Model of Jenning's patent water closet, c 1900.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Model of a flush lavatory. J G Jennings is considered to be one of the first pioneers of 'sanitary science' and in 1852 he patented his first washout closet. The idea did not really catch on widely until mains drainage was installed in major cities. London's main drainage, for example, was not in operation until the 1860s. After the cholera epidemic of 1832, however, the British government had pased laws requiring houses to have some kind of flushing toilet. As a result, Britain led the world in the construction of a good sewer system and in the production of indoor 'water closets', or toilets - particularly after the innovations made by Thomas Crapper's flushing toilet of 1872.