A wooden chamber pot

Crapper, more commonly known as a toilet. Was made popular by Thomas Crapper when the flush feature was invented. This is where the name, the crapper gained more popularity and was the most common term used to describe a toilet. Firstly though let’s take a look further back in time at when the toilet was first invented.

Before Christ (BC)

History experts have scientific knowledge to prove that the first toilet was created in ancient history times, not knowing an exact date but believing it to be during the third millennium, roughly 2800 BC when toilets and sewers were invented and started to spread around the world. Although it wasn’t for the normal-class citizens, toilets and sewage systems in your home was a luxury and only the rich and upper-class citizens had them. Waste would have been removed by hand to start, with all the waste going into a pot or tank like feature and then being removed. (probably done by a slave to the upper class)

Roman bathroom
Ancient Roman Bathroom

It was in Pakistan and northwestern India that water cleaning toilets came about, they had flowing water in their houses that were linked with drains and covered with burnt clay bricks. The flowing water would remove the majority of human waste from the system.

After Christ (AC)

Garderobes were toilets in post-classical history, mainly found in upper class properties. Basically they were long pieces of wood with 1 or more holes cut out for people to sit. These holes were placed above chutes or pipes that led away from the manor or castle and discharged outside. Although they had better drainage in these days it was more than likely that the smell would have still been outrageous, so these garderobes were placed away from bedrooms or living areas, and especially far away from kitchens. Most manor houses or castles would have a separate outhouse, which were built entirely to dump your waste.

Garderobes Toilet

Another method in which the more middle-class citizens would use was called a chamber pot, chamber pots were used for hundreds of years and usually made from ceramic, wood or metal into which you would excrete waste.

A wooden chamber pot
A wooden chamber pot

Modern History

By the modern era, chamber pots were still being used and now people would have more decorative ones than they did in the AC era. They were emptied into the gutter, which would be in the street of where you live. For the richer folks, garderobe was replaced with a privy midden, which then turned into a pail closet. A pail closet was a room used for the disposal of your human excreta, the idea of a pail closet was a shed type structure with a seat, under the seat was basically a bucket. You would dispose your waste into the bucket and then the local authorities would remove the waste buckets on a regular basis.

In the early 19th century a debate to create a series of connecting pipes all with running water, which then connected to each shed/toilet was discussed as a method of disposing the waste. By the mid 19th century the work was underway.

So we have advanced a lot since BC. We now have a system which you can dispose your waste and it will then drop into a pipe which would lead to the sewage system with the running water. People would throw buckets of water down the toilet to flush the remaining waste out of the pipes. Which now takes me onto the flush toilet.

Flush Toilets

So not exactly the type of flush toilet we use today but a similar sort of system with the same bright idea was invented in 1596 by John Harrington. Although it wasn’t popular until the late 19th century with the industrial revolution and new advances in technology, a better/more convenient approach was taken on John Harringtons idea. It was a crucial advance in the plumbing industry and it was something that would change the world and how we all use a toilet.

Modern Flush

The S-trap, invented by a Scottish mechanic named Alexander Cummings. Which is basically the idea of using standing water to seal the outlet of the bowl, preventing the escape of foul air coming up from the sewage pipes. The water would flush down the pipes with the waste, and the bowl would fill back up accordingly from an external tank. Simple, yet great idea which is still used today. Throughout the late 18th century and early 19th century different versions of the flush toilet was created and they were also known as water closets.

Thomas Crapper was the man known for popularizing the flush toilet in the UK, and that’s why most brits use the term “crap” as a meaning for poo. Toilets have been given many different names over the years and due to toilet and water flushing systems, people require the use of plumbers a lot more, which is great for the plumbing industry. Some of the most common names for toilets can be found below.

  • Lavatory
  • Loo
  • WC (Water Closet)
  • Jacks
  • House Of Office
  • Khazi
  • Bog
  • Dunny
  • Netty
  • Shithouse
  • John
  • Privy
  • Crapper
  • Vin
  • Latrine

As we know toilets have advanced a lot since ancient times, and we are very fortunate to have excellent waste disposal systems in our era. Of course we will keep advancing and eventually there will be a new toilet system to replace the S-trap and make waste disposal that even more bit pleasant. We thank you for reading the post and ask if you will kindly share with your friends.


Dan the author is owner of Multicore National, who provide emergency plumbing call outs.

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