“ TIPPER” “TIPPLER” or AUTOMATIC SLOP-WATER CLOSET
The automatic slop-water or Tippler closet provided an ingenious way to use wastewater from the kitchen sink to flush the lavatory which was outside, usually at the bottom of the yard some 8 feet or more away.
The closet is referred to as a “Tippler” on this web
site as this is the name used by local people and therefore in Crow Lane, and
also appears in Ken Book Lancashire Privies. However it would appear that more
widely they were called “Tippers” ,the name given to them in a Gladstone
Working Pottery Museum publication and in "Thunder Flush and Thomas
These closets seem to have been used quite widely in
Lancashire and Yorkshire. According the Gladstone publication they were in
regular use for about a hundred years from the second half of the 19th century. Certainly
there were a few tipplers in Crow Lane until the 1950s and 60’s. although by this
time many were replaced by toilets with cisterns. One is still believed to be in
use now (2003) in Ramsbottom, although not in Crow Lane.
The tippler closet required a supply of water from the slop stone sink in the kitchen to flush the toilet which was connected to a sewer. The sandstone Slop stone sinks themselves required very little water because although the were quite large in area (3ft by2ft), they were only about 3 inches deep.
Whenever the sink was emptied, it's waste water collected in the
tippler mechanism which was an open-topped earthenware container about 2 ft by
10 inches, holding 3 or 4 gallons. This has also been described as being
shaped like a shoe with a pouring spout where the toe would be. It was counterbalanced (usually with thicker ceramic) at the back so that it
returned upright when empty. When filled with water the weight tipped it and
delivered the full volume of water down the pipe to the closet
It would therefore flush automatically when the tippler mechanism was
full and not necessarily when required and people describe the unexpected
subterranean noise of rushing water as being quite frightening for small children.
According to Ron Freethy, the mechanism would take about 5 mins to fill from a
running tap and when it emptied you could it's loudish 'clunk'.
The tippler mechanism produced a suitable volume of water
to flush the closet, but to get enough power the pipe needed to slope downwards.
Since the mechanism itself was underground, this meant that the U-bend, which
had to be flushed could be up to 6 ft below ground level. This may account for
the other local nick-name "The Long
Drop" or even “Whistle and drop” The toilet itself had a tall “turret like” pedestal
made of brown stone ware with a wooden seat, and the stone pipe beneath it was
some 18 inches in diameter.
One manufacturer claimed that the automatic slop-water closet never froze and this is quite likely since the whole mechanism was underground..
It is thought that Dr Alfred Hill of Birmingham was the first to introduce tipplers on a large scale. There were various types of tipplers but some of the best known were made by J & A Duckworth of Burnley, other firms being Allen and Day.
Water Closets (Past Present and Future) pub by Gladstone Working Pottery Museum.
Thunder Flush and Thomas Crapper, by Adam Hart-Davies, Pub by Michael O'Mara Books Ltd
Lancashire Privies by Ron Freethy