Bathroom fittings

Baths became common from about the 1890s and plumbed-in toilets from about 1910.

Sanitary fixtures

Baths and basins

Baths, when installed, were either cast iron or tin, usually free-standing on feet (Figure 1).

Hand basins were tin or porcelain and either wall mounted or on a pedestal. 

Plumbed-in baths were commonly being installed in middle class houses from about the 1890s. For working class houses, they didn’t become common until later in the bungalow period of the 1920s. By the 1900s, cleanliness became a key criteria, and with the advent of freestanding cast iron, baths became easier to install.

Wastes to baths and basins were typically made from lead. The wastes drained to an outside soakhole.

Cast iron drainage took the waste to the sewage disposal system or on-site septic tank.


The porcelain flushing toilet was invented in 1885 by Twyfords, but for New Zealand, it generally required the provision of piped sewerage before they could be installed. 

Long drop (pit) toilets located in the back yard were in common use until the late 1880s, and in towns, the ‘night cart’ would collect sewage – in some towns, up to the 40s or 50s.

In Dunedin in 1915, a sewerage system for the inner city was commissioned. Many towns and cities followed, but it often took years for sewer drains and drainage to reach the suburbs.

Early toilets had copper-lined timber cisterns at a high level and pull chains.

Interior toilets became common from around 1910, but in 1945, only two-thirds of houses had them.