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Sharing Shakespeare's Story

Jordan or Chamber Pot

The ‘jordan’ was popular slang for a chamber-pot or potty, used to urinate in at night in the relative comfort of the bedroom (chamber) without having to resort to a trip to the outside toilet (or privy) or worse, using the hearth as a urinal.   The origins of this word are obscure but possibly originate from the similarity of urine flasks to the little containers used to collect sacred Jordan water brought back from the Holy Land by medieval pilgrims. By Shakespeare’s day the word had been transferred to the humble potty.

The contents of the chamber-pot were normally disposed of into a cess-pit or into the common dung heap. Urine, or ‘chamber lye’, was sometimes collected and used as bleach for laundry and industrial purposes such as leather working.

This chamber pot, on disaply in Shakespeare’s birthplace, is a pottery chamber pot made of cheap, green-glazed earthenware typical of the sort normally provided in coaching inns in Shakespeare’s time.   The diameter of the pot is quite narrow and no doubt easier to use for men as a ‘piss-pot’ than as a potty for women to sit or squat over. When Shakespeare’s family home became an inn the inventory of Shakespeare’s former tenant, Lewis Hiccox lists numerous chamber pots kept in store for use by guests.

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There was no bathroom or toilet so there was a chamber pot in the bedroom.

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