Bathrooms through the ages - Edwardian + Make a Miniature Dolls House Privvy

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30 October 2013
imports_HAC_sam-1344_49903.jpg Bathrooms through the ages - Edwardian + Make a Miniature Dolls House Privvy
Pat Davies of Lili-Anne Miniatures takes us through the Edwardian bathroom habits and shows us how to make a great outdoor privy. ...
Bathrooms through the ages - Edwardian + Make a Miniature Dolls House Privvy Images

By the Edwardian period at the beginning of the 1900s, the era of Downton Abbey which shows a great depiction of the upper classes of the Edwardian period, but what was this time like with daily ablutions? 

The beginning of the 1900s didn’t show much change really, the working class masses were still finding life grim, although piped tap water was beginning to become more available for town dwellers. Some were able to have it installed in an outhouse or scullery, although the shared tap in a courtyard was still the norm for many.

When hot water was required, pots still had to be filled and carried to the fire range to be heated and this method remained a general practice for quite some time. Even at this late stage of our journey into bathrooms and hygiene the concerns for the working class masses (which was the vast majority) was how to find enough work and money to stay alive and keep a roof over their heads. No easy task when for many, living accommodation would be two rented rooms to be shared with the whole family, with an outside ‘privy’ shared with other tenants. As previously, it’s clear to see that the need for personal hygiene was still not a priority for most.  
However things were starting to improve, business merchants and employers where beginning to realise that wealth had to be put to good use and if workers had a reasonable standard of living and housing they would be able to put more into their working day and in return benefit from regular and better paid employment. Cadburys in Birmingham built housing for their workers and then Rowntrees in York followed suit. Dr Banardos homes were established to help the number of children living rough on the streets and the workhouses supplied shelter and food for the destitute. Co-operatives were established to supply basic needs for people at prices they could afford. 

All this did not take place over night but slowly people’s living standards began to improve.  By the 1920s and 30s the majority of houses being built  had a purpose built room designed to be furnished with indoor sanitation, hot and cold running water and even radiators to heat the rooms, although this latter luxury may have been reserved for the more wealthy buyer. 

The Outdoor Loo

You will need:  


• Wood glue
• Super Glue
• Straight metal ruler
• Craft knife
• Pencil
• Pair door hinges
• Set square
• Small hand saw
• Sandpaper
• Card for creating pattern templates
• 120cm of 32mm sq. beading for the framework
• 10cm x 9cm of 6mm thick beech wood for the floor
• 40cm x 11cm of 6mm thick Obeche or similar for the roof
• Small electric table saw (the one I have has been knocking around for years, if you have one it can make life easier but it’s not essential)

Step 1

Using the Obeche, measure 9cm x 10cm and cut out a square measuring 7mm x 7mm into each corner (this is to accept the framework for the walls). Put this to one side.

Step 2

Cut four lengths of the 7mm sq. beading measuring 15cm  and four more measuring 9cm.

Step 3

To create the framework of the two sides, lay two 15cm lengths and two 9cm lengths on a flat surface.

Make sure they are completely squared up. You can do this by making up a small jig or using the set square.

Glue the frame ends together with wood glue.  

Repeat for the other side and leave both sides to dry. When set, carefully lift from the cling film surface.

Stretch cling film over your flat work surface before you begin gluing to prevent your project sticking to the work top.

Step 4

Place the floor section with the cut out corners on a flat surface and slip each frame work section over each side so you have a floor slightly raised. Each corner upright should slot into the cut out corner sections. Check for fit and square up. 

Before gluing in place, cut two strips of the 32mm beading to fit as back and front cross support beams and glue into place.

Step 5

Using the 7mm beading cut three strips to trim around the floor edge of the back and two sides. Glue into place.

Step 6

You should now be ready to clad the outside walls. I used feather edge cladding, about 2cm deep, but any type of cladding or covering would be suitable.

If you’re using boards/feather edging measure the distance between the two back upright struts and cut sufficient boards to cover the back wall (when constructing work from the bottom up) and then do the same for each side until completely covered.

Step 7

You should now have a three-sided box-like construction with a rather untidy edge to the open side (this is where the door will go). To tidy this edge I put a strip of beading about 12mm in width down each side.

Step 8

Measure the height that you want the door to be (if it’s going to be an outside loo I would suggest leaving a small gap at the top) and also the width. I constructed the door using strips of beading, 12mm x 4mm (only because I already had some in my workbox!) you could just use one complete panel.   

If using strips, lay these side by side on a flat surface (don’t forget to use the cling film) and when you’re happy with the results lightly glue them together, just enough to hold them in place. 

When set, cut two or three planks to fit across the inside of the door. These hold the door construction tightly in place and create an authentic appearance.

Step 9


It’s easier to construct the loo seat now.

You’ll need to cut a length of wood to fit across the width of the back wall (you could use planks as you used for the door)
Cut a round hole into the centre – I had to improvise because I’d broken my last jig saw blade. First I pencilled where the hole would be with a two pence coin and drilled a series of holes around the perimeter. I then carefully removed the centre using a sharp mini chisel (small craft knife would equally do). And finally, I indulged in quite a bit of careful sanding to smooth out the roughness.


The seat can then be suspended by gluing blocks to the back wall and sides and then place a bucket beneath.

Step 10


Using the Obeche cut two sides for the roof and the apex panels for the front and back.

Glue the roof panels into position placing the apex panels at each end.

To reinforce the joints I glued strips of beading under the ridge join and blocks behind the front and back panels.

Step 11

In theory the roof should sit nicely on top of the main structure, but you may find it necessary to tweak it a little, by sanding or shaving any rough edges or corners.

It might be better to not permanently fix the roof to make it easier for decorating later.

Step 12

To hang the door I used a pair of 19mm hinges. These are attached using tiny screws or pins but you can also use Super Glue, it just won’t be quite as neat a finish.

Fix a handle on the door and decorate. As you can see I have given mine a rather weather worn neglected appearance.

This feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you like making miniatures, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Or better still take out a subscription so you never miss an issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, or to email, print or comment on the feature, please use the buttons above to share with your friends.

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