The greatest invention of all time? A strong case could be made for the indoor flushing toilet.

During the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, most Melburnianswent to the toilet in a pan in a ‘privy’ outside the house. A ‘nightman’ collected the waste each week, carting it away to manure depots on the outskirts of Melbourne. In working class areas of the city one privy might be shared by several families.

Chamber pots were kept under the bed to avoid a visit to the privy at night. If you were wealthy enough to have servants, part of the chamber maid’s morning duties would be to empty the pot. Otherwise, the task fell to the wife and mother.

For families the arrival of an inside flushing toilet was a marvel of modern living. Gone were trips to the smelly backyard privy on cold winter nights and the chamber pot was banished from bedrooms forever.