Monday, September 27, 2010

A Blog About The "Bog"

"The WHAT?" "The Loo." "The What?" "The WC." "The What?" "The Water Closet" "Oh, you mean the BATHROOM!"
Well, no matter what you call it, every house needs "facilities", here in the States, commonly referred to as the "bathroom." A very long time ago, I bought the porcelain set you see below, intending to use it in the Lovely Old Dollhouse when I eventually got around to re-building it. That was before I saw the black porcelain set and decided that the Lovely Old Dollhouse would have a fancy black themed bathroom. So I tried this old set out in the "Folly" and I really think it is perfect here. What? You think it is too crowded in there? Well, it is a small room in a small house, and believe it or not, the first house I ever rented had a bathroom just as tiny tucked in under the eaves and you had to duck your head sideways just to take a bath! I think it is just charming in here! So then I tried the black porcelain set in the black themed bathroom of the Lovely Old Dollhouse, and realized that I had a problem. The scale was all wrong for the room! I don't think it was just that the room was larger, the fixtures were really MUCH too small!

Pollyanna was in complete agreement with me! She is NOT a tall girl and the sink only comes to just above her knees! How terribly disappointing! It just will NOT do for this bathroom!

So I tried the old white porcelain set in there, and could see the difference immediately. This was more like it! And I think it actually has the old fashioned charm that this house deserves! In fact, it reminds me of the bathroom in the old house I grew up in! (Except for the black tiles, of course!)

And Pollyanna agrees with me entirely! She can reach this sink without bending down! I think we will have to keep it. Which means now we need to find the right fixtures for the "Folly" bathroom.

So I tried the black porcelain set in the "Folly" and was NOT impressed! Maybe we could get by with the smaller scale in here, but the fixtures are just the wrong shapes for this room! It just won't do at all! This black set is a NO-GO! (Anyone out there with a small scale house want a black porcelain bathroom set? Send me a message if you do!) Clearly, I am going to have to go shopping for another white porcelain set in the correct scale!

So the bathrooms in my relatively modern houses combine the function of bathing and "relieving oneself" in the same room.... a common practice in the "West" ever since indoor plumbing became the norm in the later nineteenth century. Prior to that there was the "outhouse" at the end of the garden path, and bathing itself was done in either the bed chamber or commonly, in the kitchen near the fire where the water was heated. And those conditions had remained unchanged pretty much since the middle ages. And while there are not a huge number of medieval illuminations showing these "facilities" as they were then, I did find a couple of examples. Here below is a good illustration of an "outhouse" or "privy," here attached to the outside of a building over the cesspit. This is from that illuminated version of Boccacio's "Decameron" that I refer to so often. It has such "Juicy" stories that it requires illustrations of such things as privies.... and in this case the young man of the story has fallen in.....! (Go read Boccacio if you want to know how it ends!)

And the bathing facilities were apparently sometimes of the communal variety, with no luxury overlooked! As you can see in this illustration below. Clearly they are enjoying themselves to the fullest!

And another illumination from Boccacio, showing a couple at a bath-house, enjoying a cuddle while the bath is being filled by a servant. Clearly, privacy was NOT the same as it is nowadays!

So the idea that the middle ages was a time bereft of the pleasures of a warm bath and indoor "plumbing", is clearly an inaccurate one! It was while I was considering this that I realized that my original plan for my Castle Dollhouse was clearly lacking an important detail! No bathrooms! I could argue that they would take their baths in a tub in their rooms, or by the kitchen fire, but there was no escaping the fact that I had left out the "loo"! This would have to be remedied or I would always feel I had made a big mistake!

You may recall that the Castle looked like this in the last view you had of the whole building. Kitchen, Pantries, Stables, Chapel, Guard Hall, Great Hall, even Dungeons! But no bathroom! So I decided to add a couple of "privies" to the back side of the great hall, as they would have been in a real castle, tucked into the buttresses, overhanging the moat on the outside of the castle, but easily accessible from the inside. This required cutting openings into the back of the Great Hall, and building external structures to imitate buttresses.

Of course, I didn't take any good pictures of this part of the building...... but you can see the new door on the right side of the Great Hall leading into the lower privy.

And the upper one is off of the balcony from the Lady's Solar.... and would have been used exclusively by the women. You can see the new door and a glimpse of the privy below.

