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This is how Rochdale taught the world to use the toilet

Rochdale revolutionised the way the world went to the toilet.

But it’s a claim to fame that you probably haven’t heard before.

In the mid 19th century the bustling mill town was the face of the outside privy.

‘The Rochdale system’ – as it became known – completely changed the way working class families across the world used their lavatory.

It moved away from the ‘midden’ closet – which was essentially a hole in the ground.

Created by local pharmacist Edward Taylor in 1868, it replaced the hole with two buckets, one for household and the other for ‘personal’ waste.

The local council at the time, Rochdale Corporation, would then collect the ‘night spoil’ on a weekly basis.

Before this, impoverished families had to wait months for their overflowing ‘middens’ to be changed.

The local council at the time, Rochdale Corporation, would collect the ‘night spoil’ on a weekly basis

The idea spread quickly across the globe, Taylor’s new closet received rave reviews in France, Germany and even Australia, becoming known as the Rochdale System.

By 1874 Rochdale Corporation had five full-time wagons to collect the town’s waste from a staggering 3,354 privies.

Just two years later there were more than 5,000 privies, in Rochdale alone.

At a time the region was fast becoming the country’s industrial powerhouse – with factories and mills dominating the landscape.

The working classes had poor water supplies and sewerage, so this brought a vital health improvements.

An investigation of the condition in Manchester at the time revealed that the city’s sewer network was “choked up with an accumulation of solid filth, caused by overflow from the middens.”

Wealthier households however, didn’t have these worries, benefiting from water closets – removing the waste much more quickly.

Rochdale revolutionised the way the world went to the toilet
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Mrs Pam Goodman, a former local history librarian at Touchstones Rochdale wrote an article about the innovative model.

She said: “Edward Taylor, a pharmacist who later became an Alderman, devised The Rochdale System. Under the system homes were supplied with pails for lavatories and tubs for refuse (including ashes).

“The contents were collected regularly and taken to the council’s sanitary manure works on Entwisle Road, where they were transformed into Rochdale manure. This was then sold to farmers at a profit and fetched £6 10s a ton.”

Mr Taylor ran a shop at the bottom of Yorkshire Street for 60 years.

However, the health, wellbeing and sanitation of Rochdale became his crusade.

As well as the outside toilet, he proposed radical changes to improve the water supply, a cemetery outside the town and public wash houses and bath houses.

His devotion to public service saw him elected as local mayor in 1891.

But a row over how he – and subsequent mayors – would be paid broke out with Rochdale Corporation and he resigned after just one day.

In November 1893 he became the first honorary freeman of the borough.

Alderman Taylor died in November 1895 at the grand old age of 82.

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