logo - Join me in the 1900s
logo - from the webmaster

Chamber pots: as used in old houses with no indoor lavatory

Based on childhood recollections of working class family life in north London in Edwardian times.

What chamber pots were and why they were used

basic china chamber pot for adult use, common in the early 1900s when there were no indoor lavatories.

A basic china chamber pot photographed at the Museum of Nottingham Life.

basic enamel chamber pot for adult use, common in the early 1900s when there were no indoor lavatories.

A basic enamel chamber pot photographed at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke.

In the Victorian style terraces where I grew up in the early 1900s, we considered ourselves fortunate to have a built-in flush lavatory, even though it meant having to go outside into the back garden to get to it. This was not something we would relish at night or in bad weather.

Many people, my grandmother included, had to use a privy right at the end of the garden!

So it is not surprising that chamber pots were a part of everyday life for adults as well as babies and children. They were like the babies' potties of today but larger and more substantial, being for adult use. They were made of china or enamel and could be quite decorative.

Chamber pots were normally kept under beds in bedrooms.

to top of page

Emptying chamber pots

Unfortunately my mother's recollections do not say whose job it was to empty the family's chamber pots every morning or how the smell was kept down inside the house. I know that normal practice was to cover chamber pots with newspaper during the emptying process and that ordinary people at the time just accepted smells. Perhaps fresh newspaper was placed beside the washed chamber pots under the beds each morning. Or perhaps a large plate was used to cover each chamber pot. If so it is surprising that no descriptions seem to have survived. If you can add any information, I would be pleased if you would contact me. 

Pat Cryer

to top of page


Chamber pots as part of matching wash sets

Decorative china wash set: matching wash bowl, hot water jug, slop bowl, soap dish, chamber pot and shaving jug  as used in and before the early 1900s before there was running hot water.

Decorative china chamber pot as part of an upmarket wash set: wash bowl, hot water jug, slop bowl, soap dish and shaving jug, photographed at Milestones Museum.

There is more on this website about keeping clean in the early 1900s.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer

to top of page


This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is Pat Cryer.