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‘It may seem absurd’: The story of Norwich’s 10-sided toilet

PUBLISHED: 10:04 22 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:47 22 August 2020

The old ten-sided toilet on Norwich's St Crispins Road

The old ten-sided toilet on Norwich's St Crispins Road

Archant

It stands alone, lonely and locked: a building that has seen so many changes during its life stretching back more than 100 years.

Norwich City Station in 1906Norwich City Station in 1906

While buildings around it have been demolished and bombed this rare loo has, against all the odds, survived in part of Norwich which has changed beyond all recognition.

Today most motorists on the ring road by the St Crispins roundabout wouldn’t give it a second look as they make their way around the city.

While so many of our fine buildings in Norwich and across Norfolk have fallen victim to civic vandalism this little lavatory still stands tall.

How on earth has it survived? Because it is protected.

Historian Geoffrey Goreham when the urinal was listed in 1998. Photo: Archant.Historian Geoffrey Goreham when the urinal was listed in 1998. Photo: Archant.

While far more elegant and grand buildings such as the Hippodrome and our twin towers, the Chapel in the Field Congregational Church, overlooking Chapelfield Gardens, disappeared in clouds of dust, the loo become a cult-urinal treasure (sorry about that!).

In 1998 the Department of Culture officially declared that Britain’s oldest 10-sided concrete, gents’ lavatory, should be granted listed status,

This “decagon” joined the likes of Ivory House and St Catherine’s House on All Saint’s Green after being given grade II status.

At the time the much-loved Norwich historian and writer, the late Geoffrey Goreham, said “I find it quite extraordinary that it has been listed but I am glad. It is part of the history of the city – even if it may seem absurd.”

THE CONCRETE PUBLIC CONVENIENCE ON ST. CRISPINS ROAD, NORWICH , WHICH HAS LISTED BUILDING STATUS. edp 3/4/02THE CONCRETE PUBLIC CONVENIENCE ON ST. CRISPINS ROAD, NORWICH , WHICH HAS LISTED BUILDING STATUS. edp 3/4/02

And he added: “There’s no particularly dazzling feature but it’s an interesting building. It may even made a tourist attraction , especially as it could be the oldest of its type in Europe.”

It is thought to be the oldest pre-cast concrete example of this type of urinal in the land – and further afield.

In the 1880s several of this type were made and set up in prominent sites by the City of Norwich Corporation.

The urinal on St Crispins Road was installed there in 1919 but it is believed to be one of the originals, moved there after the rest of them were demolished.

Station Road before flyover 1969. Station Road served City Station at the end of Barn Road. This is its junction with Oak Street. Sovereign House under construction in the distance. Picture: Jack Roberts ArchiveStation Road before flyover 1969. Station Road served City Station at the end of Barn Road. This is its junction with Oak Street. Sovereign House under construction in the distance. Picture: Jack Roberts Archive

Designed by A E Collins, the city engineer, its two storey roof is fitted with glazed panels and its sides are decorated with a repeating floral pattern.

It was installed on the site at around the same time that the iron bridge near the Barn Road junction was built and it would have been very handy for the men on their way to and from the old City Station.

Back in 2002, the loo where you can no longer spend a penny, was the subject of a £17,000 renovation scheme with more money spent on improving the area around it by the river.

A combination of Luftwaffe bombing, and demolition to make way for new roads has changed this part of the city beyond all recognition, but the loo stands tall as a reminder of our history.

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