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Life before Bathroom Shower Enclosures

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Bathroom shower enclosures are often used...

But it isn’t precisely known which came first, the bathtub or the shower. It seems pretty certain that the earliest bathtubs were rivers and ponds, while the earliest showers were probably a container full of water poured over the head, or, a romantic thought, a beautiful waterfall!

From ancient times, bathtubs progressed steadily from rivers to man-made baths, for both religious ritual and cleansing purposes. There were communal baths, permanently constructed, often built at hot spring sites and fed with warm mineral rich water. From there they went to a whole variety of tubs, first wooden, then to increasingly artistically wrought metal for use as private baths. These were portable and filled with water from heated urns from the fire. Finally there were water pipes and water heaters and bathtubs that were starting to look more like the bathtubs we know today.

From ancient times, showers progressed steadily from water poured from containers over the head to --- water poured from containers over the head! There simply didn’t seem to be any progress at all until the Romans started creating fountains and statues that issued water into their famous communal baths. It stands to reason that they must have enjoyed the agreeable sensation of water splashing down on them. There is artistic evidence of both bathing and showering (with pitchers of water over the head) from ancient times that has been found on painted artifacts. However the closest that they came to bathroom shower enclosures was floors sloped to allow the runoff of water discovered in the ruins of ancient Greek buildings. This must have been where the slaves poured water over their masters’ heads so they could wash themselves. There are tantalizing accounts of people in literature from the middle ages onwards who showered, but as there is no mention of anyone assisting them, one can only assume that they had some storage system for water overhead that could be released by the one showering. There is also no mention of the privacy of bathroom shower enclosures or even that they showered indoors. We can only guess, but one’s imagination toys with image of a jar of water lodged in a tree with a pull rope to tip it over.

Living with Bathroom Shower Enclosures

The advances in plumbing and the invention of cast iron piping for carrying water to the cities and from there to the homes, first the wealthy and later the poorer began to take hold from the middle of the 17th century onwards. At first conveying drinking water to communal fountains and hand pumps in public places, they progressed to private plumbing in private houses. As water became freely available, people began to think of baths and bathrooms instead of just weekly tubfuls of water for the family to take turns washing in front of the kitchen fire (with, no doubt jugs of water poured over the head).

In the early days of plumbing, pipes and water heaters were all visible. Among the earliest accredited bathroom shower enclosures were the ingenious shower contraptions invented in Victorian times. They were ‘canopies’ which fitted onto the bathtub and contained body spray bars. They look like a semi-circular screen inside which you stand so that the water doesn’t splash out of the bathtub. They sometimes had an overhead showerhead as well. They are still available, at a price, in ‘tall’ or ‘short’.

Later, pipes were run up the wall with a showerhead over the bath and it was not long before someone thought up shower curtains and stopped the splash into the rest of the bathroom. Over time, plumbing became less obtrusive and today is almost always chased into the walls so the pipes are out of sight. Tiles are almost universally used and showerheads have made steady progress over the years becoming more efficient and offering people ever more variety in showering experiences.

Proper bathroom shower enclosures were used for a long time, until quite recently, in fact, just a walled off section of the bathroom with a rail and shower curtains to contain the water. Even today some of these enclosures are still being used, but normally they have lightweight but strong glass doors instead of curtains. Nowadays the very attractive and streamlined glass bathroom shower enclosures in a variety of sizes and shapes are the popular way to go.

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