Have You Got Your Bourdaloue?

By Posted on 17 Comments 2 min read

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.

Berrington Hall

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.

The Notice
The Notice

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

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17 Comments
  • Sue W
    February 23, 2019

    What an interesting post Trev. I’ve never heard of the Bourdaloue either, great piece of equipment, but I’m kind of ‘relieved’ we don’t use them today! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • admin
      February 23, 2019

      I’d never heard of it either, Sue. We all learn something new each and every day. Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • librepaley
    February 23, 2019

    I read somewhere that in 18th century Versailles people would just… Relieve themselves in corners and behind hangings and curtain, and it was cleaned of feces once a week. Turns out there were some public latrines – Though not everyone could be bothered waiting to use them.

    • admin
      February 23, 2019

      Yikes! I suppose at the time it was as natural as we use the bathroom today. No wonder there were so many deaths from things like Cholera. Thank you, librepaley ๐Ÿ˜Š

  • Fascinating post Trev. They probably did just slide the Bourdaloue underneath their dresses and go pee, mid conversation! In many ways we’ve become quite squeamish about things these days that they took for granted centuries ago.

    • admin
      February 23, 2019

      Thank you, Amanda. Yes, I tend to agree with you.

  • K. Alice Compeau
    February 23, 2019

    This is the most interesting blog post I’ve read in a while!
    Also, I’ll never use an antique gravy boat. ๐Ÿ˜‚

    • admin
      February 23, 2019

      Thank you, Alice. I appreciate your kind words

  • rugby843
    February 23, 2019

    As I read Diana Galbadon’s books I found that at gentlemen’s clubs, they often took a bottle of sorts to use for this same thing, never actually leaving the table! Another fact was using a screen to hide pee pots used in a corner of the room. Apparently discreetly?? used during gatherings? Yikes!

    • admin
      February 23, 2019

      Thank you, Rugby, interesting reply. โ˜บ๏ธ

  • rugby843
    February 23, 2019

    I have to add, anyone who is treasuring a handed down gravy boat may need to think twice about actually using it at your dinner table!๐Ÿ˜‚

  • renxkyoko
    February 24, 2019

    O_O Seriously ?? ^___^” I wonder what the ladies wore when they had their monthly visits ?? Aaargh ! ! ! I don’t want to think about that.. LOL !

    • admin
      February 24, 2019

      Yikes! :O

  • Hope
    February 25, 2019

    Great story! ๐Ÿ–‹I love to hear about different things, from different times, different ways of life. If I ever see a gravy boat, I will certainly have second thoughts about getting one. Luckily I don’t care for gravy of any kind.
    Bravo Silly Old Sod!๐Ÿ‘
    Like you new header picture!๐Ÿ“ธ

    • admin
      February 25, 2019

      Thank you, Hope. Yes, be careful with those gravy boats ๐Ÿ™‚

  • roninjax
    February 27, 2019

    Interesting read Trev. Who knew? I wonder too about the gravy boat. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • admin
      February 27, 2019

      Thank you, Ron. Yep, you can never be too sure about the gravy boat! ๐Ÿ˜




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