(Photo: The Cat's Meat Shop)
In Nineteenth Century London, public toilets were rare. Well, it's better to say that officially sanctioned public toilets were rare. But that didn't stop people from peeing in alleys, on sidewalks on buildings.
Property owners sometimes responded by building contraptions which made peeing on the side of a building hazardous. Here's one at Clifford's Inn Passage off Fleet Street. This alley is specifically mentioned in Charles Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend.
Back in Dickens' days, peeing in the street was by no means the big taboo it is now.
In Victorian times, 'Cloakmen' were to be found on the street, their trade was simple. For a very small fee, they would use a large cloak to give privacy to someone needing to pee.
In the later 1900s, however, London spent vast sums of money on a new, effective, sewer system, in order to alleviate the capital of 'the great stink', and new by-laws were passed, making public urination an offence in many boroughs.
At the same time 'public conveniences' were built in great numbers.
Coin-slot operated doors gave rise to a new euphemism for excretion. "I just need to 'spend a penny'"