Saturday, April 9, 2016

H is for Haslar



H is for Haslar (and Heads)


USS Constellation (Head)

I don't often include pictures of toilets in my blog posts but I think it is important to remember just what conditions were like on board ship.  

This is a picture of a washbasin and toilet hole in the officers' head (bathroom) onboard the USS Constellation, a wooden-hulled sloop-of-war that served in the U.S. Navy from 1854-1933 and 1940-1955. It's now a museum ship in Baltimore, Maryland. The picture is courtesy of Kevin Harber on Flickr.  Creative Commons Licence here.

I tend to look at my ancestor's lives with rose-coloured glasses at times...how romantic being in the Navy and sailing the seven seas and all that.  But I'm sure at times it was just plain horrible and hideous.  

Toilets are called the Heads in sailor-speak so don't ever accept the offer of being Captain of the Heads if you're on board ship.  It sounds a grand title but it means you're in charge of the toilets...and when they're blocked..it isn't pretty! They were called heads because they were located at the bow or head of the ship.  Thanks to Jackspeak for this definition.

The Royal Hospital Haslar opened as a Royal Navy hospital in 1753 and was the largest hospital in England at the time.  Research into scurvy was conducted here.  It's where the first blood bank in England was set up during WWII.  The hospital closed in 2009.   For more history about the site go to the Haslar Heritage Group website.  There are some good articles there by Eric Birbeck.  For some amazing images visit this site. 

Some of you may remember the 2010 Time Team story about Cranfield University's archaelogical dig at the Haslar Hospital site. Fascinating stuff.



Don't forget to eat your oranges and lemons, will you and stay healthy?

14 comments:

Wendy said...

I didn't know why they are called "heads," so that is quite enlightening. Here's a toilet story for you: On a train in Italy, I noticed I could see the ground and railroad tracks through the bottom of the toilet. I bet there is toilet paper all along that route. I'd hate to live near there!
~Visiting from AtoZ

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

You seem to be following my life story in reverse! Before I lived near(ish) Chatham, I lived near Haslar, and was in the area still when it was closed. They say that the phrase "up the creek" is a reference to Haslar Creek but I don't know that it's true.

Aneeta said...

What a fascinating post and appropriate warning not to be flattered by the title 'Captain of the Head'!

Aneeta from
How to Tell a Great Story

Suzanne McClendon said...

Our oldest son has been in the US Navy since 2004, and our youngest son is a US Marine (since 2014), so "head" is an often used term around here. I think it is a funny term for the bathroom. I love your paragraph about the Captain of the Head. An icky job indeed. It's hard enough keeping them clean after three boys. I can't imagine going in after 1200!

Thanks for another very interesting post. Have a blessed weekend!

Jill Ball said...

Looks like there was a good view from the Heads (on this ship at least).

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

I suspect the image here bears little resemblance to the reality of the heads during a challenging sea voyage. I suppose my merchant seamen were familiar with them but can't imagine that being Captain of the Heads would have been compatible with being a steward. At least I surely hope not!

@cassmob from
Family History Across The Seas

Dianne said...

Not only is there a view out, there seems to be a view in!!
I find it hard to use the head in rough seas.
Another informative post, I enjoy them all.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Sheila....ooh I am intrigued by that legend of the origin of "up the creek".

Alex Daw said...

Thank you Aneeta..you are very kind.

Alex Daw said...

Thank you Suzanne ..you must be very proud of your boys!

Alex Daw said...

Yes Jill I was rather pleased to find this photo...it's quite evocative.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Pauleen...yes its very clean isn't it?

Alex Daw said...

Dear Dianne...now that made me higgle@

Alex Daw said...

And giggle!