Chilly trips to outside toilets on South Tyneside

The Empress Street/Ellesmere Street area, off Mile End Road, in 1969.
The Empress Street/Ellesmere Street area, off Mile End Road, in 1969.

With bonfire night almost upon us and the cold days of winter following fast, readers remember November 5 as it was before the advent of organised fireworks displays – and the home comforts that most of us now take for granted.

Laurence Younger took to the Gazette’s Facebook page to say: “When we lived in Shakespeare Street, off Chi Road, I remember going to the outside loo on cold winter mornings and the tap at the bottom of the yard freezing solid.

“I also remember the tin bath that hung outside on the wall.

“We made a gang hut in the old brick wash house and papered it to look nice.

“In winter, the ice was often inside the windows, and it was bitter in those bedrooms.

“People ask how did you put up living like that,I say we knew nothing else!

“We used to play in the back lanes and run across the top of the walls and jump from one coal house to another – can you imagine that today?

“We had massive bonty’s every 5th of November and we had to guard it against gangs raiding our bonfire.

“They call it the good old days but they were nearly slums. The only thing better than now was the community spirit.

“Everyone talked to their neighbours and everybody didn’t have much so doors were left open unlike today.

“Would I like to go back to those good old days of no hot water, no central heating,certainly not!”

Allan Fada also got in touch to say: “My nana and granda lived in Lyton Street and so the whole area was our playground.

“They included Lyton Street, Taylor Street and Edward Street.

“They were all terraced houses with a back yard, bath house and bloody cold bog and brick coal shelter at the bottom of the yard.

“It was no joke heading down there at 2am in winter, especially if the light bulb went out in mid operation – some of those spiders in there were just waiting for such opportunities.”

Having an outside toilet was never great, whatever the weather, but they were particularly “inconvenient” in the winter-time.

I remember my nana, having one at the bottom of the yard. There was no electricity, so the only light came from a little tilly-lamp.

In the winter months, she kept a little paraffin heater in there to stop the cistern from freezing over.

Susan Sinclair recalls the time she lived in Jarrow, 40 years ago.

“I lived in a flat with a new-born son,” says Susan. “We had no hot water or bath and an outside toilet. We also had slugs in the pantry as it was so damp!”

Geoff Stansfield took to social media to post: “So glad things have moved on,” while Bob Sawicki recalls Shakespeare Street, saying: “All that and rising damp as well.”

Kevin Leary added: “All these members of the younger generation, thinking they are disadvantaged, need to read this!”

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom as some readers were quick to point out.

Diane Hart said: “We loved it in Madras Street, happy days,” while Pam Trotter told how: “Me with three kids, good times, every one shared the bath water and the one bedroom, happy days.”

Jill Scott explained that she “used to live in South Eldon Street”, while Tracey Leith posted how living in the days of outside toilets “never did me any harm”.

However, Caroline Marie Codling said: “Hated that outside toilet.”

The lack of an inside toilet was not the only hardship faced by most families after the war years.

Away from the coal or coke fire, rooms were often cold and damp.

Bedrooms in particular were places you really didn’t want to linger for long.

It was not unusual to wake up on a cold November morning to find a thick layer of ice obscuring the view outside.

What are your memories of trying to fend off the cold?