Shame on them. Vandals have smashed up the 187-year-old nettie at the Locomotion National Railway Museum in Shildon, county Durham.
The outdoor lavatory, whose many grateful users notably included the railway pioneer Timothy Hackworth and doubtless his friends the Stephensons, has had its roof badly-damaged, its situpon wooden boards pulled up and an old mangle converted into a flowerpot shoved over.
It will be repaired, but it’s a depressing event for the museum which is a matter of real and justified pride in Shildon. The loo is in the backyard of Hackworth’s former home, once the grandest in the town which took off like a rocket – appropriately given the famous loco – thanks to the Stockton and Darlington railway which Hackworth helped to pioneer after working on the Puffing Billy and Locomotion.
Now called Hackworth House, the building was known more modestly by its first owner as Soho Cottage, when he moved there in 1825. It later became the Timothy Hackworth museum, opened in 1975 and absorbed by the excellent NRM in 2004. Netties have a long and illustrious history in the north in general and the north east in particular. My favourite is the pissoir in Great Ayton which marked an important moment in the independence of local government.
Ratepayers challenged its installation, along with two others, after a sewage crisis at the end of the 19th century, but it won the day. You can see it in all its glory on the Beautiful England website, here.
Hackworth used his loo for 30 years, as did his wife, their six daughters, two sons and two, before the house was sold to the rail company he help[ed to create.The museum’s manager Dr George Muirhead calls the incident ‘mindless’ and county Durham police say:
We take any incident of vandalism very seriously, but it is particularly distressing when it is part of a museum that is treasured by so many people and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. We would urge anyone with information to come forward.
The vandals happened between 4pm on Saturday and 9.45am Monday. Doubtless we can all think of forms of community service which might be appropriate for those responsible.
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