Finest gents in the land draws the crowds

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THERE CAN be few public lavatories that could be classed as a tourist attraction. Yet a Victorian water closet in the island resort of Rothesay, near Glasgow, has become such a popular draw among holidaymakers that it recently prompted its own brochure.

Regarded as the finest surviving public convenience in Britain, the Victorian gents on Rothesay Pier, on the Isle of Bute, were lauded by the architectural commentator Lucinda Lambton as "jewels in the sanitarian's crown".

Commissioned in 1899, the building and its ornate interior has been restored at a cost of pounds 300,000 and a modern ladies added (the Victorian burghers had made no provision for the needs of women).

Fourteen majestic urinal stalls line two walls and six surround a central stand. Enamel alcoves are crowned with imitation dark green St Anne's marble topped with the legend of their renowned manufacturers, Twyfords Ltd, Cliffe Vale Potteries, Hanley.

Three glass-sided cisterns are held together by marble and glowing copper and the walls and floor are decorated with ceramic tiles. This is an almost hallowed convenience.

The toilet block is almost the first building trippers encounter on coming ashore at Rothesay. It is built of glazed brick, and appears far from prepossessing on the outside. It cannot have figured highly in one over-excited description of the bay's architecture as like a "beckoning wedding-cake".

The interior was designed to impress, and to last. The urinals and original lavatories were manufactured from a special pottery recipe called "fireclay", an extremely robust material that Thomas Twyford had perfected only recently. Apart from the cisterns, all the Victorian fitments are intact, supplied at an original cost of pounds 530.

Twyford gave his fireclay the trade name "Adamant", a legend gazed on with a sense of growing relief by succeeding generations and in places so far flung they are quite unaware of Rothesay's other claims to fame, its palm-fringed bay (true), and incomparable bogs.