Nobody knows exactly when the chamber pot first put in an appearance, but it came into its own in the seventeenth century, diarist Samuel Pepys referring to it as an essential bedroom accessory. Waking early one December morning and not being able to find one, he’s ‘forced to…piss in the chimney.’ Piss-pots – frequently made of silver for richer patrons – were sometimes kept in the social parts of the house, signalling that relieving yourself was hardly a private affair. In the dining room, the sideboard frequently featured an in-built pot cupboard which bladder-bursting revellers could fill, before returning to the table to replenish their glasses.
To the French, this practice provided yet more proof that the English were a race of philistines. During a visit to Suffolk in 1784, François de la Rochefoucauld was appalled at the ‘indecent’ custom of using the ‘sideboard to pee.’ Yet, not everybody was so circumspect,