The new public conveniences have finally opened in Beeston town centre opposite PureGym, after what seems like decades of building work.

What many people don’t realise is that plans for toilets on the site stretch way back into prehistory!

Around 10,000 years ago, most of what is now the British Isles was covered in vast sheets of ice. As global temperatures began to warm up, the ice retreated, meaning that bands of nomadic early Briton hunter-gatherers ventured further north from greater Europe. Beeston in those days would have looked very different, with terrifying animals such as bears and sabre-toothed tigers wandering their territories between the Trent and Derby Road area.

Little is known about early human activity in the area, but archaeological evidence, discovered when the old Argos building was constructed, revealed several small prehistoric rubbish pits. They contained a variety of discarded animal bones and broken flint tools and weapons. Where the new toilets stand proud now was an excavated space, which boffins presume was cleared to act as a communal latrine for ‘Ug’ and his family. For some reason, it was never used, presumably because they were all killed to death by an angry woolly mammoth, or something.

Fast forward several thousand years, and we get to the first written record of the toilet situation in Beeston, thanks to the Romans. According to some of the meticulously kept military records of the time, a ‘foricae’ for ‘Beestinium’ was planned, complete with those sponges on sticks (toilet roll hadn’t been invented at this point).

Unfortunately, the decline of the Roman Empire in Britain towards the end of the late 4th century meant that piles of bricks and clay pipework was left in situ for years, with just a sign saying ‘New Toilets Coming Soon’ in Latin. By 409AD the Romans had abandoned the plans for the toilets (along with everything else in the country), so the local population continued to be forced to hold it in until they got home.

After the Romans left, the East Midlands saw a succession of ‘barbarian’ incomers over the next few centuries – Angles, Saxons, Vikings etc. According to the history books, they were too uncivilised for toilets, so probably just went behind a bush in Broadgate Park.

Things changed after the Norman Conquest of 1066, when the new king William took control of the country. Everyone will have heard of the Domesday Book, a comprehensive record of all the villages and towns in the country, from which the greedy monarch could extort taxes. What you probably weren’t taught in school was that there was a section in the back which recorded the locations of all the public toilets, and proposed ones.

Obviously Beeston appeared in the book (they couldn’t spell properly back then so it is down as Bestune), with a total of 18 households recorded. This was not deemed enough to warrant public facilities by the new overlords, so once again the plans were put on hold.

That is until Tudor times, when bucket-faced homicidal monarch Henry the 8th embarked on an ambitious plan to win over the population whilst replacing the prevailing Catholic faith with Protestantism. A raft of sweeteners for the populace were put in place, including a promise to repair potholes, lower taxes, and install more public toilets. Beestonians were very close to finally having loos of their own, but the week before they were due to open, dissolution workers accidentally demolished the building as part of their destruction of monasteries, convents, priories and friaries etc. They had mistakenly identified it as belonging to nearby Lenton Abbey!

After this, the site does not appear in any significant records until the 1930s, when an ambitious plan of public works by the then Beeston Town Council was halted by the onset of World War 2.

All seemed well during the July and August 1939, when the toilet blocks were erected in very speedy fashion. The only thing that prevented them from officially opening was the lack of those little slidy locks for the cubicle doors, thanks to the diversion of metal production to go to the manufacture of tanks and weapons for the impending conflict. War was declared in September 1939, so the toilets stood unused until they were destroyed by a direct hit from a Heinekel bomber in 1942, which was actually aiming for the ordnance factory in Chilwell.

Thankfully Britain won the war, meaning the toilets we know today don’t have those weird excrement inspection shelves like they do in Germany. However, the 6 years of conflict took a heavy toll on British public finances, and in the aftermath public toilets for Beeston simply wasn’t on the rebuilding agenda.

After the death of the sitting Broxtowe MP Seymour Cocks in 1953, a campaign was set up to commemorate him for the 24 years he served the area. A public vote decided that the ‘Seymour Cocks Memorial Urinal’ would be built in his honour. However, the plans never came to fruition thanks to a combination of continuing lack of funds, a shortage of building materials and general apathy due to ongoing rationing.

With the advent of the tram in the 2010s came new hope for the people of Beeston. As to be expected it wasn’t all plain sailing, with long delays to the project meaning it was completed many months over schedule. After all the tracks were finally laid and the cables hung, trams started to run and life began to get back to normal. As the tram brought ever more visitors to the town, it became even more apparent that public toilets were severely lacking.

The local council finally drew up plans to build and open the toilets at the end of the last decade. Over the last few years we’ve observed the work progress at a snail’s pace, until finally in late 2023, with nowhere near as much ceremony as there should have been, they were finally opened. Thousands of years after the original inhabitants set out the ground for the original latrine, Beeston finally had working toilets.

It has been suggested that waste-of-space MP Darren Henry will attempt to claim credit for this in his upcoming election propaganda, but the people of Beeston are wise enough to know that this is one shitshow he really isn’t associated with.

If nothing else, the whole saga is a reminder to us all that things can come to fruition eventually. Which gives hope to those forlornly clinging on to hopes that a shoe shop will open up again in the town one day.

JC