Whitley Pump were set a puzzle by reader Jane Burnett who sent in a question.
What is the brick structure and ventilation chimney in front of The Pheasant? Is there a closed off underground public toilet down there?
Yes, there were public toilets there as a map from 1959 shows.
When they were built is no doubt recorded somewhere in Reading Borough Council’s archive at the Berkshire Record Office, but it would seem that they were there from at least the beginning of the twentieth century. What remains below ground level is unknown.
The chimney is a stinkpipe (or stenchpipe) that allowed noxious gases to escape from Victorian sewers. The idea was that the gases escaped overhead so that they were less noticeable. There are other stinkpipes dotted around Reading, at least one more in Katesgrove, easily mistaken for lamp posts or relics of Reading’s tram system. It would be nice to know some more about who manufactured Reading’s stinkpipes and it is possible that some have manufacturer’s plates attached to them.
Acknowledgements and references
- I am grateful to the History of Reading Society for identifying the ventilation chimney as a stinkpipe.
- The history of the stinkpipe
- Website dedicated to the stinkpipes of Greater London (stinkpipes.blogspot.co.uk)