Origin, Meaning of the word 'Privy'
A Privy was the name for a Medieval lavatory. The Origin and Meaning of the word 'Privy' derives from the Latin word 'privatus' meaning private. The Privy was originally used to store clothes as the pungent smells deterred moths! This became the origin of the old term for the Privy, the Garderobe which in turn led to modern word wardrobe!

Alternative names for the Privy

Alternative names for the Privy was the garderobe, jakes, draught, and gong. The hapless people that cleaned and emptied the Privy were called Gong Farmers!


  • What was the Origin, Meaning or Definition of the Privy
  • Description of a castle Privy
  • Alternative names for the Privy?
  • Building the Privy
  • What did Gong Farmers do for a living?


Description of the Privy
The room in the castle called the Privy was intended for use as a toilet or latrine. There were many rooms used as lavatories, called privies, included in Medieval Castle. The Privy was originally positioned as far away from the chambers as practical and often had double doors added to reduce the smell! As time went on a private privy was built for the people who occupied important chambers and privies were “en suite,” meaning in the sleeping area. A private chamber privy was also used for quiet reading. Unlike many other castle rooms the Privy window had no glass - it was completely open - once again to reduce the noxious odours. The windows provided daylight and torches were also included in Privies. The Privy was freezing during the winter months! The garderobe was fitted with a wooden, or stone, bench with a hole in it. Sometimes there were as many as 4 - 6 holes! Chutes were provided for the discharge which often led to the castle moat. Iron bars were added to the chutes to prevent entry via the Privy to the castle by attackers! The Privy was supplemented by the use of chamber pots!

Building the Privy in a Castle
The Privy was sited at the end of a short passage in an outside wall occasionally sited in a buttress with a chute leading to a cess pit. Privies were also built in a fashion similar to machicolations as projecting parapets or platforms which were built out of the wall - similar to a balcony - over either a moat or river. Some larger castles had special towers, called latrine towers. The privy became obsolete as modern plumbing methods were developed.


Parts of a Castle

  • What were the purpose of the different parts of the Medieval Castle?
  • What was the difference between the parts of a castle called the Garderobe and the Wardrobe?
  • Identifying parts of a castle - Description, purpose and function of the Moat, Dungeon and Portcullis
  • Description, purpose and function of the Barbican, Gatehouse, Crenellations and Drawbridge
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