Last edited 28 Feb 2021

Pull chain

Flush toilets .jpg
Edwardian-style flush toilets. The pull chains can be seen on the right of each cistern.(Image: Be Water from Pixabay)

Pull chains are typically found on old-fashioned toilet cisterns which comprise two parts: a wall-mounted cistern (containing water) connected by a pipe to the toilet bowl below. The distance between cistern and bowl would typically be in the region of 1200mm-1500mm in order to create the required head of water. This would ensure a forceful water flush could be directed to the bowl and be more effective in carrying away waste matter.

As the cistern could typically be 2m or more above floor level and therefore out of reach of some people, the only way to activate the flush was by pulling a chain which dangled from the cistern. In Victorian times, these chains were usually terminated with a handle which was usually a hollow ceramic tube that was frequently decorated.

Modern toilet flushing systems have evolved so that achieving a water head through height is not necessary. This allows the cistern to be located just above the top level of the bowl, resulting in a more compact and elegant arrangement. However, victorian-style reproductions are available and are popular in the refurbishment of older properties.

Although widely attributed to the Victorian Sir Thomas Crapper, the flushing toilet is actually thought to have been invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington.

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