Castle Learning Center Privy
Castles of Britain


© 1999-2016 by Marvin Hull
A privy is a medieval name for latrine. It was also called a necessarium, jakes, draught, and gong. In modern times we call it a bathroom, or toilet. The people that cleaned and emptied the privy were called mudator latrinarum or gong farmers.

Most castle privies were crude, some having just a simple stone seat over a shaft that emptied into the moat or stream, via a latrine chute. These chutes are visible to the modern visitor. Sometimes wooden seats were used. In fact, wooden seats still survive in some ruined castles.

The privy sometimes had natural light, or were lit by torches. The more fancy privies were even designed with wash basins. Later in the development of the privy, iron bars were put over the latrine chutes. This was to prevent an invading army from gaining entry into the castle.

Keeps had privies located in a chamber room called a "garderobe," with the seat jutting out from the wall. Often, the chamber privies were "en suite," meaning in the sleeping area. A chamber privy was also used for private reading. In the apartments of the castle, the privy was supplemented with a chamber pot.

Some larger castles had special towers, called latrine towers. All the guard privies would be grouped together in this tower, with a pit in the basement. There are even some privies located in the town walls so the guards would not have to return to the castle to use the privy.