Castle Learning Center Bathing and Washing
Castles of Britain

Bathing and Washing

© 1995-2015 Lise Hull
One of the modern myths about medieval times is that no one took baths. This is not true. Baths were normally taken in wooden tubs. Often times some privacy was provided by a canopy or tent. In warmer weather the tub was placed in the garden of the castle, and in cold weather near a fire inside the castle. When travelling, the tub often accompanied the lord, together with the bathman.

In some castles the bathrooms were built in. At Leeds Castle, in 1291, there was a chamber 23ft by 17ft, lined with stone, which could contain 4ft of water taken from the lake that surrounded the castle. There was a ledge for accessories, a recess for the bath, and a changing room located right above the bathroom. Some castle bathrooms had piped-in hot and cold water. Some lords even had bath mats to protect their feet from the cold.

A lavabo, slop basin, or laver was a stone basin built into the wall. It was used as a wash basin and sink for washing the hands before and after meals. Often, a refillable tank with copper or bronze taps sat above the basin. Some lavabos were highly decorative and had spouts in the form of animal heads. Some examples of castles with lavabos are Goodrich and Conisbrough Castles in England.