|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: UK|
Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 13:07 GMT
Toilet museum flush with lottery cash
A £1m lottery grant for a toilet museum is creating a bit of a stink.
The Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent has secured the money plus an additional £350,000 from the European Union for what it calls a "celebration of the toilet".
Visitors will be reminded what life was like in the days before the much maligned but completely indispensable WC.
The display, which goes on permanent exhibition in August, will include the reconstruction of stinking Victorian latrines, including "authentic" smells created from special chemicals.
The museum is on the site of the most complete surviving example of a typical North Staffordshire Victorian pottery factory.
The money will be used to restore the Grade II listed building and provide a permanent space for more than 2,000 different exhibits.
What became the modern day toilet was invented by Sir John Harrington, who published a pamphlet in the 16th Century called the "Metamorphosis of Ajax".
Ajax was a pun on jakes, slang even then for toilets. He presented the first flushing toilet to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth 1, in 1594.
He is credited with inventing the u-bend and the flushing toilet in the 1860s, but, according to museum officer Angela Lee, he was nothing other than a "brilliant self-publicist" who patented but did not invent many of the original designs.
Neither does the four letter word in common circulation derive from his name.
She said: "It was already widely used in America. It was brought to Britain by Americans during the First World War who thought it was an hilarious coincidence when they saw the name on British toilets".
The Flushed with Pride exhibition has a serious purpose. The Stoke area is still regarded as a world-leader in ceramic manufacturing and some of the world's best known toilet manufacturers are based in the area, including Twyford, Armitage Shanks and Doulton.
The sanitary ware industry employs 2,500 people around Stoke-on-Trent.
Modern sanitation has also saved millions of lives in the last 150 years.
Local MP Bill Cash has welcomed the museum despite initial reservations.
"At first I thought it was a joke, more lottery money wasted on a zany exhibition.
"Ceramic manufacturing is one of the few remaining indigenous industries left in Britain and I will support this exhibition if it promotes the value, benefits and quality of British ceramic sanitary ware."
The National Lottery Heritage Fund said the grant was part of their policy to "preserve and tell the story of our national industrial heritage".