Blocked Toilets and Drains
We all dread those times when the toilet gets blocked and trying to flush it just succeeds in filling the bowl to overflowing! There was a time though, when blocked toilets and drains were unheard of. How come? Because not so long ago, flushing toilets didn’t yet exist in private homes anywhere in the world!
Running water piped into our homes and available by simply turning on the faucet, is so familiar to us, that we can’t even conceive of a time when this was something that even kings didn’t have available to them.
Where Did Our Great-Great Grandparents Get Their Household Water?
In ancient times people settled near convenient water sources, as it was impossible to survive without an assured supply of drinking water. Throughout the ages, people kept devising different techniques for bringing drinking, cooking and bathing water into their homes. Up until fairly recent times, all water had to be cooked before it one could drink it, as it was rarely clean or pure enough for the human digestive system to handle.
Early Waste Disposal Systems
The need for a proper system of sanitation, however, remained a constant problem. Without an adequate means of disposing of human waste, the specter of disease was ever present, as human waste was simply thrown outdoors, where it remained until the rains washed it away. The dirt streets had stepping stones down the sides so that one could avoid stepping into the muck.
The Little House in the Back Yard
The earliest lavatories were limited to a simple pit dug in the ground, so blocked toilets were unknown! Indoors, the only means of relieving oneself was the chamber pot. In small villages the problem was somehow bearable, but with the growth of large cities the problem became a massive one, with the outbreak of disease a constant threat.
In many places sewage was dumped into the local rivers, which became polluted and foul smelling killing off the fish and plant life.
The Romans to the Rescue
Excavations in England have uncovered primitive but quite complex sewer systems installed by the Romans with aqueducts and rudimentary lead pipe plumbing, that could lead water to and away from populated areas.
In medieval Europe, though, the streets and waterways were open sewers. In London open gutters ran down the center of the streets carrying the sewage into the River Thames. As the big cities grew in size, the stench of raw sewage became so unbearable that a better solution had to be found. This led to the development of underground sewers to reduce the ever present stench. Many of these sewers were hundreds of yards long, but the raw sewage still ended up in the rivers and oceans, causing large scale pollution and damage to animal and plant life.
The Great Breakthrough
The great breakthrough came in the 19th century when sewage treatment plants were developed, enabling the wastewater to be treated and recycled, so that it presented no health threat. Gradually, around this time, flushing toilets became available, and they soon became available in many homes. This was a wonderful boon, except for the problem of blocked toilets!
One of the important breakthroughs was the U-bend trap, invented by Thomas Crapper in 1880, and although he is famously credited as the father of the flush toilet, it was actually not his invention. Toilet paper too was only invented around this time, and the first rolls only came onto the market in the early 20th century.
We’ve come a long way since then, but we haven’t yet eradicated the problem of blocked toilets and drains. If you unfortunately have a problem with one of these, call us, and we’ll have your home plumbing system back in tip-top condition in no time!