An Earth Closet at the Tring Agricultural Show in 1871/2



In connection with the 1871 Tring Agricultural Show the Herts Mercury of 14th October, 1871 reported

... In the show yard Mr. W. Brown, hon. secretary, exhibited an earth closet, constructed on a modification of Mr. Moule's patent earth system. ...

... Mr. Brown subsequently referred to one or two subjects connected with agriculture. In speaking of the sewage question and of the earth closet system, Mr. Brown said that ho believed that system would be of great value to those who possessed rural cottages and gardens. It was also a pecuniary and commercial advantage. He found, however, that Mr. Moule’s earth closet system was too complicated, and (Mr. Brown) tried, with the assistance of those about him, to simplify it. They had seen the closet he had that day exhibited. From his experience of two years he found the plan both simple and effective, and he particularly recommended its adoption by owners cottage property in rural districts (hear, hear). ...

The Bucks Herald of the same date: reported

... Messrs. Wm. Brown & Co. showed a very good adaption of the earth closet system, the machinery employed instead of delivering the earth by means of a hopper, as in the Moule apparatus, being a couple of springs worked by an arm, It seemed a very simple and effective contrivance. ...

Very much an everyday fact of life which is usually ignored in family history research. We are interested in the the house they lived in but rarely think of the dunny at the bottom of the garden (if they were lucky enough to have one).


 Improved Earth Closet. — In this locality an improved kind of earth closet has become in rather extensive use, and answers very well. A model was exhibited at the last show of the Tring Agricultural Association amongst the implements, and no doubt it is connected with agriculture, for, if properly managed, it may be the means of bringing a good fertilizer to farmers at a very trifling cost. The model exhibited had some improvements suggested by Mr. W. Brown, the secretary of the society. The iron work costs about 10s. 6d.; the total of each complete — i.e. the entire structure — is only about 30s. By the lifting of a handle a sufficient quantity of sifted earth (and no more) is mixed with the night soil, and all that is further requisite is to keep a proper supply of fresh soil for admixture, and to take the mixed sewage away at proper intervals. In villages and small towns it is a valuable accessory to sanitary improvement, and in places where there are no manufactories, or breweries, or slaughter-houses, may prevent the formation of expensive drainage works.

Herts Advertiser, August 3, 1872


 In London in the 19th century there were night soil collectors who when round the houses. Some of the material they collected was loaded into barges and brought to Hertfordshire as manure to be spread on the fields.


Examples of some other earth closets


“Self-Acting Earth Closet” from April, 1881 edition of “The Ironmongers’ Catalogue.”

  ßby User Musphot on Wikimedia Commons

For those who want an environmentally friendly earth toilet see

What is a composting toilet and how does it work

April 2012   Page Created
March 2016   1871 press references added
October 2018   Link to how earth closets work