This urinal and cistern was installed at the Phoenix clothing factory in West Melbourne around 1900. It represents one of the earliest surviving plumbing fittings from the Melbourne sewerage system.
By the 1880s, Melbourne had a major problem on its hands. The city’s population was growing rapidly, but there was still no sewerage system to deal with all the waste which was being created. The city had gained the unfortunate nickname “Marvellous Smellbourne” and in 1889 alone, nearly a thousand people died of typhoid. Sewage still ran in open drains and nightsoil men collected pans from back alleys and houses around Melbourne.
Following a Royal Commission into Melbourne’s sanitary arrangements in 1888, the Melbourne metropolitan Board of Works was formed in the early 1890s.
By 1897, the first sewerage connections were being made. The first building to be connected was the All England Eleven Hotel in Port Melbourne.
The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works purchased plumbing fixtures and fittings from suppliers at fixed prices and sold them to contractors - this kept the cost of installation low, as connection to the new sewerage system was compulsory.