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A trade card for a 'night soil' man
A trade card for a 'night soil' man

Press Release - 08 November 2006

Free public lecture: stemming the sewage in Georgian Bath

Local people can plumb the depths of Georgian Bath in a light-hearted look at how the city dealt with its sewage, in a free public lecture at the University of Bath on Wednesday 15 November.

Kay Ross, a buildings historian and archaeologist, will describe how Bath endured decades of outdoor privies, leaking cesspits and inadequate sewers, in her talk entitled Smelling of roses – how 18th century Bath dealt with its rising tide of ‘night-soil’.

Why did John Wood never grasp the concept of plumbing? Why did the patent flushing water closet invented by Sir John Harrington of Kelston fail to take off? Ms Ross’s talk will answer these questions and more, explaining how Georgian Bath adapted its buildings as the city’s population grew.

“I like to feature the people who kept Bath running and the things that went on in the background, not just the people who visited Bath for the season,” said Ms Ross.

“In the 18th century they suddenly started building but they hadn’t really thought much about the sewage. With little plumbing there were ‘night soil’ men who went around with a cart in the middle of the night gathering up the waste and dumping it in the Avon. They had been throwing it over the city walls or putting it onto allotments, but there was less and less land as it was sold for building.”

Ms Ross researches the structural and archival history of buildings in Bath and further afield. Her company, The House Historians, has researched everything from medieval manor houses and Georgian villas, to a 1950s nuclear bunker.

Admission for the lecture is free and people can just turn up on the evening. Free parking is available in the West Car Park. The lecture runs from 5.15pm until 6.15pm in the lecture hall 8 West 1.1 on the Claverton campus.

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