It’s safe to assume that most people don’t visit public toilets for recreational purposes. But you may be surprised to hear that dozens of old lavatories are reused today for purposes other than answering a call of nature. Who would have thought that, thanks to a little imagination, you might even end up fine dining in a dank Victorian urinal!
The Temple of Convenience, Manchester
Manchester is a post-industrial northern city known for its vibrant music scene – think Joy Division, New Order, The Stone Roses, Oasis and many more (check out ManchesterMusic.co.uk for a comprehensive list). A grand Victorian city brought into the 21st century, many seemingly insignificant places that nevertheless add character to the street scene have been retained and even converted.
The Temple of Convenience on Great Bridgewater Street brings a whole new meaning to the term hole-in-the-wall. The Temple is a dive, in the coolest possible way, and although it’s had a good clean since Victorian times, it makes no effort to disguise its past life. Quite unassuming on the outside, keep your eyes peeled for this aptly named former urinal as you wander down Oxford Road past the junction of Great Bridgewater Street.
The Toilet Gallery, Kingston-upon-Thames
On 9 October, 2003, Brit Art founders Gilbert & George marked the opening of their new venue by cutting the toilet paper ribbon to tumultuous applause from the assembled crowd of supporters, press, two film crews and the BBC’s “live outside broadcast unit”. Today, the Toilet Gallery, operating out of a converted public lavatory in Kingston-upon-Thames, London, is well known across the art world from Europe to Asia and America.
The mission is simple – provide free exhibition space to new artists, and an avante garde venue for the local community to embrace modern art. Whether older members of the community, who may remember the days when they used this former urinal to “spend a penny” when nowadays it’s free, will approve, is uncertain. For a mixed reaction and to see the history of the gallery/toilet, check out this documentary.
Cellar Door Bar, Covent Garden
London abounds with old underground urinals built by the Victorians, Edwardians and no doubt others too. Once open around the clock to anyone needing to answer a call of nature, local authorities have in more recent years locked their doors for good to prevent illicit activity and, probably, the need to pay for their upkeep.
The result is hundreds of disused public toilets across British towns and cities, which probably don’t pose the same level of interest to urban explorers as old subway tunnels and subterranean stations. But thanks to some creative minds, many are now finding new uses. This fashionable London nightspot, called Cellar Door, can be found beneath One Aldwych Hotel in Covent Garden. It even boasts the distinguished street address, Zero Aldwych. Click here to read more.
Toulouse Restaurant, Westcliff-on-Sea
The owners of this little seafront bistro clearly have a sense of humour! The aptly named Toulouse Restaurant at Westcliff-on-Sea was once a ladies and gents public convenience. Today its fare is more of the modern European seafood variety, and despite its once grubby past it’s now a place for fine dining.
Floral Display, near Taff’s Well, Wales
Okay, so it’s not exactly “fashionable” but this urinal turned plant pot is an example of how even the most mundane public convenience can be re-purposed to benefit the street scene as well as the local community.