Auktionshaus Bergmann

We constantly research items and customs and have seen some pretty strange situations where someone has bought an item or is trying to sell an item and has absolutely no idea what it is.  The owner of an antiques store I used to frequent told me she was selling chamber pots like gangbusters because “upwardly mobile” women caught up in the antiques movement thought they were soup tureens.  When I asked if she told them what they were she said no, their money was green and when they left the store she didn’t care what they used them for.  I still laugh every time I see one and the “one-handled soup tureen” is a running joke with us as we shop.

Equally bizarre was an antique store proprietress who had a Victorian body basket (coffin) in her shop for sale labeled as a vegetable basket.  A 6-foot-long vegetable basket with handles down each side?  Even after I explained to her what it was she went on to tell us she puts it on her dining room table at Easter with flowers, Easter eggs, and pastries in it, but that’s fodder for another post.

Riding the same train of thought as the chamber pot-soup tureen we recently wondered how many 18th century female urinals are locked away in china cabinets or gracing holiday tables under the guise of a gravy boat.  The urinals were used in days when there were no public toilets, read here, “no rooms designated just for relieving one’s self”.  Women would lift the layers of petticoats, work around panniers or other foundation support, and let go, perhaps in a dark corner or behind a screen, the thought of which makes me shudder today.

The urinals were made of faience or porcelain, silver, glass, pottery, creamware, leather, or earthenware and were priced for sale according to their quality and extravagance.  They were made in English factories and also in China for export.  Often they came with box or a leather case for carrying and storage.  Increasing the likelihood that they may be thought gravy boats is the fact that they sometimes came in the same patterns as dinnerware.

he urinals were known by other names such as coach pot, carriage pot, slipper, traveling chamber pot, and multiple spellings of bordaloo (bordalou, Bourdaloue, etc.) or in France pots de chambre.  Legend has it the vessels were called a bordaloo because ladies attending the long-winded sermons of Bourdeloue often needed to relieve themselves before the end of services.

They have a ring handle on one end, the other end open, they may or may not have had a lid, and in many cases with antiques the lids may have been broken at some point in the piece’s history.  The open end is usually slightly, sometimes very slightly, in-turned at the tip rather than turned outward more like a pouring spout.

The pieces were used throughout the 18th and into the 19th century.  I leave you with a smile and a gentle reminder that a little research goes a long way.  Good day, all.  –  ©


bordaloos, English auction site

bordalou (1)


Christies auction


decorative pot de chambre

pots de chambre

Sworders auctions, uk, bordalou

gilt bordaloo