Here is a closer view, showing the window with its wooden shutter, and the stone privy seat!

And another closer view of the lower privy off the Great Hall. This one would have been accessible to everyone.... easily available to Castle banqueters..... and a lot less private!

Oh! Excuse me! I didn't see you in there!

"There is no banquet here!" says Henry. "I've been looking!"
"No privacy either! You're a nosy lot, aren't you!"

"And I don't know what a person has to do around here just to get a bath!"

Belle says a person could start by asking nicely!

"Aw, please!" says Henry.

And he's even willing to help haul the water!

She's not telling him how cold the Well water is!

But I think he pulled the hot water off the fire...... no point in a COLD bath!

Aaaahhhhhh..... that's more like it!

"You could always join me, Belle....." calls Henry.

"Or maybe just fetch me some ale...... !"

Some things haven't changed much over the centuries..... even if we do have the indoor plumbing!

The "bog" blog.


  1. I had a lot of fun reading your post, thank you so much!:D Hope you will find the right bathroom set soon!And I love you castle and hope to see some progress soon ;)

  2. the white set looks better in both settings.. its not so many years that we have had indoor loos. ours were usually in a little shed in the backyard. outhouse or more commonly called a dunny! the loo itself looked just like the one in your castle.. but ours more often than not, had the notorious redback on the toilet seat! so you had to carry a torch (flashlight) with you to evade being bitten on the bum!! :)

  3. You're right. The Middle Ages was not a dark period of history as it is often said, even at that time it had enjoyed the pleasure of the bath.
    How good is the reference to Boccaccio. The scene for the presentation of your bathroom with funny characters is very nice. I will follow the work of the castle with great care, because you're really good. Greetings from the birthplace of Boccaccio and ...... Dante.

  4. What a good read and I love the term "lower privy"!

  5. I loved the bath story and I learned a lot about bathrooms down through the ages.

    thanks for the great story


  6. Thanks Ewa! I am looking for another white set on-line, but so many of them have little flowers on them, I hope to find an all white one soon! And the progress on the Castle is slow... It's so big and there are so many details! I will be showing more soon!

  7. Hi Christine! I am not familiar with the notorious redback...! But the privy in the barn of our Old Farm was often full of very large spiders!

  8. Thanks, Rosella! I appreciate your comments! This book by Bocaccio is so well illustrated it is a treasure trove of details for the Medieval era! I am learning a lot by studying it! And I also have a version of Dante's "Divine Comedy", but given the subject matter, it is not quite so full of images to copy!

  9. Hi Irene! I am glad you enjoyed the story... sometimes they just have to be told by the little people! I have to chuckle at your noticing the term "Lower Privy"..... because it sounds to me like something from England (or Scotland)! I love the names for places over there!

  10. Thanks, Marisa! I learned a lot too, in my researching what the castle "loo" should be like! I do like a certain amount of realism in my dollhouses!

  11. Hey Betsy, someone's got to do the dirty work! :):) My tribal house has no loo or bathroom too but the villagers are known to do their business in the rivers.

    It is amazing how similar the toilet habits are all over the world. Bathing in a wooden tub seems to be a common thing to do whether in Japan, China or Europe. It is not that long ago that baths are still done in rooms and water carried to the beautiful porcelain tubs and then drained the same way. That's why baths are taken rarely back then. :):)

    I actually like the black set in the Folly , they don't look so bad except that they are smaller. In real life, the ones for kids are small too :).

  12. Hi Sans! It is possible that I will come to like the black set in the Folly.... but I really think it is too modern for the style of the house! All the other rooms are becoming very old fashioned in their feeling.... but as you can tell by now, I sometimes have a hard time making up my mind about what I want! So we shall see! As for your tribal house having no loo.... most of the older houses in our rural countryside didn't have bathrooms either. The outhouse was exactly that.... a tiny little house out in the back yard! Cold as the Dickens in the winter! There is a whole rural culture built around outhouses...... and many people make mini outhouse models even! Plumbing came slowly to the rural areas and older houses had to convert a space inside to be the bathroom! So your tribal house is much more authentic that way!

  13. ¡Cuantos cambios! El tamaño del lavabo negro esta muy pequeño, pero es muy bonito y elegante, no te deshagas de eso, ya lo podras poner en otro lugar.
    No ha cambiado mucho el tema del baño a traves de los años, tienes razón.
    Besos Clara