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A history of the portable toilet hire industry

05 January 2022

We’ve all seen them and many of us have used them but how much do you know about the history of the portable toilet? We look at how they evolved into the units we know today.

Today, portable toilets and luxury toilet trailers can be found at every type of event and location, from the standard plastic portable toilet units on building sites to luxury toilet trailers providing invaluable, prestige facilities at weddings and sporting events. But where was the first one used and when?

The first portable toilets

Incredibly, the earliest record of a portable toilet can be traced back to Ancient Egypt! Consisting of a stool with a hole cut out of it, with a receptacle positioned beneath, it was discovered inside the tomb of a workman from Deir el-Medina, the village which housed those who built the Valley of the Kings.

The chamber pot

Over time, the stool from Ancient Egypt was dispensed with and just the pot remained, which we know as the chamber pot. There is historical evidence of the Ancient Greeks using chamber pots and we know that they were still being used by the Victorians.

What is a thunderbox?

Thunderbox is a common slang word for a portable toilet which evolved from the chamber pot as a direct response to the issue of smell! The 19th century British nobility required something that would minimise the odours of a chamber pot and so it was enclosed in a box that was completely portable. This ‘thunderbox’ could be positioned at a distance from a location or accorded its own room in a building.

The first enclosed portable toilet unit

In the Californian ship building yards of the 1940s, it was recognised that labourers had to walk quite a distance to use the dock facilities, which contributed to a reduction in productivity. The US Navy therefore commissioned a toilet that could be placed on the ships temporarily, to be closer for the workers. This first portable toilet unit was made from wood and had a small, metal holding tank.

Who is George Harding?

George Harding was a senior manager at General Motors in the 1930s who joined the US War Department during WWII as an official in the Department of Strategic Metals. By the 1950s, Harding was involved in the fiberglass boat industry and is credited with several inventions, including a fibreglass toilet unit.  The fibreglass units were high maintenance and prone to damage in transit because of the fragile nature of the fibreglass. They also absorbed odours so Harding continued to develop his ideas and in the 1960s, the first US patent was issued to him for an entirely polyethylene plastic portable toilet. It was to be a further 10 years for the fibreglass unit to be phased out but by the mid-1970s, the plastic toilet unit was widely available.

The first luxury toilet trailer

In the 1980s the luxury toilet trailer was developed, again by George Harding. He recognised that units containing more than one cubicle were much more spacious, could accommodate multiple users and had the room for indulgent features. The luxury toilet trailer made its debut in 1984.

Portable toilet hire today

Fortis Hire is the UK’s fastest growing luxury toilet hire company and we supply luxury toilet trailers to sporting events, corporate events, weddings and county shows. We also supply to the film production and construction industries. Our range of trailers includes the Luxury 1 Plus 1 for smaller occasions, our largest Luxury 8 Bay trailer, as well as a Luxury Urinal and a Luxury Disabled Toilet, amongst others. We also offer a range of standard plastic portable toilets for hire which includes a urinal, a disabled unit and a single occupancy unit.

Portable toilet hire near me

Based in Buckinghamshire, we are able to take full advantage of the excellent road connections via the M1 and the M25 to London and the home counties. We deliver to the following counties:

Bedfordshire

Berkshire

Cambridgeshire

Essex

Hampshire

Hertfordshire

Kent

Middlesex

Northamptonshire

Oxfordshire

Rutland

Surrey

Warwickshire

Wiltshire

So if you are looking for portable toilet hire or portable luxury toilet trailer hire near you, call us today on 01525 643850 to see how we can help you.

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