The Mechanical Shower


The Mechanical Shower

Of course, the idea of the shower has been around ever since the first person in need of a wash stood under a waterfall, but the first mechanical shower was patented in England in 1767 by William Feetham.

In antiquity, people showered by the simple means of pouring jugs of water over themselves after washing. There is evidence of upper class Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians having indoor shower rooms where servants would bathe them in the privacy of their own homes, with the water carried in.

Showers became more sophisticated amongst the Ancient Greeks, whose lead pipes and aqueducts allowed them to use gravity to pipe water into communal shower rooms. This was always cold, as hot water was considered suitable only for the very young or weak.

The Romans adopted similar systems (though heated), but Western Europe lost the art of showering (or even washing very much) after the fall of the Roman Empire.

The modern shower had its beginnings with William Feetham's invention. Feetham was a stove maker from Ludgate Hill in London. His mechanical shower used a hand pump to force the water into a vessel above the user's head. A chain would then be pulled to release the water.

The system dispensed with the servant labour of filling up and pouring out buckets of water, and also used much less water than a bath. On the other hand, a major disadvantage was that the system re-used the same dirty water through every cycle!

Ultimately, Feetham's shower failed to catch on with the rich. He was ahead of his times, as a method for piping hot water through the system was not yet available. This only arose with the reinvention of reliable indoor plumbing around 1850.

Further reading

Links to external websites are not maintained by Bite Sized Britain. They are provided to give users access to additional information. Bite Sized Britain is not responsible for the content of these external websites.