Have you got your Bourdaloue? Back in the 18th century, if you were a lady and wore one of those huge dresses then you’d certainly need a Bourdaloue. What on earth is it, I hear you ask? First, though, I must tell you how this story came about.
The U.K. has many stately homes that are open to the public, mainly thanks to the National Trust. We visited one such house, Berrington Hall in Herefordshire. A truly beautiful piece of architecture both inside and out. The hall is spread out over 3 floors with restoration work in progress. There’s a ‘boudoir’ too, a ladies powder room still intact with what looks like original furniture. If these walls could talk, I bet they could tell some secrets!
The Story of The Bourdaloue
Upstairs there is a huge landing with an equally huge glass dome covered roof. It was in one of these rooms that I came across the remarkable story of the Bourdaloue. They have an exhibition called ‘A Dress Fit For A King.’ The dress is called a ‘mantua’ and this example was designed by the original owner of the house, Ann Bangham. It’s one of those dresses that use as much material as an inflated parachute. You know the type, you could hide a family of 3 eating their dinner under there.
Only The Finest Bone China
Sited next to the exhibited dress is a small glass cabinet containing what looks like a gravy boat. This is the Bourdaloue. Perhaps it should have been called the Portaloo! The idea behind this well-crafted piece of china was to act as a receptacle in which to pee when the lady needed to go. Wearing such a huge bloated dress had its problems, one of which was going to the bathroom. I doubt they would ever get through the door. Knickers hadn’t been invented at this time either. So, when the call of nature had to be answered, you shoved the Bourdaloue under the dress and away you went.
Check Your Gravy Boat!
One thought that crossed my mind was, where did the ladies go when they needed to fill the Bourdaloue? Did they just move to the corner of the room? Did they go outside? Or, was it done in front of everyone as it was an accepted practice? You never see anything like it on a BBC period film. One other thing crossed my mind. I wonder how many of these things have turned up at a modern-day auction and gone on to be used as a gravy boat? I bet there’s more than one.
Here for more information of the great Berrington Hall