1Baths, brothels, the Bubonic plaque – the history of the lavatory wasn’t always so sanitary

Next time you’re taking a luxurious hot shower beneath a state-of-the-art showerhead, take a moment to thank your lucky stars you weren’t born in 16th century Europe, when bathing was banned and nobles had to carry around nosegays (a small posy) to stop the pervasive stench.  

David Cooper, Managing Director of Hansgrohe South Africa says, “The history of the humble bathroom is closely intertwined with the evolution of humanity. The global Hansgrohe Group has been responsible for numerous sanitation innovations since its inception in 1901 – from the first affordable hand shower in 1928, to the more recent water-saving EcoSmart showers. We delved into the history of our favourite room in the house, because we’re proud of our small part in its story.”

Starting with modern times, delve back into the history of Hansgrohe and the evolution of bathroom trends through the ages:

The 21st century: If you are a trendy millennial, your bathroom is probably sleek, chic, and gadget-filled, populated by plenty of plants. Organic shapes are in – from tap to bottom, natural forms are a big trend.
The Hansgrohe Group is all about innovation:

  • Philippe Starck’s Axor Starck Organic bathroom collection (2014) remains on trend today.
  • EcoSmart Mixers and showers came in 2007, reducing water consumption by up to 60%.
  • 2005 saw the Airpower fusing air with water to create softer droplets for an enhanced showering experience.
  • In 2003 the trendy Raindance showers arrived, with a distinctive large spray disc and flat silhouette.
  • In 2000, the Hansgrohe’s concealed iBox universal installation was introduced to control thermostat.

The 20th century: If you were an aspirational housewife, you’d have stars in your eyes with a glamorous Hollywood-inspired bathroom, gussied up by pretty tiles.
Hansgrohe sales soar:

  • In 1989, pre-installed Hansgrohe shower systems became all the rage – especially after they could be electronically controlled in 1990.
  • 1968 saw the introduction of the Selecta had shower – the world’s first shower with adjustable jet types. Over 30 million sales were recorded!
  • The Hansgrohe colourful plastic shower was a huge hit in the technicolour seventies, while the eighties saw the introduction of an eco-conscious mindset with the Mistral Eco hand shower. This reduced water consumption by 50% and put Hansgrohe firmly on the map as a ‘green’ industry pioneer.

18th-19th centuries: Victorian and Edwardian eras: If you were a Victorian, for the first time in history, your bathroom would have an indoor bath, thanks to plumbed in water and heating. You’d also witness the introduction of the first shower.
Hansgrohe makes its mark:

  • In 1928, Hansgrohe made showering an option for many people for the first time, with its invention of the hand shower with the porcelain handle.

18th – 19th centuries: Industrial revolution: If you were alive in the industrial age, you’d have had a flush toilet thanks to Thomas Crapper and Alexander Cummings. You might even have had a dedicated room for the toilet if you owned a newer home. Due to the implementation of an expansive sewerage system in London, private homes could have proper plumbing – although many ladies preferred the chamber pot as cumbersome dresses made it tricky to sit on the loo.

18th century: Georgian era: If you were a wealthy Georgian Londoner your bedroom would’ve been where you conducted most of your personal hygiene routine. While powdering your nose and popping on your wig, friends and family would be chatting all around you – dressing was a communal affair.

The Middle Ages: If you lived in Europe, you wouldn’t have had a bathroom, but you might have had a garderobe. In the 11th century, if you happened to own a castle, you could opt for a garderobe – a small closet occupied by a bench with a hole – aka, an early toilet, that sent waste straight down to the ground or moat below.  

You would also have enjoyed a good stew – communal bathing for men and women, followed by dining and grooming. That is, until the 16th century when unfortunate affiliations between baths and brothels made bathing sinful and it became an unpopular pursuit.

When the Bubonic Plague hit in 1347, baths also became synonymous with disease so fell further out of favour – King Henry V111 banned them in 1546. In 1596, you’d have been dubious about Sir John Harrington’s invention of the first flush toilet. You’d prefer the chamber pot over the immodesty of walking into a separate room to do your business, not to mention the absence of running water or a sewerage system.

Ancient civilisations: As an Ancient Roman, you wouldn’t have had a bathroom per say, but (providing you were affluent) you’d be a regular reveller in the famed public baths – a ritualistic social gathering for the veritable who’s who of society.

Not always such a pretty picture, the bathroom has transformed to a space of privacy and peace, where one can ponder the meaning of life in comfort. Today, the lavatory is all about exquisite eco-conscious design and constant innovation – the motivational bastions behind Hansgrohe’s success for the last 116 years. Isn’t it wonderful to live in the age where bathing is expected and chamber pots gimmicky relics of ye olde bottoms of yore?


Custom HTML

This is a custom html module. That means you can enter whatever content you want.