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Where have the public toilets gone in Newcastle


When I first arrived in Newcastle one of the things that confused me was where are the toilets? It’s a tricky and not very honourable question, however as an urban design student it is my responsibility and one of my research interests to address these issues.

We’ve got toilets

Until now, one of the most popular toilets was the one on the ground floor of the Eldon Square shopping mall, on the corner of Clayton St and Nelson St. It was designed to serve a wide range of customers. Even though it was designed to serve the people who came here to spend their money.

Newcastle will now have a public toilet again on 21 March 2024, and we are no longer a city without public toilets. We’re no longer a city without public toilets. But the news doesn’t sound as if it’s encouraging.

First new public toilets since 2010 open in Newcastle | Newcastle City Council.


Especially when you learn that 13 years ago the city had a public toilet and that it cost £60,000. Unfortunately the toilet is located inside a building and is not only difficult to find but is only allowed to be used when the building is open, meaning you still don’t have a toilet to use at night.
But why is this the case and what has driven the city of Newcastle to not have a public toilet for the last 13 years.

Where do toilets come from


To respond to the previous question, we should understand what motivates cities to provide public toilets and what makes them disappear.

McCorristine, S (2023.) mentions that in the first half of the nineteenth century, the only way for most people to go to the toilet was through a ‘latrine’ – usually a hole in the top of a cesspool that was not cleaned regularly. The study highlights that in the 1850s there were only 21 public toilets in Newcastle, 10 of which were illuminated, and all of them were in an ‘offensive’ and ‘revolting’ state.

There were three main points:

Shopping and markets

Walkers or drivers (buses or taxis)

Each house had its own toilet


In the original fish and cattle markets people built toilets so that people from other parts of the country who came to do business could have somewhere to go for their physical needs.

Some shopping malls such as Eldon Square provided toilets to attract shoppers to stay longer in the mall.


Pedestrians walking around the city may not be able to return home for various reasons and may need to walk to the nearest facility to solve their problems in a dignified manner, and taxi or bus drivers may need to use the city’s toilets because there are no toilets on their vehicles.


As unbelievable as it may sound, almost all households now have their own toilets, but before that, some of them had to borrow public toilets to solve their physical needs.


However there is also a problem of gender de-tendency in the construction of toilets.

In a local report in 1964, it was mentioned that there were 63 toilets for men in Newcastle, but only 24 toilets for women. The reason for this was that the human body was physiologically different, and some male toilets were simply built with a groove so that those people could urinate. Women didn’t have the means to address their needs with a similar treatment, so women needed more sophisticated and improved facilities. And another reason is that people at the time believed that women should stay at home and not be active outside the home, which was a man’s duty. This prejudice that was subjected to the context of the times also contributed a lot to the problem.


However the interesting point is that the increase in women’s toilets in shopping malls was to encourage women to stay in the malls more and spend their money. This led to an increase in the number of women’s toilets in the 1990s.


Newcastle’s old Bigg Market toilets and the modern-day bar getting set to reopen

– WC Bar Newcastle


The history of the decline of Newcastle’s toilets


Public toilets became less and less important as commercialisation continued and malls with toilets like Eldon Square increased.

As well as this being a means of stopping homeless people congregating in a defensive design, the truth is that that only allowed the homeless to deal with their problems elsewhere in the city.

However Thatcher’s reforms to the UK finances over the last century have also affected public budgets in cities. Toilets were one of them.

Cllr Alex Hay, Cabinet Member for Prosperous Cities, says: “Like many councils, we’ve been forced to close public toilets as a result of austerity – we simply can’t afford to maintain and keep them clean any more.

“Instead, we are encouraging people to use the toilets in Eldon Square, whilst retaining public toilets in our own public buildings, such as Granger’s Market and the City Library, albeit with limited opening hours.


It’s easy to see how the public toilets in Eldon Square are so popular because they have the backing of official staff. However these approaches are ultimately temporary, and although there are many private venues involved in the provision of toilet services, the nights after they close for business can leave the city without toilets. Newcastle ultimately needs more public toilets.






‌Anon, (n.d.). About Us – WC Bar Newcastle | WC Gin Closet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 May 2024].

Morton, D. (2021). Newcastle’s old Bigg Market toilets and the modern-day bar getting set to reopen. [online] Chronicle Live. Available at: [Accessed 19 May 2024]. (2024.). First new public toilets since 2010 open in Newcastle | Newcastle City Council. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 May 2024].


McCorristine, S (2023.). New exhibition charts rise and decline of Newcastle’s public toilets. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 May 2024].


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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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