300,000 pounds facelift for historic gents: Preserving a pierhead lavatory is a matter of national convenience for Scots heritage group

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The Independent Online
THE GENTLEMEN'S urinal at the pierhead on the island of Rothesay in the Firth of Clyde is now recognised as a national treasure. Its luxurious porcelain fittings, mosaic floors and brass pipework are to be preserved for the nation with a grant from Historic Scotland, a government body responsible for conserving built heritage.

Rich merchants and manufacturers lived on the island of Rothesay, and commuted by steamer up the Clyde to Glasgow when it was the second city of the Empire and shipbuilder to the world. Their urgent needs were catered for by the elegant pierhead pissoir.

Now generally described as a toilet, the building, erected in 1899, predates the days when even the term lavatory was used for such a convenience. This is made clear in the building itself. A small room in the suite containing only wash basins is labelled lavatory on an engraved glass panel.

The porcelain in the pierhead pissoir is an outstanding example of the work of Twyfords Cliffe Vale Potteries. The urinals, called the 'Adamant', are made of white porcelain with black fake marble surrounds. They are flushed via brass pipes from overhead tanks with bevelled glass panels. For almost 90 years the lavatory served the needs of men travelling to and from Glasgow. Now grass is growing on the leaking roof, and inside a solitary fern has established itself. It will cost almost pounds 300,000 to refurbish.

The original lavatory made no provision for women, who will be given modern conveniences in an area once used for storage. The European Regional Development Fund is paying pounds 100,000 towards the cost, the remainder shared by Historic Scotland and Argyll and Bute Regional Council.

'It is something to keep, isn't it?' said Alasdair Grahame, the harbour master, who knew the lavatory in its better days. 'But it is going to be difficult to repair the mosaic floor - a lot of pieces are missing.'

(Photograph omitted)