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Gardening – En-suite Gardening!


The other day I had the great pleasure of surveying a lovely, untouched garden surrounding an equally lovely Georgian house in a beautiful village. The house is just about to be sympathetically restored and I’m going to (hopefully!) make sure the garden does the result justice. As it sits in a conservation area and the locals are taking a justifiable interest, I did a bit of market research as to any possible features they consider worth retaining. Virtually every one I spoke to said that ‘ye olde Privy,’ sat in the far corner of the plot, was fantastic and should be spared any clearance that may be needed – which only confirmed my own feelings on these iconic (and very useful!) garden features. 

Thankfully, there seems to be a very benevolent movement (please excuse any further unintended puns of this nature!) towards the retention of these, once absolutely essential, facilities. Most of them have now taken on a secondary role as a tool store or simply somewhere to shove all the kids’ clutter. I couldn’t even see inside the privy in question as the key had gone walkabouts so it was impossible to confirm if it was still sporting the original seating arrangement. I did, however, find the exit from the “long drop” which goes straight into the lovely trout stream which runs through the plot. No doubt the trout and eels which were flittering around my Wellies were pleased when the village finally got itself on main drains in the 1960’s!!

InAmerica, privies were called “necessary houses” and were often highly decorated. Paintings of the period when their use was commonplace show them often styled in the same way as the house with Greek portico facades, some even topped with a bird house! Thomas Jefferson designed octagonal brick privies with domed roofs to echo the main house which made them look like elegant pepper pots. In good old Blighty we tended to take a more utilitarian view of the privy, but it was interesting to note that when Mr Crapper kindly invented the flushing loo there were a great many folk who lamented losing the nightly ritual of freezing your nether regions off at the bottom of the garden.

 Personally, if I inherited a privy in any of my gardens and I had a bit of spare cash I think I’d be tempted to re-instate some plumbing and actually “bring it back to life.” Not only would it be very useful for comfort breaks whilst gardening, it would also be the perfect hideaway – second only to the shed. Imagine being sat there with your torch reading back copies of Gardeners World with just the resident spiders for company while the wind rattles the door on its hinges?!

 All of which brings me back to my privy, which is now going to have pride of place in the new design of the garden. It is not a thing of beauty and I doubt that throughout its 152 year existence it’s ever been given any sort of makeover. As the client is keen on using it as an alternative to a shed, it’s going to have to have a path leading to it and some electrics. To reflect its former use I’m thinking of utilizing one of the plain brick walls for a suitable water feature – I think I’ve got the perfect one in mind which will look great with the right planting to compliment it. The idea will be for a continual flow of water into a container which will give the appropriate sound effects but without the aromatic qualities you would normally expect. I’ll post some pictures of the final solution later in the year so you can all see ‘The Privies Progress’! 

If you’ve got an interesting privy then please let me know as I’d love to come and have a look or, even better, if it’s still working……………..!!
Gardening article provided by Walmley Pages, Sutton Coldfield community magazine advertising local business to the Sutton Coldfield public


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