Around London In 13 Remarkable Toilets

By M@ Last edited 14 months ago
Around London In 13 Remarkable Toilets
Street art of a man on the toilet, with a side note about Shakespeare staging plays on the site
Shakespeare's cistern. Some now-lost street art on Curtain Road.

Public lavatories are increasingly hard to find around London. That makes those which remain all the more important, especially when they're as characterful as this bunch.

1. The Very Public Urinals, Vauxhall

Seen from above, a "very public urinal" with green sides

Seen from ground level, this "Very public urinal" in Vauxhall is, well, revealing. But mount the pedestrian bridge that runs alongside the rail viaduct and you get a bird's-eye view.

2. The Jubiloo, South Bank

A toilet with a union jack seat

London's most patriotic shit can be exuded into the so-called Jubiloos near the London Eye. The facility was opened in 2012 as one of the more unusual baubles of the Diamond Jubilee. They're almost fit for a Queen. A gold-anodised aluminium roof collects rainwater for the cisterns, while each of the cubicles is spacious, well-maintained and heavy on union jackery (sadly, not the toilet paper). Still, at an astounding £1 per go, you'd have to be feeling flush. (The nearby Royal Festival Hall has free toilets, open from 10am and well into the evening.)

3. Fire! Bentley Priory Museum

A spitfire steering column used as a toilet flush

This former RAF base north of Stanmore is remarkable for any number of reasons, and its gents toilets are no exception. The urinal flush is actuated at the press of a button — but one based on a second world war cockpit. We weren't brave enough to open our payload bay doors in the cubicles.

4. London's grimiest toilets, Down Street

A pair of old toilets in cubicles with`grime-ridden walls

Down Street is one of those abandoned tube stations on the Piccadilly line, which you can sometimes visit on TfL's Hidden London tours (or watch our video). Its platforms have shunned trains since 1932, but the space was briefly used as a government bunker during the second world war. These filthy toilets date from that time; their porcelain walls caked in a sooty grime that even your plumber's dodgy chemicals ("Well, I shouldn't really use this stuff, but...") could shift. Think they couldn't look any worse? Imagine Churchill squatting over one, his bulldog face contorted with the strains of constipation.

5. A wazz in the woods, Twickenham

An old Victorian green metal urinal in some shrubbery

Chancing across this pistachio pissoir in York House Gardens, Twickenham is like stumbling across a gateway to Narnia. Only instead of a magical realm of talking animals and Turkish delight, the Victorian ironmongery conceals a bank of stinking urinals. Fully functioning, mind, and a truly unique venue in which to discharge one's bladder.

6. And another one, Chancery Lane

A green slope-roofed Victorian pissoir in an alley

Well, I say "unique", but there's also this beauty in Star Yard to the east of Lincoln's Inn. It's not quite as decorative as its Twickenham cousin, and it's never open for business, but we're still glad (if not relieved) that it's here.

7. The Boghouse, Lincoln's Inn

A plaque that waffles on for a bit before telling us a giant bog house used to stand here

Lincoln's Inn is a foaming cistern of toilet history. Just over the wall from the pissoir can be spied this stone plaque, which marks the site of the Inn's "Boghouse". These early facilities were a popular spot for cruising (though nearby Temple had the distinction of housing London's first recorded glory hole). Free toilets, both Ladies and Gents, can still be found on the east side of Lincoln's Inn Fields.

See also: Dick Whittington's massive toilet

8. Three-to-a-seat, Museum of London Docklands

A three-seater toilet made of wood. The author is sat on the left-most hole, his trousers very resolutely up.
Your author, sitting on a replica, and failing to attract a bog buddy.

The past is a different country: they do things differently there, and that includes pooping. In 2019, Museum of London Docklands put on show this eyebrow-raising triple-toilet. The 700 years old multikhazi shows that our ancestors had no qualms about group defecation. This surprising find comes from the banks of the now-buried River Fleet near Blackfriars.

9. Marble urinals, City Road

A set of red marble urinals

John Wesley's House and Museum holds a wealth of curiosities, whether or not you're interested in the history of Methodism — the Christian denomination he helped to found in the 18th century. In fact, many people pay John a visit just so they can pay his john a visit. These gorgeous marble urinals (and matching hand basins, not pictured) are free to view any time during opening hours. The Ladies loos are less ornate, but women are welcome to have a peek in the Gents so long as they use discretion.

10. Sherlock's toilet, Baker Street

A white porcelain toilet bowl with blue pattern and wooden seat. The U-bend is heavily stained

One of Arthur Conan Doyle's 60 Sherlock Holmes stories is entitled The Adventure of the Second Stain. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was about the detective's toilet, after visiting the mock-facility at the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Its dainty porcelain bowl carries a feculent taint. The phrase "No shit, Sherlock" needs a revision.

11. Fountain, Tate Modern

An upturned urinal with R Mutt written in black on one side

Marcel Duchamp trolled the art world back in 1917 by daubing "R Mutt" on a urinal and calling it art. Actually, he called it "Fountain", just to be even more abstruse. The contentious artwork is now on show in Tate Modern, where every British passer-by makes a "taking the piss" joke. If you want to win the "But is it really art?" debate, point out that it's not even the original (which is lost), but a 1960s replica.

12. Dine in a urinal at The Attendant, Fitzrovia

Porcelain urinal heads with benches alongside
Image: a still from our video about the Attendant.

We're painfully aware that many of the examples above are biased towards a male audience. One set of urinals that can be enjoyed by anyone, though, is at The Attendant cafe in Fitzrovia. Here, a subterranean suite of stalls is transformed into individual perches for coffee drinkers. Try the lemon drizzle cake if you dare.

12. Cocktails on the toilet, Soho

An old jail cell converted into a cocktail bar with toilet

The Courthouse Hotel on Great Marlborough Street is guessably built into an old courthouse building. And not any old courthouse. This place has seen many a celebrity trial over the years, including cases against John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Christine Keeler. The old prison cells now serve as private booths for guests at the bar, complete with "Please do not use" toilets.

13. Poo in a pod at Sketch, Mayfair

The Conduit Street bar-restaurant has the most creative toilets in London. Words cannot describe these strange poop pods, I can't afford to go there for photos, and I'm definitely not clever enough to understand their website. So here instead is a video from someone with more nous.

And some bonus bogs... (or the best of the rest-rooms)

View through a porthole towards the RAF memorial and the river thames
The Tattershall Castle floating pub on the Embankment has a memorable view from its toilet portholes.
A subterranean toilet converted to a bar, viewed from the road
Besides the Attendant (see above) many other subterranean loos have been converted into cafes or bars. This is Ladies and Gents in Kentish Town
A square sandy pit for dogs to poop in
Dog toilets, like this one in Holland Park, have always struck me as a little odd. Yeah, they'll slightly reduce the amount of poop left elsewhere in the park, but how many toddlers mistake it for a sand pit before their adults can stop them?
A pair of urinals shaped like brightly coloured lips
The Hunter S pub in Islington has a famous set of lip-shaped urinals, which amuse and disgust in equal measure. Image Ben Norum
A blue boxy toilet facility with a yellow giraffe painted around the doors
Temporary toilet facilities don't need to look boring. Paint on the image of a giraffe with a fractured neck, and everyone is cheered.
A series of yellow and orange tiles, with diagrams showing how famous footballers choose to pee
The former Draft House in Old Street displayed this guide to urinating footballers in its toilets (which were additionally decorated in tube-style tiling). Not sure if it's still there, since the bar was converted to a Brewdog.

All images by Matt Brown, unless otherwise stated.

Last Updated 11 October 2022

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