Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Family size three-seat privy listed

A small addition will be made this week to England's treasury of listed buildings: a tiny oak weatherboarded structure, which speaks of a rural past ignored by costume dramas, a time when parents and child could sit down peacefully together and let nature take its course.

The little shed will be declared a Grade II listed building this week, and it is far rarer than the handsome Georgian farmhouse in whose pretty garden it stands. The official report by English Heritage for the Department of Culture declares it "a rare surviving example of a late 18th century privy, even rarer because it is a three-seater".

Three-seat privy

"It is the most glorious little building," its proud owner, Mary Kellett, said. "It faces towards the evening sun, and it is the most delightful place to sit in the evening with a glass of wine and the door open, and just be peaceful and think."

She adds hastily that it is no longer in practical use, though she suspects it was in her father-in-law's day, as luxuries such as a bathroom were only installed in the main house in the 1960s.

It has been listed because she realised its rarity and, though she has no intention of selling, that any future owner would probably flatten it immediately. There's also a measure of village one-upmanship in its new status - an even older farmhouse in the same village, Benenden in Kent, has a mere two-seater privy, which is already listed.

The privy is believed to date from 1775, when the main house was rebuilt after a fire. Although dozens of privies have been listed, most are Victorian. Three-seaters are very rare.

There's a news video on this page.

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