The Outhouse

You are looking at an outhouse a common feature of Victorian era homes. These structures, often referred to as “privies” or “necessaries,” served as outdoor toilets – as indoor plumbing was not common at the time.

Outhouses were typically built away from the main house, often at the furthest point of the property. This helped to minimise odour and prevent the spread of disease, even though the exact link between sanitation and public health wasn’t fully understood in the Victorian era.

The construction of outhouses varied, but many were simple wooden structures as you see here with a seat placed over a pit or vault. Depending on the design, waste was either collected in a bucket or allowed to decompose in a pit below the seat. The emptying of waste was typically a manual and unpleasant task.

Outhouses provided a basic sanitary solution, but they were not without limitations. They were inconvenient, especially during the harsh Devon weather, and could pose health risks due to poor waste disposal and the potential for attracting insects and vermin.

The widespread adoption of indoor plumbing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries gradually led to the decline of outhouses. Today, they are primarily found in rural areas or as historical features in museums and historical sites.