On a small side street can be found one of London’s few remaining cast iron pissoirs — or mens urinals.
It’s also fully restored — although not to working condition. It turned out the urinal smell when I visited came from a homeless man sleeping nearby.
Referred to as Temples of Convenience by Lucinda Lambton, the ornately decorated cast iron street urinals used to be commonplace in urban areas, but slowly feel out of favour and the few that remain are more often either derelict, or fully restored as heritage items.
This particular public loo is not idly located though, for the brick wall it leans against is Lincolns Inn, and in the late 17th century, that building was the bog house, an early public toilet.
Manufactured in 1851 by McDowall Steven & Co – Milton Ironworks in Glasgow, it also has a royal coat of arms on the sides. Maybe it was for a Royal We.
An old gas lamp above the toilet provided a clever way of illuminating within, and the passage without, although today just a stump of the lamp remains.
The toilet, when still working and painted dark grey also makes an appearance — fleetingly — in The London Nobody Knows. In the film, toilets are where you find the one true democracy, James Mason noted, adding that all men are equal in the eyes of the, ahem, lavatory attendant.
The toilet is now locked, and apparently owned by the building opposite, which is currently up for sale — should you fancy owning a fancy toilet and house.
The former pissoir outbuilding is held on a separate lease granted by The City of Westminster. The seller notes that it has potential to be used as secure storage for bicycles, bin store, or a secret herb garden.
…or maybe, a toilet?