The green painted Victorian Gent’s ‘Pissoir’ in Vyse Street (right next to the railway station), known as ‘The Temple of Relief’ and Listed by English Heritage was made at the Walter Macfarlane foundry in Saracen, Scotland in 1880.
It is described as: ‘a cast iron gents urinal formed of standard cast panels between slender columns, standards and capped by cresting. The panels have grotesque and geometric decoration in relief’.
Until the mid 1980’s the urinal was in use, but unfortunately there was no water connected, so it got very smelly!
In the mid-1980s when the general public started coming to the newly opened retail jewellery shops and interest in the history of the area gained momentum, efforts were made to re-open the urinal but the Council said:
Difficult to understand as there were buildings all around the area at the time and one cannot envisage the Victorians erecting a toilet without running water and drainage!
English Heritage gave it a Grade 2 Listing and the Council painted it and when they were advised that gents were still using it, they blocked it off.
The nearby new Rail station was built later but with no toilet facility – but with a new toilet block opposite on Vyse Street it didn’t seem important at the time – but, then the Council decided to demolish the toilet block, which was built as the result of a seven-year campaign by The Hockley Flyer (it had five toilets including a disabled toilet) and replace it with just one public toilet to serve the whole area.
Maybe someone will have another ‘go’ at getting water connected to the urinal?
At least it would give ‘Relief’ to visiting Gents!
Source: YBA Publications Photos Colin Giles
Printed in: Jewellery Quarter Heritage magazine Issue 1