Victorian Bathrooms versus the Steampunk Aesthetic

The Victorian Bathroom Catalogue

As I may have mentioned, I am somewhat addicted to research and reference books. Today I found a beauty: The Victorian Bathroom Catalogue. It has opened my eyes to the true excess of the Victorian bathroom; modern plumbing has nothing on the fixtures from the 19th century.

Doulton's Improved Hooded Baths

Doulton’s Improved Hooded Baths

Check out the hooded bath … something I’d never seen until I opened the covers of this book. A hooded bath has the plumbing hidden away, with only the tap fitting and shower head showing. This had hot and cold running water. The outside was decorated, and the inside could be enamelled in ‘any colour that may be desired’. Doesn’t it look luxurious?

Decorated bathroom porcelain

Decorated bathroom porcelain

As you can see from these images, plain white porcelain wasn’t your only option. Everything came in heavily decorated versions, because the Victorians were obsessed with ornamentation. Even the most functional item, like a toilet, could be a minor work of art.

Another fact that struck me with this text book is that they refer to hand basins as lavatories or lavatory basins … whereas my family consider a toilet the lavatory. Apart from the hooded bath, all the other fixtures are familiar to me. Even the boilers … I’m old enough to remember the scary boiler in my Nana’s bathroom, for heating the bathwater.

Whimsical steampunk bathroom

Whimsical Steampunk bathroom

The modern Steampunk bathroom just doesn’t have the options of such ornate fixtures (unless you’re a millionaire). Instead, the Steampunk Aesthetic is achieved with copper fittings to echo the Industrial part of the Victorian era. Steampunk isn’t a straightforward recreation of a Victorian interior to a room. Instead, it takes some Neo-Victorian influences and mixes them with Science Fiction theme – and that is what Steampunk is, after all, a subgenre of Science Fiction.


Victorian Bathroom

Sea mine bathtub

Sea mine bathtub

Rocket Ship tap fixtures

Rocket Ship tap fixtures


Steampunk isn’t historical recreation. You can take a chance and get really creative.


Filed under Bathrooms, Fashion, History, Research, Steampunk, Victorian Era

22 responses to “Victorian Bathrooms versus the Steampunk Aesthetic

  1. Great post! I’ve seen the hooded bath before as you can still find these in reclamation yards etc. I didn’t know you could get such highly decorated porcelain fittings, though! Not exactly my cup of tea, (I’m not a flower person, unless they’re in the garden). I liked the pictures of the ‘steampunk’ bathrooms and the different ideas!! Thanks for posting! 🙂

  2. I don’t think my ancestors living in overcrowded Surry Hills in inner Sydney would have had the hooded bath option. Now doubt what they had in the country wouldn’t have been sopticated either.

    • I’ve been in quite a few Victorian era homes in Brisbane & Ipswich and I am yet to see even one hooded bath.

      • My grandparents used to live in a beautiful old Queenslander in Roderick Street in Ipswich. It recently resold only a couple of years after we sold it. Here’s a link:
        xx Rowena

      • Your grandparents lived in Roderick Street?

      • That’s right. My grandfather was a Lutheran Pastor, Pastor Bert Haebich.

      • We were nearly neighbours!

      • How funny! You would have had a field day when we put the skip out the front when we sold the house. here was a fully working copper, which has been sitting under the house for goodness knows how long. Their home was like a museum! Mum has much of their treasures but I’ve raided op shops and our place is pre-retro with 1920s-1940s era things. I think I’m reconstructing their home. Have you been out to the antique shops in Marburg? I love it out there.
        With you love of the Victorian era, I should mention that my grandfather came from Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. His father and three generations before him wereblacksmiths and their home Haebich’s cottage and the blacksmith’s shop are still standing. I grew up knowing that artist Hans Heysen had depicted the smithy but I recently found out that Sydney Ure Smith and Lionel Lindsay also sketched the place. Although on the surface, they seemed like a dying trade, thesmithy had become mechanised and my grandfathers uncle built an engine an various other things…including a wattle stripper, which was promoted in the district.
        As you can see, I delve right into my history and am lucky to rise to the surface!

      • What a lovely family history you have!

      • Thanks, it’s also a matter of finding it and I’m like a dog with a bone. My Dad’s family settled in Surry Hills, Sydney when they arrived from Ireland and until a year ago were a complete mystery, despite hard work by many of us. However, more papers went online and I had some wonderful finds. It seems like afew of them were short a plank or two but that makes for some interesting tales.

      • It’s the knots in the family tree that often make the best stories.

      • I used to live in North Ipswich … just over the river!

  3. Loredana Isabella Crupi

    What a great find! Great post! 🙂

  4. btidwell

    I think the Latin root for lavatory translates as “a place for washing.” It can refer to a sink, or to a room with toilet and sink, as opposed to “bathroom” that would include facilities for bathing.

    • I imagine the word has gone through a meaning shift – at least here in Australia. If I was to ask for the lavatory here in Brisbane, I would be shown to the toilet. But you are perfectly correct – ‘lava’ is Latin for ‘wash’; even if it does sound like you should be washing in molten rock.

  5. I really want the rocket ship tap fixtures!

  6. Almost looks like going to the bathroom could be lethal.

  7. Reblogged this on Cogpunk Steamscribe and commented:

    Re-reading this article, and my opinion hasn’t changed. Decorating with a Steampunk Aesthetic means getting creative!

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