The story of the bath­tub

We fo­cus on the fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory of hum­ble house­hold items. This month, the bi­og­ra­phy of the bath

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Be­fore bathing be­came a soli­tary, in­dul­gent ac­tiv­ity, it was a prac­ti­cal, shared plea­sure. From South­wark’s me­dieval bath­houses to Tu­dor knights’ ses­sions in a herb-in­fused pool in the Tower of Lon­don, the bath was en­joyed by all. Lucy Wors­ley, au­thor of If Walls Could Talk: An In­ti­mate His­tory of the Home (Faber, £12.99) tells us that the mod­ern love of bathing ar­rived with the birth of the bath­room in the early 20th cen­tury. ‘It be­came pos­i­tive to wal­low in a bath thanks to Hol­ly­wood – when peo­ple saw film stars drink­ing cock­tails and talk­ing on the tele­phone in a bub­ble bath,’ she says. Here are some high­lights of the tub’s deep, oc­ca­sion­ally murky, his­tory.

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