History of Bathrooms

No comments yet

Today we’re going to take a look at the history of bathrooms.

Hygiene is an extremely important part of successful civilizations, this is especially apparent in light of recent events. Since the bathroom is where hygiene begins and since we design bathrooms we’d like to go on an educational journey through the ages and see how and why bathrooms have evolved.

Ancient Greece:

The ancient Greeks were known for many things but their toilets weren’t one of them. Even though their contribution to plumbing wasn’t as great as it was in the arts or mathematics, it’s still worth taking a look at.

We might not hear about it that much when studying the ancient Greeks, but they did have a plumbing system, or at least in some parts of Greece. The Minoans, who originated from the island of Crete, had somewhat of an influence on the ancient Greeks and enjoyed a heyday from around 2700 to 1450 BCE.

The Minoans, who originated from the island of Crete, had somewhat of an influence on the ancient Greeks and enjoyed a heyday from around 2700 to 1450 BCE. They are cited as being the first civilization to use underground plumbing for washing and using the bathroom. This shows how people from the Minoan civilization maintained their personal hygiene.

Among the Greeks a person was always bathed at birth, marriage, and after death.



Ancient Rome:

About 2,000 years ago, a high-ceilinged room under of one of Rome’s most opulent palaces was a busy, smelly space. Inside, a bench, perforated by about 50 holes the size of dinner plates, ran along the walls. These holes may have been used by some of the lowest members of Roman society.

Ruins of bathrooms were uncovered at Pompeii. These were found to be communal bathrooms. Some of them were beautiful, with frescoes on the walls, sculptures in the corners, and rows of holes carved into cold, Italian marble slabs.

Interestingly, these Roman toilets didn’t flush. They were tied into internal plumbing and sewer systems, which often consisted of just a small stream of water running continuously beneath the toilet seats.


Medieval Times:


When the medieval times came, the practice of public bathing had largely disappeared in the west. Public bathing did, although continue in the middle-east. This is where Roman-style public bath-houses were known as ‘hammans’. It was found that one of the earliest surviving hammans, dates back as far as the 12th century. These hammans are situated and can be found in modern-day Syria. It is said that Baghdad alone housed tens of thousands of bathhouses in its prime.

In the late middle-ages, Roman-style public baths were reintroduced to Europe. It was reintroduced by crusaders and other travellers to the middle-east who had discovered some of these public baths there.

In medieval England, public steam baths known as ‘stews’ were popular as a social meeting place. Stewhouses, (more formally known as ‘bagnios’) were first established on the south bank of the River Thames in the mid-late 12th century. It was common for the opposite sexes to bath together at these baths. Eating facilities were also sometimes provided at these ‘Stewhouses. Stewhouses were used until the 15th century, when Henry VI ordered their closure after they had become used as brothels. A Public uproar caused him to change heart, but he only allowed twelve to reopen.

The start of private toilets came from Medieval castles in Europe. These castles were fitted with private toilets known as ‘garderobes’, typically featuring stone seats above tall holes draining into moats.


18th Century:

Bathing was not something that most people had the luxury of doing often. The first reason why that was is  because not everyone had access to hot or clean water. This is something that almost everyone has and many people take for granted in modern times, but in the 18th century this was a luxury item. Clean water wasn’t easy to find, first and foremost one must have the means to get water, this means that they would have to bring it from the water source to their bathtub, because most bathrooms lacked plumbing. The wealthy could afford to have servants do this for them but those who we’re not wealthy saved bathing for special occasions. As for toilets, this video here is explains it very well: 



Bathrooms of Today:

By the mid-1800s, the link  between hygiene and health had been realized. Soon thereafter most advanced cities began to build proper sewer systems to dispose of their excrement.

In 1829 architect Isaiah Rogers developed a game changing technology at the Tremont House in Boston. This was the first hotel to have indoor plumbing. It had 8 water closets on the first level which employed a water storage system that was on the top floor. This was so that gravity could flush the toilets into a sewer system. 

5 years later the same architect joined forces with John Jacob Aster to create The Astor House. The 6 story building had 309 rooms on five stories, and servant’s rooms on the top floor.  It had bathing and toilet rooms on every floor, with the water being pumped up by steam engines.

The bathtubs had gas furnaces with tanks attached to heat the water. The water then drained into the sewer system, and were filled by huge water tanks on the roof. 

Shortly thereafter, we discovered how to pressurize water to transport waste outside of the homes and businesses and into the sewer. 

Many ancient cultures  had primitive plumbing systems, but much of the knowledge of that technology was forgotten. 

By the 1850’s we had developed wooden pipe systems that we were using for our sewage systems but they weren’t quite sufficient.  A little before 1860 Julius Adams, the second cousin of America’s 6th President John Quincy Adams, created the first contemporary city sewage system. He would go on to print his techniques, and thus layout the blueprint for cities throughout the world. 

Businesses across the globe figured out how to properly manufacture toilets and modern bathrooms as we know them were born.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *