Public convenience, 1899.
Reasons for Designation
Bankhill ladies public convenience of 1899 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* for its attractive half-timbered rustic cottage design, which would have been considered most appropriate as a ladies public convenience at the end of the C19;
* although a modest structure, it illustrates attention to detail including chamfered timber details, over-hanging eaves, decorative barge boards and red fish scale roof tiles with ornate finials;
* the original plan-form remains legible and original fixtures and fittings remain including geometric floor tiles, glazed white wall tiles and painted timber cladding in addition to the original ornate roof structure.
* ladies public conveniences are very rare at this time, and this is an important example that illustrates the changing social status of women in the late C19.
* they benefit from a clear spatial group value with numerous listed buildings and the scheduled remains of the medieval and post-medieval fortifications of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which had become a popular pedestrian way.
The Public Health Act of 1848 called for 'Public Necessaries' to be provided to improve sanitation, and in 1851 The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace provided toilets for visitors designed by George Jennings, a Brighton plumber. The first on-street public toilet was a 'Gents' in London of 1852 and a 'Ladies' followed the following week. Notwithstanding this, public toilet provision for women in Victorian England was generally very poor by comparison to men. William Haywood, City of London Corporation Engineer, started the first municipal public toilets in 1855. George Jennings became a campaigner for public toilets and by 1895 his public conveniences, mostly for men and underground, had spread to 36 British towns. The great architects and engineers of the Victorian and Edwardian period were encouraged by local authorities to construct public conveniences of high standard, and great importance was given to their appearance. They continued to be constructed mostly for men with few provided for women on the basis that women travelled away from home less than men, and that urinals were cheaper to construct. The socialist writer George Bernard Shaw campaigned for facilities for women, but against the feeling that it was not a decent subject. By the early C20 the attention of the first wave of feminists turned to issues of equality in relation to, for example, public facilities for women, but even so, C19 and early-C20 ladies public toilets are rare nationally, and listed examples are largely facilities for men.
Public urinals for men had in 1898 been provided within the flankers at Megs Mount Bastion by the Berwick Urban Sanitary Authority, and shortly afterwards a ladies public convenience was constructed on an adjacent site at a cost of about £175; the site chosen lay opposite an entry to the pedestrian walkway created in 1837 along the top of the Elizabethan ramparts. The public convenience contained a series of three water-closets to the rear fronted by a washroom/attendants room. It opened in March 1899 with Mrs Jamieson as attendant, who was paid 2s 6d a week to open, clean and lock up. The charge for use was one penny and in the first day the takings were 5s 2d meaning that 62 people had 'spent a penny'. The toilets remained in use until the 1950s, after which the building became a general council store. In 2014 the Berwick-upon-Tweed Preservation Trust acquired the building and sympathetically restored it, receiving a civic award from the council in 2015. It has recently (January 2020) ceased its use as a cafe and ice-cream parlour.
Public convenience for ladies, 1899.
PLAN: shallow T-shaped with a west-facing entrance.
MATERIALS: brick, rendered, with applied timber cladding; tiled roof and terracotta ridges and finials.
EXTERIOR: situated on an undeveloped triangular shaped plot adjacent to Meg's Mount Bastion and the entry to the Elizabethan rampart walk. It is designed to resemble a rusticated cottage with geometric and curvilinear timber cladding above a plain base with chamfered timber details and painted in green and cream. The eaves are overhanging and there are decorative barge boards. The pitched roofs have alternate red fish scale and rectangular roof tiles, with decorative ridging and ornate finials. The gabled, single-bay west elevation has a deeply inset central entrance fitted with a four-panel door with rectangular fanlight (upper door panels and fanlight formerly glazed). The right and left two-bay returns have slightly projecting rear gabled bays, and the rear single-bay elevation has an upper triangular-shaped window.
INTERIOR: the floor is laid with geometric patterned floor tiles with borders, and the walls have glazed white tiles to a moulded dado, with painted vertical wood cladding above. The roof has a turned collar, with a decorative pendant, supporting purlins and ridge beams, and below this a substantial panelled cross beam that formerly carried a partition that divided the interior into two: the front part forming an open space, with rectangular recesses to either side of the entrance, and the rear part (formerly further divided into three separate water-closet cubicles) lit by an upper window incorporating a central louvred section.