The Eccentric Toilets Of 1960s London

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By M@ Last edited 7 months ago
The Eccentric Toilets Of 1960s London

The Good Loo Guide: Where To Go In London (1965) is the ultimate toilet book. Compiled by Jonathan Routh and Brigid Segrave (and 'conveniently illustrated' by John Glashan), it is flush with humorous recommendations on where to spend a penny in the mid-60s. Here are some choice deposits.

7 eccentric toilets from 1960s London

Hyde Park (opposite Queensway): "Gents has a notice saying 'No shaving in this convenience under any circumstances'. What someone once did to bring about this prohibition, what strange rites it hints at, we may never know."

Brown's Hotel (Albemarle Street): "The Ladies is roomy, the clientele debby, and the attendant has the largest selection of miscellaneous pins in Central London. The Gents: the attendant starts filling the basin with hot water as you appear in the room and is also likely to point out to you, most charmingly, any deficiencies in your dress before you leave his domain."

Westbourne Grove Loos: "We visited this establishment in the first instance because we had heard from normally trustworthy sources that Martin Bormann, the missing Nazi war criminal, had been hiding in it for the last 20 years, disguised as a bogus attendant. We have since come to place less faith in our normally trustworthy sources."

The Westbourne Grove toilets today. War criminals not pictured. Image used under Creative Commons licence by JB55.

Euston mainline: "The Ladies are old fashioned and shabby, but comfortable with leather arm-chairs and leather-topped round table, gas fire, paintings... and paper flowers made to make the place look more homely, only people take them as souvenirs. The Gents is a disgrace to Britain."

GPO Tower (now the BT Tower): "We have been unable to confirm whether the loo will revolve too."

Leicester Square loos: "There have been times when we've wished we'd been wearing gumboots."

National Gallery loos: "Without doubt the warmest in all London, a fact well-known among members of the tramping fraternity who are expert at taking as long as one hour to complete their toilet."

Toilet graffiti of the 1960s

According to the book, common graffiti found across London's toilets included 'Minnie Mouse is a Jew' (a reference to Walt Disney's anti-semitic reputation), and 'Keep the Pope off the Moon' (apparently some kind of meme relating to the Catholic President Kennedy, who called for lunar missions). Overwhelmingly, though, the 'general standard remains abysmally low' and was almost exclusively concerned with 'anatomical trivia'. Plus ca change. The most puzzling is recorded in Tiberio's Restaurant, Queen Street: 'You know, of course, that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct".

A rare survival

Most of the toilets listed in the guide are long gone, or else much refurbished. One exception is this distinctive John, hiding away in Star Yard by Lincoln's Inn. The review reads: "In the continental street style, this roofless, gas-lit, wrought-iron and porcelain construction can accommodate four men standing. No jovial host, but always open."

6 recommendations for London's toilets

The authors set out their stall by suggesting six ways that London's toilets might be improved. These are:

1. The Hours of Opening be written up outside all public loos.
2. That there should be as many public loos open to Ladies at night as there are to Gents. (Apparently, 1960s London contained no all-night public toilets for women, though plenty for men.)
3. That hooks be provided behind doors for Ladies' handbags.
4. That Westminster City Council should end its ridiculous charge of 6d 'to use the mirror'.
5. That there should be a lawful minimum distance between public loos.
6. That an independent body should be set up to make annual inspections of all establishments and award a Good Loo-keeping Seal to the best.

This classy affair didn't make the cut.

With thanks to London Remembers. Images by the author unless otherwise stated.

Last Updated 20 February 2017