George Jennings Brought Back From The Dead

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This is a rare tilting sink by George Jennings. We do not have an exact date but these sinks were quite early (circa 1860) and were one of the designs one comes across before the waste and overflow became pretty much the norm for basin design.

Here is the basin in situ prior to restoration work.


George Jennings himself was one of the giants of Victorian Sanitation. It was his toilets which were introduced at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in the Crystal Palace in London. This was the first time many people had the chance to use a flushing toilet and many, many people went ahead and did so. Over 800,000 people paid over a penny each to gain access to this new and exciting experience. It seems strange to us now but the impact the toilets at this exhibition made was massive. The phrase “to spend a penny” meaning “to use the loo” stems from George Jenning’s toilets. And within 4 years of the exhibition there were over 200,000 flushing toilets in London alone. Now the very idea of not having a flushing toilet in your home is completely foreign and unacceptable.

The tilting sink was a design the allowed the sink to swivel round on two pivots to be emptied. There was no plug hole.

It looks like the tilting sink was introduced after 1851 but before the turn of the century, as it seems to appear after the Great Exhibition of 1851 but was still referred to as “Jennings’ patent tilt-up and lipped lavatory”. What we now call the “wash basin” was called the “lavatory” until the turn of the century! A bit confusing sometimes. When discussing antiques we do sometimes forget and call the item a lavatory instead of a sink.

The basin itself was in a pretty sorry state and had many cracks and repairs on it. It appears as though the basin had had different repairs done to it on at least 3 separate occasions. Some of the repairs were held together with glue, some with a white hard paste and one particular area with staples. Staples or riveting was a common way to repair ceramics from the 18 century up until approx. 1910. We think this basin may first have been repaired circa 1885.

Here are some pictures showing the basin prior to restoration and with the poor repairs.


Some of the repaired pieces of porcelain were sitting proud of the rest of the sink, especially around the edge.

The first thing that was done was to break the bowl back down into its pieces and clean off the glue, etc that had been used in the previous repairs.

Then the bowl put back together with the parts fitting as tightly together as we could get. Sometimes this required grinding small areas away to allow the pieces to slip together. Once the basin was all back together there were still some areas sitting a little high.

To handle the high areas the basin was treated with high build primers and fillers to smooth out these areas.
Then the basin colour was matched and the basin sprayed.

The brass pivots need to be re-attached, but this is going to be left until the basin gets back to its home and the positioning of the pivots can be checked to ensure they are fixed in exactly the right place.
Then the pivots will be fitted in place using a putty mixture which is what was used originally for this type of work.

Here are some pictures of the basin after restoration. Hopefully we will get some pictures from the client with the basin in situ again and ready to be used again for another hundred or so years!


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