What did bathrooms look like in Medieval Castles?

adevarias
3 min readFeb 23, 2022

Just in case you were wondering.

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Are you ever minding your own business when suddenly a pressing question takes your mind hostage? Well if you ever lost sleep over medieval bathrooms — fret no more!

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The concept is relatively simple. You have a room, with a seat and a hole. You do the business and let gravity do most of the work. There were a couple of different designs. Some ran down to moats, rivers or oceans (like The Keiss Castle in Scotland in the image above) while others were designed with internal channels that funneled into a waste courtyard or cesspit where an unlucky fellow got to clean it. This unlucky fellow was called a gong farmer, and could only work during the night so “others couldn’t be put off by their grisly job”. So yes, they shoveled poop in candle light. If it makes you feel any better, they received decent pay. It was measured per ton of excrement they removed.

There is more complexity to these designs. The shafts had to be carefully planned, and were built high enough off the ground purposely so that enemies couldn’t sneak in through the hole in the private chamber that most likely belonged to the person of interest (imagine that, a guy with a sword crawling out of your toilet!)

The curve in the bottom is meant to prevent the stench from rising to the bathroom, but unfortunately it never worked as intended. Something about poop is… encompassing. They relied on aromatization through herbs and included windows to help with the stench — but no matter what they did, the smells lingered. It’s not all bad — these shortcomings led to the invention of flushing! But that is a whole different article.

Here are some more images of medieval toilets:

Public Bathrooms
This was used in the Roman Empire, way before the Medieval Ages

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adevarias

Architectural designer crafting well-researched articles envisioning the future of the built environment.