Public toilets in Sydney
This collection brings together sources related to some of the public toilets in the Sydney local area.
The provision of public toilets was an important social development. In the 19th century it was not uncommon for men to urinate in public, due to the lack of suitable facilities. It was even harder for women, who often didn’t even have facilities provided by their workplaces.
In 1880 two cast iron urinals were purchased for public use by the Council. One was located on Observatory Hill.
The outbreak of the plague in 1900 led to major improvements in sanitation in the City. Underground public conveniences for men were opened in Moore Street, Darlinghurst Road, and the intersection of Liverpool and Oxford Streets in 1901.
By 1912, ten underground public conveniences were constructed around the City, which were attended by Council workers. Lavatories of this time were lavish with pattered tiles and paving, and doors, frames and fittings of polished Tasmanian blackwood or cedar. They were for men only.
Various campaigns were waged to obtain public toilets for women. This included a deputation from the Women’s Progressive Association to the Lord Mayor in 1902. The first ladies above-ground public lavatory was constructed in 1910 on the south-eastern corner of Park and Elizabeth streets, but with only two toilets. The Council began to put serious attention to building more public toilets for women from 1916.
Some of the historical underground public conveniences still survive in Sydney today. However, they have been decommissioned due to issues with maintenance and public safety. In the 20th Century the council built more utilitarian above-ground toilets.
To find even more items relating to public toilets try the search tool. They can be found combining 'public' with various terms such as conveniences, lavatories, toilets, urinals, water closets etc.
Dictionary of Sydney – Public lavatories in Sydney
CollectionPlaces of Interest
Petition - Request for public baths, urinals and closets in the city, Market Street Sydney, circa 1868