J G Jenning's patent water closet, c 1900.

Image number: 10289997

J G Jenning's patent water closet, c 1900.

Working model. J G Jennings is considered to be one of the first pioneers of 'sanitary science' and in 1852 he patented his first washout closet. The first description of a flush toilet was published by Sir John Harrington in 1596. The idea did not really catch on widely until mains drainage was installed in major cities. London's main drainage, for example, was not in operation until the 1860s. After the cholera epidemic of 1832, however, the British government had passed laws requiring houses to have some kind of flushing toilet. As a result, Britain led the world in the construction of a good sewer system and in the production of indoor 'water closets', or toilets - particularly after the innovations made by Thomas Crapper's flushing toilet of 1872.

Image number:
Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
Date taken:
20 October 2003 12:48
Image rights:
Science Museum

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