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Flushed with success...ship wins 'Loo of the Year'

Picture of the award winning toilet

Toilets on board Brunel’s ss Great Britain, have won two national ‘Loo of the Year 2012’ awards.

Brunel’s ss Great Britain has won the national category award for ‘Heritage Loo of the Year’ and a silver award for ‘Four-Star’ toilets across all market sectors in the search for best ‘away from home’ toilets in the UK.

Managing Director of the Loo of the Year Awards Mike Bone presented the coveted awards at a ceremony on Friday (December 2). Actor Shaun Williamson, who played ‘Barry’ in BBC soap opera ‘Eastenders’ and more recently starred in Ricky Gervais’ ‘Extras’, was the guest of honour and provided the entertainment.

It follows a major redesign and refurbishment to give the facilities a luxury Victorian-style design, which attracted a four-star grading earlier this year.

The ladies, gentlemen and disabled toilets, and baby-change facilities, near the First Class Dining Saloon serve visitors, venue hire clients, function and wedding guests.

The ss Great Britain Trust’s Technical Services Team, including artist Lottie Sweeney, worked with Bristol-based company John Perkins Ltd.

Director of Technical Services Simon Allen sourced Victorian-style ‘Crapper’ toilets, cisterns and sinks. Polished cast iron cisterns, with the ship’s original emblem, and a urinal had to be made in Canada and shipped from America.

Artist Lottie Sweeney worked on the toilet decorations including wallpaper, paint effects, flooring and pictures.

One of the main challenges faced by the team was the need to keep two toilets open at all times and to work outside of visitor hours, weddings and venue hire events. They had to work around the ship’s historic iron hull, moving modern walls to accommodate the toilet fittings.

Judges were impressed by the Victorian-style design on board ship, and stated: “The standard of the ss Great Britain toilets was exceptional. The standards of facilities, decoration, cleanliness and maintenance were all very high.”

The Trust’s Director of Technical Services Simon Allen commented: “The team is delighted with this latest award recognition for the ship’s onboard toilets. All the Toilets must be of the highest standard for all visitors to enjoy – it is an important part of the visit!

“This was a challenging project as we had to work around the ship’s original iron hull. Every fitting had to be modified and the cisterns were hand-cast and polished and quite fragile. The team worked hard to ensure the toilets were suitable for a busy museum attraction, and had the right appearance and quality ‘first-class’ finish.”

In total 1,334 ‘Loo of the Year’ entries were received across 60 separate entry categories, with many first-time entries, joining the increasing number of providers submitting their toilet facilities for an annual, independent assessment.

The ‘Loo of the Year Awards’ have been identifying the best in Britain since 1987 and are recognised as standard-setters for all those who provide ‘away from home’ facilities for staff, customers and visitors.

Every entry received an unannounced visit from an authorised ‘Loo of the Year Awards’ Inspector and was assessed against 100 judging criteria including signage, décor, fixtures and fittings and overall standards of cleanliness and management.

The awards, promoted by the British Toilet Association, were sponsored by Airdri, The British Cleaning Council, the Changing Places Consortium, Clos-o-Mat, Vectair and Wallgate, and are supported by the four national tourism bodies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

HISTORIC & SHIP LOO TRIVIA:

  • The ship’s Victorian First Class and Second Class passengers had access to flushing toilets on board ship, although diary entries and the captain’s logs show that passengers had to be reminded to flush the toilets.
  • A letter written in 1852 by a committee representing the ship’s 80 Fore Saloon passengers complained: ‘The condition of the water closets has been such as to be in this warm weather, most liable to create and foster disease, as well as being most offensive’ (The St. Helena Advocate, Fifth Edition).
  • Thomas Crapper founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London. Whilst he did not invent the flush toilet, he increased its popularity and developed the ballcock. ‘The Venerable’ Crapper toilet, used on board ship, was a quality product and Thomas Crapper received several Royal Warrants.
  • Historian and broadcaster Adam Hart-Davis, a toilet expert and author of ‘Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper’, provides the voice of the ‘talking toilet’ on board the ss Great Britain.
  • The Brunel’s ss Great Britain shop stocks ‘Thomas Crapper’ novelty toilet paper – an ideal stocking-filler or ‘Secret Santa’ gift.
  • One of the highlights of any visit for young children, in addition to the ‘talking toilet’, is the fake ‘manure’ which features in the dockyard scenes and on board ship in the Crimean troop horse display (with smells!).