We are talking about urine deflectors! At the beginning of the 19th century, urinating on the street became so common that the stench in some places began to become unbearable, and even the walls themselves began to corrode.
That’s why the first urine deflectors were installed, so that anyone hoping to pee in those corners would see urine ending up on their shoes!
So many were installed that many people began to complain. In fact a correspondent of The Farmer’s Magazine wrote in 1809 that “…in London a man may sometimes walk a mile before he can meet a suitable corner” characterizing these deflectors as ‘ridiculous’.
The most well-known is to be found at Cliffords Inn Passage, consisting of long metal strips, angled to drain urine into the gutter or rather onto the perpetrator’s shoes.
Another well-known urine deflector is located behind the Bank of England, in Lothbury, and yet another similar structure used to be at the entrance to the Staple Inn, a pointed semi-circular metal bar, but which has meanwhile been removed.
Exploring the city, we came across other possible urine deflectors. But in reality it is not easy in some cases to be sure of the original function of these structures, which could also have been installed in more modern times, perhaps as part of the so-called hostile architecture, an urban design strategy that aims to intentionally limit certain types of behaviour regarded as vandalism.
If you’re curious you can watch the video of the urinal deflectors in London on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter!
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