Archaeologists of York Archaeological Trust have been uncovering startling details of what life must have been like for people living in the Hungate area during the19th and early 20th centuries, an area of York defined by B. Seebohm Rowntree in his 1901 book “Poverty: A Study of Town Life” as being in the poorest section of the city.
One of the most evocative discoveries has been that of a communal toilet that served part of the Hungate community up until the 1930s.
Full excavation of the communal toilet block revealed that this toilet was a Duckett’s tipper flush toilet, initially manufactured in Burnley before being brought to York and assembled in Dundas Court. The Duckett toilet appears to have replaced an earlier communal toilet, which was probably a dry pit toilet, which would have been only occasionally cleaned out.
The mechanics of the toilet would have meant that solid effluent would have collected in the bottom of each of the closet pipes, with rain water and dirty water accumulating in each of the tipper cisterns until the accumulation of the water was sufficient to turn over the tipper, discharging the water to wash away the solid effluent. The tipper flush cisterns were not plumbed into to any water source so without rain and the concerted effort to tip used water into them they would not have flushed.