A HISTORY OF THE WATER CLOSET
Copyright 2012 by Marilyn Jean Clay
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EARLY LAVERS and PRIVIES
At the Christchurch Monastery at Canterbury in England an elaborate and extensive water-supply system was implemented in 1150. The plans, still in existence, show that close to the water source was a conduit-house, or round tower, from which an underground lead pipe passed through five oblong settling-tanks to purify the water, each with a “suspirail” or vent to control the water pressure. The water then ran to a laver, where it fed a tank raised on a central pillar. Two water pipes ran from there, feeding water to the frater, scullery and kitchen, the second to the bake house, brew-house and guest-hall, with another offshoot to the laver near the infirmary. In the lavers, a thin stream of water trickled constantly, the waste running into a stone fishpond. From there it fed into a tank near the Prior’s chamber, where it connected with waste from the bath-house and rainwater from the roofs, all of which provided a “hearty cleansing flow” through the main drain that ran beneath the latrines. There was even a back-up water supply from a fresh-water well in the infirmary. It has been speculated that the efficiency of this water system contributed to the inmates of the monastery escaping the Black Death that struck in 1349.