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Your Big History stories

Up and down the country, people have been sharing their amazing stories about taps and toilets, to help us change the future for some of the world's poorest communities. Here are just some of the highlights so far.

A toilet fit for a poet

John Mounsey emailed us to share an amazing story about this outside toilet near Sedbergh, Cumbria.

The toilet at Hebblethwaite Hall

The toilet at toilet at Hebblethwaite Hall
The toilet near Sedbergh, Cumbria.
Photo: John Mounsey

"My great-great-great-great grandfather was living here when Wordsworth stayed for about a fortnight, so it is quite likely Wordsworth sat upon one of these. I don't know what the etiquette was in those days, but perhaps he and my ancestor sat side by side and exchanged deep thoughts?"

The toilet is thought to have been used into the 20th century, but has now been superseded by a flushing toilet indoors. 

Crazy jobs – that still exist

Joe Downie used our Big History Project Facebook group to share this film from British Pathé. We may not need 'Gong Farmers' and 'Urine Collectors' in the UK any more, but in communities around the world, a lack of clean water and safe toilets means these kind of jobs are still a terrible necessity.


A brief history of clean water

Wessex Water took to Twitter to share this short film with us – starring a whole host of historical figures!


Talking dirt and disease at Edinburgh University

Edinburgh University's Big History Project event saw historians and Scottish Water representatives get together to put on a series of fascinating talks.

Neil McGillevray, a medical historian, shared tales of dirt and disease, including stories about Edinburgh University's very own 48-seat communal toilet and the Gardyloo, a boat which took treated waste and dumped it in the Firth of Forth right up until 1998. 

Meanwhile Richard Rodger, Professor of Social and Economic History, gave an insight into the context of 19th century Edinburgh in which sanitation and water were particularly neglected. Watch Richard's talk here >

Students at Edinburgh University
Edinburgh University hosted their own Big History Project event. Left to right: Roy Dahl, Neil MacGillivray, Richard Rodger, Rona Macleod, Alex Scott and Alice Owen.
Photo: Edinburgh University

Taps, toilets – and a cup of tea

Hannah loved the idea of our Big History tea parties so much, she got her family together and asked them to share their memories of taps and toilets when they were growing up. From queuing for the weekly bath to having to use an outdoor toilet, watch her grandparents, Andrew and Marcia, and their friend Daphne, tell their stories below.



Your stories could change lives

Today, people across the globe are still struggling to survive without clean water and safe toilets. Your stories will help us show the government the impact taps and toilets had in the UK – and remind them that the same transformation is possible in the world’s poorest communities.

Ready to share photos, stories, newspaper clippings or information you've uncovered? Email them to bighistory@wateraid.org or call Rebecca Owen on 020 7793 4478. 

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