Ossett Pictures - Earth Closet at Fern Cottage
Before proper sanitation was brought to the lucky residents of Ossett in the 19th and 20th centuries, things were a bit different to the en suite bathrooms and indoor lavatories we casually accept as de rigueur in the 21st century. This picture of a working earth closet was taken at Fern Cottage, Cardigan Lane, off Manor Road, Ossett in 1955. It was still very much in use back then and is notable for the fact that it is a double-seater, which in itself was not that unusual in those far-off days. Two-hole or even three-hole models were common.
After use, people shovelled in a small amount of earth or ashes to deter flies and reduce smells. By the late 1860s, most Town Councils accepted that they had to remove sewage. They supplied all households with metal privy buckets and employed night-soil men to empty them regularly. They emptied the bucket through a small opening in the back wall of the closet. The night-soil men usually worked after dark so the smells from their "honey carts" would not offend the neighbourhood. The sewage, which was highly prized, was sold to local farmers to fertilise their fields or sometimes used by the owners themselves for their vegetable gardens.