History of showers

Showers have been around for as long as people have, but not in the form we recognise today. Ancient people discovered that washing under a waterfall was far more effective than simply bathing in standing water. They then tried to imitate this phenomenon by pouring jugs and barrels of water over themselves. It is thought that the ancient Greeks were the first to invent what we think of today as actual showers; first it is thought that the elite Greeks would have their servants pour water of them in specially designed shower rooms, and then they invented the plumbing that allowed them to have hot running ‘waterfalls’ in their own homes. The Romans soon followed suit. These two ancient civilizations were very proud of their personal hygiene and believed in bathing almost every day, if not every single day.
It seems strange, then, that showers did not come into common usage in households in Britain until the late nineteenth century, and even then they were installed in very few households. Showering is actually a relatively new phenomenon in today’s Western world. The reasons for this are complex. Firstly, it is thought that after the fall of the Roman Empire and the growth of Christianity, regular washing was considered to be taboo for religious reasons. Hot water was also not as freely available as it is today, so many people preferred to heat kettles to have baths rather than have cold showers.
However, after several outbreaks of diseases such as cholera in the nineteenth century, public health became a major concern. Scientists realised that regular washing could prevent disease, and gradually the taboo against regular washing disappeared and it became common for people to bathe more regularly. In the 1920s council houses with bathrooms were introduced, but they remained a luxury for many years. Even in the 1960s there were many homes without a bathroom at all, never mind a shower, which made daily washing very impractical.
Hand pumped showers were actually around even in the late nineteenth century, but they were only owned by the most affluent members of society. What we think of as the shower today was invented by William Feetham in 1767, but didn’t come into common usage until after more than two hundred years! It was only in the late twentieth century that showers finally became popular, but once they did they quickly became more popular than baths.
Today, showering is seen as a far quicker and more hygienic way of washing than having a bath. Because most people wash on a daily basis, it has become necessary to have a quick and easy method of thoroughly washing. Bathing is still common, but has come to be seen as an activity for relaxation rather than practical purposes. For this reason, many households have replaced their baths with shower enclosures (walk in shower enclosures are becoming very popular), and baths are becoming the exception rather than the rule. Unless a bathroom is particularly large, it is unlikely that a bath would even be considered as part of its design.

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