she led us into an impressive Neo Gothic building that looked like a church, but is actually John Rylands Library.
John Rylands Library was completed in 1900 and was founded by Enriquita Rylands in tribute to her late husband, a Manchester textile mill owner and millionaire. Enriquita wanted the best of everything in the library , including the latest in modern flushing lavatories. 🙂
The original Victorian toilets ( the oldest working loos in Manchester! ) can be found in the library basement. Fortunately by 1900 Ladies could use public conveniences too, so Fi , Jo and I trundled off to spend a penny. 🙂
Our last stop on the tour was ‘ The jamie Oliver’ Restaurant ! It resides in an imposing 1930’s Art Decor building , formerly the Midland Bank at 100 King Street , known as The King Of King Street.
Whilst the top floors house a swish boutique hotel called Hotel Gotham , the former bank vault ( which can be hired out for parties) is adjacent to the rest rooms, which contain reproduction Thomas Crapper lavatories .
Thomas Crapper was a renowned Victorian plumber and inventor whose flush toilets had the Royal Seal of Approval! His name lives on in potty mouths everywhere. 🙂
We found this walking tour at manchesterguidedtours.com
£8 per person.
Can you recommend any unusual walking tours?