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When Did The Shower Become A Standard Bathroom Fixture?

We take it for granted these days that a bathroom will include a shower, but when did this become a standard fixture? According to Yahoo News, at least 57% of us choose a shower over a bath in the UK, for the speed and invigorating experience it offers. Here’s a quick look at the development of the shower over the ages.

Ancient beginnings

It is thought that the wealthier Ancient Egyptians would wash by asking servants to pour jugs of water over their heads, as an early form of shower. The Ancient Greeks and Romans took hygiene and cleanliness very seriously, and were the first to build public wash houses. 

These contained the first version of the shower, using lead pipes to direct an overhead water source. The Romans developed sophisticated plumbing systems to supply overhead showers, underfloor heating, and public baths. The Roman bathhouses were hubs for socialising, exercise, and massage treatments, as well as serving as community wash spaces. 

The Dark ages

During the Middle Ages, public bathhouses fell out of favour, because they were seen as facilitators of the spread of diseases, and had acquired an unsavoury reputation. Only the wealthiest tended to have private bathing facilities. 

The first modern shower

By the 18th century, the idea that bathing as a form of therapy, as well as maintaining good personal health and hygiene, came back into fashion. The first modern version of a shower was invented in England in 1767 by William Feetham, according to Bitesize Britain

The shower was operated with a hand pump, which drew water to an overhead tank. The operator could then pull a chain to release the flow of water. However, the device was not widely adopted, probably due to the fact that the water was unheated, and had to be reused for every wash. Showers would not become mainstream for many decades to come.

The revival of public baths

From about 1830 onwards, public baths underwent a resurgence, as more modern developments in science and medicine emphasised the importance of hygiene to good health. The Americans were in particular very focussed on a new culture of daily washing and bathing rituals, for themselves, their clothes, and their homes.

Around this time, a more successful showering system was invented, with metal pipes which could be plumbed into the hot water system. 

When large scale plumbing and sewerage systems allowed for the majority of homes to have indoor running water in the 19th century, domestic showers, and showers in public buildings such as schools and prisons, became more commonplace. These tended to be fixed head showers.

By the 1960s, electric showers meant that a shower was easy to fit in any home with a running water supply. Today, there is a greater choice of shower systems and styles than ever before, from power showers, to tech-controlled devices to adjust flow and temperature.

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