Campaign to reopen 100-year-old public East End loo

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Campaigners are trying to raise £25,000 to reopen a 100-year-old public toilet in the East End.

Lorraine Cavanagh has started fundraising to refurbish the island garden toilets next to the railway arches on the Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets.

The toilets were built just after the First World War, but have been closed for more than a decade.

Tower Hamlets is one of three London boroughs to have no public toilets at all, according to statistics compiled by the BBC last year.

Ms Cavanagh said: “Unfortunately due to the lack of funds over the years to maintain the toilets they were eventually closed to the public and left to deteriorate. There was attempts to get the building listed in order to protect it but [it was] not considered that there was anything special about the building that should be preserved.

“Many islanders would love to see the toilets reopened again, not only as there is no public toilets available anywhere on the island but [because of the] historical memories it holds since the war.”


Katy Brand reveals how attitudes to the toilet have shaped its place in history.
You may call it the toilet, the loo, the privy, the potty, the can or even the bathroom, but whatever you call it, this everyday object has its roots in Bronze Age Pakistan.  It even had a seat!

But how did the toilet come to be?  Given one third of the world’s population still live without one, how much is our embarrassment around toilet habits to blame?  And what scientific developments are underway to help make them truly universal?

Water and Sanitation Expert, Alison Parker, from Cranfield University believes part of the solution lies in a waterless toilet which creates ash, water from the waste it receives, and the energy it needs to operate, from the waste it receives.  

Even in the UK, we don’t always have access to a toilet when we need one.  Over the past decade, the number of public conveniences has dropped by a half, leaving older people and the disabled, who may need easy access, unable to leave their homes. Raymond Martin, Managing Director of the British Toilet Association, hopes to stop our public conveniences going down the pan.

Also featuring resident public historian Greg Jenner.

Producer: Beth Eastwood
Changing Places: 'We need bigger disabled toilets'
As the government consults on making Changing Places toilets mandatory in public buildings, campaigners tell the BBC why they are necessary.