Now cross your legs: Britain's public lavatories are vanishing fast

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Name a lavatory Emerald Isle and you might expect to be derided. Public conveniences rarely invite allusions to precious stones or sun-kissed atolls. Those on Notting Hill's Westbourne Grove are an exception. Housed alongside a florist in a building designed with the sleek lines of a Victorian steam yacht, they are some of the more inviting loos in London.

Walk inside and the cubicles and urinals are nothing out of the ordinary. But clean and fully functioning public lavatories are becoming rare in our towns and cities. This week's news that Manchester is to slash its number of conveniences from 17 to just one came as the British Toilet Association predicted that up to 1,000 are likely to close across the country this year.

While some conveniences have recently been celebrating wins in the association's Loo of the Year Awards, its director, Richard Chisnell, predicts the decline will continue. "The floodgates are now open," he said. "We have lost 30 to 40 per cent of our public toilets in the past 10 years and we estimate there are only 4,000 left. There are more sexy things in life than a public toilet but we all need to go for a pee."

Britain's first purpose-built public toilet opened in Aldwych outside the High Court in 1852, but their numbers in big cities are dwindling fast, with barely any left in Birmingham and Liverpool. According to Mr Chisnell, who set up the BTA in 1999, more people visit the City of Westminster's toilets each year than visit London theatres. He believes people are willing to pay to use them, and is trying to persuade politicians that the creation of new community lavatories is a potential vote winner.

The Emerald Isle provides a model that could keep the nation's loos flushing. Under an arrangement devised by local residents, the flower kiosk was included in the design to channel rent towards the upkeep of the lavatories, and the employment of a full-time attendant.

The building's architect, Piers Gough, said: "Public loos are a necessary part of a civilised world. They should be something that gives civic pride, as well as something that provides some income and other things such as benches and rest spaces."

Mr Gough said the florist had made the toilet a memorable landmark credited with helping to revitalise the area. The full-time attendant, who works six days a week and starts at 5am on Saturday mornings, works hard to ensure that they are kept clean – and her efforts are certainly popular with cab drivers.

One said "I've not found many elsewhere," he said. "What do you do? You either destroy your kidneys or end up peeing in the street."

Loos worth spending a penny on

Island of Bute

The Victorian loos on the pier at Rothesay are the jewel in the sanitarian's crown. They were due to be smashed to smithereens before they were restored and thank goodness – the 18 urinals surrounded by black marble were built in 1899 during Rothesay's tourism heyday. They are now attracting visitors again.

South End Green, Hampstead

Heralded by decorative cast iron arches above ground, the underground gents at South End Green in Hampstead are of palatial proportions beneath the sod. Recently in danger of being made redundant, they were saved; in part thanks to Heritage Lottery money being granted, as Joe Orton's "cottaging" had been filmed amidst their splendour.

Westbourne Grove

The loos at Westbourne Grove have become so successful they have become a local landmark – with the added bonus of bulging blooms at the flower shop next door. A local resident ran an architecture competition and even put in £10,000 of his own money to make it happen. The sweeping glass canopy above a stretched wedge of turquoise tiles are a delight.

Milford-on-Sea

One of several new conveniences around the New Forest, and designed by John Pardey Architects, the loos on the promenade at Milford seem to soar towards the horizon like a seagull. The covered stone entrance protects visitors from the worst of the weather while the bench helps them enjoy the best. They are not only convenient but lift the spirits, too.

Market place, Kingston-upon-Hull

One of the few public loos in the country to be listed, the underground conveniences at Hull are more than 100 years old. They include eight slate stalls with marble and glass cisterns and four cubicles with part-fluted Ionic columns between the doors.

Armadillo, Cambridge

Part of a big programme by Cambridge City Council to improve its public conveniences, the loos on Midsummer Common have been nicknamed the Armadillo thanks to its copper-domed room. In a nod to the ground's past, it also includes a "pinder room" traditionally used as a place to keep tools belonging to the man, or pinder, who used to tend the cattle who grazed on the common.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Foundation and KS1 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

Geography Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Temporary Teacher of GEOGRAPHY ...

Supply Teachers needed in Salford!

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments