In present times most residents of the United Kingdom take properly working plumbing systems for granted. Most do not take the time to think about the history of plumbing or the way plumbing technology has evolved over time. Plumbing has a long and interesting history: a history that is worth exploring.
Plumbing first made its way into urban communities while the Romans and the Greeks were the powerful empires of the world. Plumbing was used by the Romans and Greeks for the public bathing houses that were so popular. Aqueducts came into fashion while the Romans were in power and they were used to carry clean water to the bathing houses and take the dirty water away. The Roman aqueduct system was used until the 1800s when advances in technology started a replacement process of the aqueducts by piping systems located underground.
In ancient times, the pipes were constructed mostly of lead while the aqueducts were constructed of clay or stone. This is a stark contrast to the plumbing materials used today. In present times copper, brass, steel or even plastic are the most popular construction materials for pipes and plumbing systems. Lead has been discontinued permanently because it has a high toxicity level.
The bath houses that the Romans enjoyed are considered the predecessors of plumbing as it currently exists. Originally, public bathing only occurred while the sun was up because the bath water was only replaced once each day. Remember, it was not until long after the Roman Empire fell that bacterium was discovered and the western world learned how diseases were spread with the obvious implications on bathing and personal hygiene. In Roman times, one water change each day was all they thought they needed.
Perhaps more important than the public baths and aqueducts, though, is the evolution of the modern toilet. The toilet that is so familiar to the modern western world was first invented around 2800 BC in Mohenjo-Darco and was made from a seat placed upon a pile of bricks. In those times only the highest class of society was allowed to use the toilet. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that the western world adopted the sit-down toilet that was popular with the ancient Romans.
As the western world adopted the plumbing and toilet structures that were invented in Roman times the technology surrounding the systems exploded in volume and size. In less than one hundred years the western world helped toilets and plumbing fixtures advance from aqueducts and sit down holes to the sophisticated and technically complex modern marvels that western people now take for granted.
Today plumbing technology places pipes underground and the open sewage drains and cesspools associated with the aqueducts are mostly gone. Plumbing technology, along with the other marvels of the modern world, continues to increase in cleanliness and efficiency.