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A builder recalls

1st November 2011 @ 7:07am – by Geoff Farr
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Racking my brains to recall the details of the construction of the public toilets has led me on to thinking of my early acquaintance with Audlem and its toilets.

My first sight of Audlem came at about ten or eleven years old whilst cycling from my home in Wybunbury to Ternhill to watch the Harvards doing circuits and bumps.

The first thing I saw when entering the village was a very smelly large pit hole at Little Heath. It was being used to dump the ash and cinders etc. from the steam engines housed over the road at Bonnells.

It was certainly not the rather lovely tree-covered Green which we now have.

Many years were to pass before I made Audlem my home. This occurred on August Monday 1961. I was twenty five years old.

Uncle Joe

Just a few weeks earlier I had bumped into uncle Joe Williams in Wybunbury and the conversation went something like this. Uncle Joe: "It has come to my attention that you are going to live at Audlem" "Yes Uncle Joe"... after a pause  " Well I think that is a bad idea." "Do you Uncle Joe. Why?"

"Well they are not nice people you know, and you will come to regret it." "Oh dear Uncle Joe how do you explain tha.t" "Well it's like this, when you get past that White Lion at Hankelow they are ....uncouth."

I have no idea what experiences had persuaded Uncle Joe of that opinion. I am delighted, however, that Uncle Joe's predictions were proved completely wrong, and here I still am enjoying the company of the people of Audlem.


Building was my business  as some of you may know from my recent piece on the public toilets. It was a very different world than the one we presently occupy.

I am sorry to hark back to the business of toilets, but a builder's life is very much focussed on toilets.

With my partner Clifford Taylor I paid much attention to the toilets of Audlem.

It may seem strange now but in 1961 many of Audlem's toilets were pail toilets. That is a tin bucket was placed within the privy down the garden  which necessitated a weekly emptying by the Council teams with their little grey trucks called Karrier Bantams.


Some houses had installed Septic tanks which enabled them to have water lavatories. Now a Septic Tank is a structure of two tanks built beneath the ground which received the product of the WC, sink and bathroom.

These amenities generated quite a lot of water. It was, however, clean water provided that the tank was efficient. A new installation was encouraged to become efficient by taking a shovel full of the "Blue Billy" microbes from a working tank and priming the new tank with them.

The clean water from the tank was then led away through an irrigation system of open jointed pipes which distributed the  I stress) clean water back to the earth. These tanks thus set up would work untended  for very many years.

Now of course, the tanks come on a truck and are made of plastic, though the principle is the same.

During my early years at Audlem we were charged by the Nantwich Rural District Council with providing what were then called "The five Standard Amenities " for which the Council would give a grant of £125.

That is £25 for each amenity. They were:

  • a WC  

  • a sink

  • a bath

  • a system which would provide hot water

  • a ventilated food cupboard. There were few fridges in those days.

The fact that the Council would donate money to be spent upon a private house, was, I can assure you a revelation.

We have grown used to Councils and Governments making grants for all sorts of things but it was not always so.


The installation of Septic Tanks did not always go to plan and from time to time we were to encounter problems which required a little unorthodoxy .

One of the problems most frequently encountered was that the irrigation system could not cope with the quantity of water it had to distribute. This was usually where the ground was heavy clay which does not readily take large volumes of water .Sometimes the system had to be extended to cope, and very occasionally there was insufficient space for extension.

One such client I remember, an elderly lady who was a pillar of the church and highly respected member of society found that her septic tank could not cope. It was explained to her that the only chance of rectifying the problem was to clandestinely connect the outlet to somebody else's free flowing drain.

Now the only drain available for such a nefarious deed was the County Road Drain which was situated close too. Quite against regulations of course, but desperate situations call for desperate solutions. 

A plan was therefore made to make a connection at night by the light of a paraffin powered farm building lamp. As my partner prepared in the dead of night to do the deed, the lady encouraged him with the words: "Go forth with courage Mr Taylor...and trust in the Lord."

After a few years Audlem had it's own sewers installed and this and other such connections and Septic Tanks were superseded and disconnected.

One bi-product of this modernisation was that our infant business badly needed a small builder's truck because the Council had to reduce it's fleet of Night Soil trucks. So we bought one and happily used it for several years.

Cheers for now

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