Jennings in trouble
23 February 2015
This is not a newly discovered adventure of the fictional schoolboy at Linbury Court preparatory school, as might have been written by the late Anthony Buckeridge, but a reference to one of our two surviving Victorian water closets supplied by George Jennings. In the first image Mick Woolley, our versatile contract plumber, and Bob Hayter, our also versatile joiner who is a member of our Works Department, stand over the WC after replacing a leaking valve and replacing perforated lead piping, which was allowing wastewater to leak through the ceiling of the Red Hall below.
George Jennings is best known for supplying the WC's for the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in Kensington Gardens in 1851, where they were the first public conveniences. Over 800,000 people paid a penny to use them and started the expression "spend a penny". He was a successful sanitary engineer, and his family firm lasted until 1967.
In the second image, a more detailed view of the WC is shown, with the patent valve on the left.
This one had a leather diaphragm, which had hardened over the years, cracked and started leaking water into the pan. After the valve was removed, I sent the valve for restoration to Phil Jefferies of Heritage Foot Pumps, Stafford, a business which has now sadly closed. In the meantime, Mick & Bob managed to find the leaking waste pipe, removed it after some difficulty and replace it with a modern plastic one. I was surprised that an original lead pipe would have leaked, but the final image shows the holes, which Mick blames on the use of modern cleaning agents.
The Jennings with its fine mahogany surround is now back in working order, a tribute to a fine Victorian sanitary engineer and to the skill and persistence of Mick & Bob. It remains an attractive-and convenient-feature of the castle.