Monday 4 June 2007

Is this the decline of civilisation? - # 128

This is something that puzzles and annoys me. It's a derelict municipal toilet, built to a high standard in the 1930s and now derelict. It's typical of such facilities in towns all over Britain.

In the 1890s the (often laughed at) Victorians built magnificent public facilities and we continued to do this until the 1930s. In the 1970s these facilities were allowed to decay and the Nation gave up the battle against vandals and pleaded "poverty" in the face of rising costs.

Councils have claimed to be "in Partnership" with pubs, cafes and shops to provide toilets; but, in my opinion, this does not fill the gap.

Why is it that all over Europe we are suffering more and more vandalism, violence and public destruction at a time when we were never more wealthy, never had better education opportunity, better healthcare, better more comprehensive legislation on human rights, greater resources to help the disadvantaged? Have I missed something? Am I deluded? I certainly am concerned.

P.S. ......the world's most magnificent public toilet was built at Rothesay on the River Clyde (I hope I'm right - but I lost the post card photo) near Glasgow in the 1890s. It is stunningly well made, and a temple to public spirit, and the combination of art and engineering excellence and social optimism. Yet it too was allowed to decay until recently an enlightened authority rescued and restored it. Believe me, it's an amazing sight of copper, iron, brass, ceramic and glass.

You might like to folow this link:


  1. Is it the one on Richmond Hill, near Terrace?
    I wonder why don't they use it as small coffe shop or something like this, instead of allowing it to become a total ruin.

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  3. Are these the Rothesay toilets?

  4. They say a nation can be judged by their toilets.

    Abraham Lincoln's kidney stone attack...
    I rolled on the floor, puked, screamed, and passed out. When I woke up the neighbor was gone.
    Brookville Daily Photo

  5. When people don't have to struggle for survival, they have ample of free time - too much, may be. So they try to fill the gap by doing something. As many are not taught to be constuctive, they choose the easier way which is to be destructive.

  6. While I don't support the decision, I can see the rationale for councils stopping their support of public toilets. However, just letting the sites sit there and fall in to state of disrepair is about turning a public convenience in to a public inconvenience.

    Re the comment about rising wealth and the increase in violence, vandalism etc I am also concerned and this is an area I'm going to have to research further. However, I retain an optimistic attitude because if you look at the history of mankind over the longer-term, we are doing extremely well with reductions in crime, increased life spans etc, but just over the last 40-50 years there seems to have been a significant reduction in social capital that has led to a rise in various crime, increased self-interest, and less regard for the community. There are many factors to consider such as the introduction of tv in to our lives, an increase in the divorce rate, government policy etc, but disentangling these effects could be difficult.

  7. Yes MarydeB......They are!!

    But they look far better in the flesh than they seem in the photo

  8. Tks Riz for your balanced comment, which fits my view of this issue.

    I has added "thermf" to a new set of blog links on the right.

  9. thanks Chuckeroon!

    : )

  10. I think this is a complicated subject, but I agree it symbolises some kind of decline. I don't think it's vandalism - it's just that when things fall into disuse they become easy targets. Our modern societies do not operate in the same way as the Victorians. People quarantine themselves at home, drive to work and back again, rarely congregate and make use of municipal facilities. The accountants have also seen to it that anything that can't be measured in terms of profit gets ditched without thought for the intangible benefits.. I bet some of these toilets used to have resident janitors to look after them etc. but no longer. I remember as a youngster when parks had their park wardens and this kept these areas in good order, but some time ago the councils decided that this type of expense was unnecessary. We have become very shortsighted in many ways, cynical. "The price of everything and the value of nothing" springs to mind

  11. I also found the Rothesay toilets (just had to see them):

    There are also some other sites, so it's ovsiously well known. I agree that it really does not look bad and for 1899 it must have been something!

    Yes, a lot can be said on vandalism or whatever esplains all this. As you said also, all these places were probably guarded before.

    Anyhow, anything is better than a public Chinese toilet. They have to do something before the 2008 games and I guess they are.

    There are some kind of "Michelin guides" also for toilets, which you can find on the net.

    I normally use the best hotels. In a big hotel, nobody check why you walk in or out; the toilets are excellent and free of charge.

  12. Fascinating question. And it's so true. Despite increased wealth, the degredation of so many social morals is appalling.

    And also I think some of it is because although many modern labor saving technologies have made it possible to get through the day by just pushing a few buttons... no one predicted that 30% of the population might be out of a job because of that. Idleness breeds contempt.

    Makes one wax nostalgic for the good old days.

  13. Profound and interesting thoughts there. My theory on the increase in violent behavior as society gets richer, is that it is linked to the increased consumption of meat.

  14. Irina said what I was thinking about while I was reading your different opinion about vandalism. Then, honestly speaking, I found the most clean public toilet in Scotland. Anyway UK is the country where -in Europe- is more easy to find them. A small town? A village? Follow sign to Park and you'll find toilets.