Wash Stand and Basin

The modern wash-basin is very similar to its Victorian ancestor, but it has replaced the pottery or metal bowl on a wash stand that was used in previous periods and continued in use for much of the 19th century.

The wash-basin we use today was preceded by a bowl or dish, placed on a piece of furniture known as a 'wash stand'. The top of this was often either of marble or else tiled. The bowl was originally of a metal such as copper or pewter. Earthenware and porcelain versions were widespread by the mid-18th century. British bowls were decorated with transfer designs, rather than being hand-painted. A jug or ewer was used to fill and empty the bowl.

The next evolution was to set the bowl into the surface of the wash-stand, and then an outlet was added, with a plug or valve, to make it easier to empty.

With the introduction of piped water, the washbasin could be plumbed in. An overflow was added so that the excess water could flow away if a tap was left on.

New designs of porcelain washbasins incorporated holes for taps, soap trays, and later splash backs. All these innovations reduced the number of joints required, simplifying cleaning and reducing the damage from spilled water.

The basin was set into a floor-standing cabinet or a shallow box which was then supported on legs. Alternatively cast iron brackets or legs were used. Pedestal basins appeared in the Edwardian period, becoming more common in the 1920s and 30s.

Taps (the US term being 'faucet') were usually of polished brass or nickel plate until 1929 when chromium plate began to take over as the most popular and most resistant coating.