The Intriguing History of Medieval Toilets: Unveiling the Garderobe

toilets, garderobe

The Dawn of Garderobes: Early Medieval Restrooms

When one thinks of the Middle Ages, sanitation rarely comes to mind. However, the evolution of garderobes, the medieval restrooms, is a riveting slice of history. Far from the contemporary toilets we’re accustomed to, garderobes were dedicated hygiene spaces, built into castle walls.

The Strategic Design of Garderobes

Contrary to popular belief, these restrooms weren’t mere holes in the ground or basic outbuildings. The affluent had the luxury of using a garderobe, a small room abutting the castle walls. The term “garderobe” stems from the French “wardrobe,” referring to an astonishing practice: occupants would hang their clothing in this shaft to rid them of fleas, using the ammonia from urine.

Toilets with Multiple Roles

The design of these medieval restrooms harbored another purpose. Occasionally, daring soldiers would try infiltrating castles through garderobe shafts. Thus, these toilets turned out to be strategic defense points, but also vulnerable zones. History even records several renowned figures meeting their demise on the loo, ambushed from below.

Transitioning to Modernity

While the concept of flushing toilets might seem ancient, the first modern restroom wasn’t introduced until 1596 by Sir John Harrington. Despite this groundbreaking invention, it would take nearly another 250 years for the idea to gain widespread adoption.


Garderobes, testaments to medieval ingenuity, remind us that innovation isn’t a recent phenomenon. Whether for hygiene or defense strategy, these medieval toilets showcase the creativity of our ancestors. For creative, innovative and useful products, visit

Keywords: Garderobe, medieval toilets, castles, Middle Ages, Sir John Harrington, modern restroom, history of toilets, medieval defense, Middle Ages sanitation.