Victorian Toilets, Rothesay

Rothesay's Victorian toilets

The gentlemen’s toilets in Rothesay are a veritable palace of public convenience. Described by Lucinda Lambton, architectural historian and well known cludgie connoisseur as “jewels in the sanitarian’s crown”, they are one of the finest examples of late Victorian lavatories left in the UK.

In 1899 when the toilets were built, Rothesay on the Isle of Bute was a bustling seaside resort. Hordes of visitors would come “doon the watter” (the water being the Firth of Clyde) from Glasgow. The pier, now dominated by CalMac ferries, was jammed with paddle steamers and holidaymakers eager to spend a penny. So it was only fitting that Rothesay’s WCs should welcome them in style.

Situated close to the ferry terminal, the toilet building is fairly anonymous. The tile-clad exterior is nothing to write home about, but inside it’s a different story. There’s an explosion of colour and decoration, and the fittings – oh my! No wonder Lucinda Lambton called them “the most beautiful in the world”.

Fourteen fantastic porcelain urinals stand erect along one wall, with another six in a circular centrepiece. Made from white Fireclay pottery and topped with imitation green St Anne’s marble, ‘THE “ADAMANT”’ is stamped onto each along with the Twyford’s crest. Although the Victorians were rather prim, there’s nothing discreet about them. They are out and proud.

All in all, they are an architectural triumph. The original glass-sided cisterns feed the water supply through shiny copper pipes, providing a gentle soundtrack while you tinkle. The glass roof lets in lots of natural light, making a pee a pleasure. For those wishing to bide a wee there are cubicles where the lavvy pans, as they are known in these parts, have commodious wooden seats. The bowl is marked “THE DELUGE”, which inspires great confidence in its abilities.

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In October 2009

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