Be privy to some secrets about the historic toilet at no 49
WHEN No 49 High Street became the home of Amersham Museum, the brick and tiled privy at the end of the garden was in a very poor state.
The seat was worm-ridden and the rest of the space was dirty and full of rubbish. The privy was cleared out and the rotten wood was burned and for the next few years it was used as a garden shed. After many years of neglect a resuscitation plan was devised with the help of a legacy.
It had been assumed that the privy emptied into the River Misbourne which flows immediately behind the back wall but this wall shows no sign of any vent and, anyway, the river bed is sometimes dry for months at a time so it would be useless as a sewage disposal system.
There must have been a ‘night soil man’ who crossed the river and emptied the bucket at regular intervals.
Once the privy building was cleared and an old photo was found, suitable old timber planks and red floor tiles were found in a reclamation centre. A carpenter rebuilt the seating and a bucket was installed underneath plus another bucket with ash and a shovel for covering the waste.
For the formal opening, well-known historian, Lady Lucinda Lambton, cut the ribbon to reveal the new varnished seat, a rug, the scouring powder and scrubbing brush and the essential fly paper hanging from the roof.
ANTHONY DEL TUFO, MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
49 High Street Old Amersham Bucks HP7 0DP 01494 723700 www.amershammuseum.org