A Brief History of your Bathroom

A bathroom is something we all take or granted. This was not always so and sadly in some parts of the world still isn’t, but have you ever wondered how the modern-day bathroom evolved?  At Watford Bathrooms and Kitchens, we believe we are the best bathroom guys and just for fun we will tell you how your bathroom, or all bathrooms for that matter, evolved.

Ancient Bathing

Back in ancient times, bathrooms were public spaces and not so much about cleanliness and hygiene. Today we understand everything about washing and bathing for health reasons but way back when bathrooms were used for religious or cultural reasons because of the importance of water in some rituals.

Cleaning oneself was important but cleaning and going to the toilet were not performed in the same room. In fact, the two procedures were often carried out far away from each other, which without modern day sewerage and sanitation does make sense.

Roman Baths

Most people are familiar with the idea of Roman Baths, in fact some are still standing, and a few are still in use today. The bathrooms in Roman days were very much like the gold club of today. Bathing was part of socialising. Many roman baths made the use of hot springs or spring water that was rich in minerals and the understanding of washing and cleaning in warm water was understood.

Middle Ages and Soap

There was a period after the decline of the Roman Empire where bathing disappeared. People began to fear water as it was believed to carry disease and infection. However, during the middle ages early soap production started and water was less feared and bathing again became popular.

Public baths began to rise up again where people could pay for a bath, but many people were quite happy using a wooden bucket.  Soap was being made in a commercial manner and soap was being home made as the realisation of keeping clean began to be understood. Mouth washes, tweezers and combs were used, and the basics of modern-day bathrooms were starting to appear.

During this time Edward III had a bathroom installed in the Palace of Westminster.

1500’s to 1700’s

This is an important period in time for the humble bathroom and is when the private bathroom began to take favour over public baths. Plague struck during this period and many public baths were closed down by Henry VIII as they were considered places where disease spread.

A strange turn of events led to bathing being seen as unhygienic and for a period of time clean white linen was considered better for you. Laundries sprung up to keep pace with a demand for clean clothes that smelt fresh.

Thankfully things began to turn around and some amazing bathroom developments took place that have helped make the bathrooms of today what they are. In 1596 the flush toilet was invented however it took almost 300 years to become common. Then in 1767, the first shower as we know a shower today was invented by William Feetham.

Piped water was not common during this time and bathrooms had to have water carried to them from pumps, springs and wells throughout cities such as London and Birmingham. But during the 18th century the first, and very expensive plumbed water systems began to appear. Finally bathing in one’s private bathroom gained dignity. Basins and tubs became much desired fittings and the first idea of a bathroom that comes close to the bathrooms that Watford Bathrooms and Kitchens understand today emerged.

19th and 20th Century Bathrooms

Houses and homes began to be organised into rooms rather than single living spaces towards the mid 1800s. More homes became homes with bathrooms while there were still public showers for the poor. But the importance of a separate room for washing and bathing became apparent during this time as a growing awareness of hygiene and disease filtered down through the population.

The industrial revolution was key and plumbed homes became commonplace and hot water could soon be produced for household use. In wealthier homes Bathtubs moved from being a metal tub shared by the family where the water became dirtier with each body washed to more hygienic tubs with piped warm water. Gas heaters were the first source of hot flowing water but by 1889 the electric water had been invented. Wooden baths were replaced by copper and soon ceramic and soon, despite bathrooms being considered a luxury, bathroom accessories found a market.

My the early 1900s working class homes were being built with bathrooms but it was not until the 1960s that nearly all UK homes had a bathroom and the room of purpose not so much luxury became what we know today. Finally, the days of bathing in front of the fire were over for the vast majority of people.


Today Bathrooms are big business, and experts such as Watford Bathrooms and Kitchens are called upon to assist with design and lifestyle options for bathrooms. In many cases the bathrooms are seeing baths disappear in favour of showers, technology is appearing in the bathroom and bathrooms can now make a fashion statement. Eco friendly water solutions and energy saving heating and lighting are what people are looking as and style and practicality is everything!

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