Found objects: cesspit?

While digging a ‘soak-away’ in the garden last year, the builders came across a dome-shaped brick-built structure underground


I dug a little further, finding a hole in the wall and was a little shocked to find this inside


Room enough for my camera to fit inside, I took a couple of photos and was amazed how to see the dome shape so clearly

IMG_0390   IMG_0393

Making stained glass as I do I had visions of it being a kiln but further research made me think otherwise. It’s quite a beautiful structure for a toilet, but I expect it was built in a dome shape for practical reasons, to provide strength of structure.

We came across a much larger underground dome last week across the river from Brentford at Kew Gardens, this was an ice house but quite similar in its make up (and without the drain pipes).

Has anyone come across anything like this in their garden?

9 thoughts on “Found objects: cesspit?

    • Hello, many thanks for commenting, I haven’t looked at this for a while. It is something similar, I believe it’s a cesspit. When our little house was built, around 1850, this was used as the toilet. A fine and grand underground structure, set some distance away in the garden. Sand was poured on top after each use and I imagine on the last occasion the bucket was thrown in as well, only to be found by me over a hundred years later!

      • I’ve found something very similar in my garden and I think it’s a cesspit. Just wondered if you had found anything more out about yours? How old do you think it is? And have you kept it?

      • Gosh has it taken me a year to respond to you.. sorry about that Amy. Our house was built around 1850-1860s so I imagine it was the solution to a toilet at the time. We did keep it but a soakaway was put in beside it and it is now grassed over again.

  1. I see a pipe leading into it? Most likely not the actual toilet, but perhaps rather the septic tank of sorts? Could be interesting to dig around inside it, maybe someone flushed something interesting down way back when

    • Hmm yes there is isn’t there, but also a lid and a squashed bucket on top of a pile of sand. Unfortunately we don’t have access to it any more. It has long been grassed over so I only have the photos as evidence of its existence. I didn’t think about exploring the pile of sand and other past waste of some sort. I imagine there must be many of these structures under ground in the gardens of houses built around the same time.

  2. We did dig ours out a bit but didn’t find anything, I think if we dig it further we might, found loads of old glass bottles when digging the garden out. We have ended up keeping ours as a feature in the garden (although garden not done yet). Would attached a pic but don’t think I can on here. Our house was built in 1750. Where are you from?

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