The History of the Ceramic Toilet

Hi Everybody,

As you know, I like nothing better than visiting an auction, and recently I noticed the amount of Royal Dolton character jugs and Dolton ware in general that comes up as job lots and sell reasonably cheap. Dolton are one of those areas of ceramics that have gone out of fashion, however, the story of them is an absorbing story in itself.

The pottery was founded in 1815, in Vauxhall London and later moved to the borough of Lambeth. In1882 they opened a factory in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. However, their bread-and-butter income was the production of utilitarian wares, mainly stoneware and apart from domestic pottery they made drainpipes, lavatories, water filters and porcelain for electrical equipment etc. Then, in 1901, the pottery was given a royal warrant and became Royal Dolton. One of their most successful products was the manufacturing of sewage pipes. Previously, sewers were just leaky channels of brick, but after the London cholera outbreak of 1854, which was caused by the water supply being contaminated by sewage waste, it led to a massive expansion of Dolton’s sewage pipe business. This also led to expanding their production of ceramic lavatories!

The modern flushing toilet first came to people’s attention as far back as 1596, but the world was not ready for this new-fangled gadget then, which was considered too complicated and too expensive. The water closet inventor, Sir John Harrington, is in fact known as the father of the water closet. He described the details of his invention in his book, Metamorphosis of Ajax.

The first real notable development in ceramic flushing toilets, which included the famous S bend in the pipe work, was in 1778 and this became the model for the WC for the next 100 years. Then, in 1849, we come to a period known as the Golden Age of the Toilet. This was the time of the legionary toilet innovator Thomas Crapper, who refined the toilet design in 1882. Then the Dolton factory started producing its one-piece ceramic pedestal closet. Dolton produced vast quantities of these toilets and had several installed in Buckingham palace. Partly because of his sanitary-ware products Henry Dolton was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1880! I will end with a fascinating fact why the ceramic toilet is so important apart from the obvious: the average person spends three years of his or her life sitting on the toilet.

Happy potting!