Sponges-on-Sticks at the Ready

Vindolanda Trust - Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sponges-on-sticks at the ready: Roman Vindolanda fort twins its toilets

The Roman fort of Vindolanda in Northumberland has twinned its toilets, both ancient and modern, to help flush away poverty. Five Roman toilets, as well as modern facilities in the site’s museums, are being linked with latrines overseas through Toilet Twinning.

Toilet Twinning is a quirky and rather personal way to help the 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t have access to a safe, private and hygienic loo. It is a partnership between development agencies Cord and Tearfund to raise funds to help provide access to better sanitation, clean water and hygiene education.

Dr Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations at The Vindolanda Trust, explained what motivated this twinning: ‘Two thousand years ago, at the fort and town of Vindolanda, on the very edge of the Roman Empire, you could go to the loo in safety and with the confidence of using a well-built, engineered, clean and safe toilet no matter who you were.  This is one of the most important legacies the Romans left behind in Britain, and a foundation of their great civilisation.

‘What is staggering’ Andrew continued, ‘is that centuries later there remain millions of people who don’t have access to such fundamental and important facilities. We feel that the ancient Romans would have been appalled by this fact and would have wanted to do something about it, and now, through Toilet Twinning, we can.’

Visitors to Vindolanda can admire the ancient communal loos and learn about Roman hygiene and the ‘spongia’: a sponge on a stick used for cleansing. The modern museum toilets aren’t communal; they have the luxury of a door along with soft paper and running water. These doors now proudly display the Toilet Twinning certificates.  

‘We sincerely hope our visitors will be inspired to twin their own toilets, in order to extend this most basic provision to others.’  said Andrew.

Everyone who twins their toilets is awarded a Toilet Twinning certificate, with a photo of the twin latrine and its GPS coordinates. The exact location of the twin latrine can be pinpointed using Google maps.

Lorraine Kingsley, chief executive of Toilet Twinning, said: ‘We are thrilled that Vindolanda is partnering with us - and helping to flush away poverty. Just as the Romans brought many benefits to Britain, now the Vindolanda Trust are reciprocating by helping to bring transformation to poor communities overseas.’ 

To find out more about Toilet Twinning or to twin your own loo visit www.toilettwinning.org


Photos: Jpegs available of:

●       Trying out the communal latrines and spongia at Vindolanda (credit: The Vindolanda Trust)

●        Toilet Twinning certificate (credit: Toilet Twinning)

For further information please contact:

Louise Thomas, Toilet Twinning, 020 8943 7780 or 07590 775847 louise.thomas@tearfund.org





Follow us on Twitter: @toilettwinning


Sonya Galloway, The Vindolanda Trust, 01434 344277



Follow us on Twitter: @VindolandaTrust


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