Nowadays many of the houses have extensions built onto them to remedy some of the “no internal plumbing” issues. These extensions are usually at the back of the house, over the yard and are either one storey, with the bathroom downstairs, behind or to the side of the kitchen, or two storey, either with an extended kitchen downstairs and the bathroom upstairs, or with the bathroom downstairs in the extension and a third bedroom or second bathroom added upstairs, depending on the family’s needs at the time.
Just to clarify, houses on this plan with outside toilets haven’t been built in the UK for many years, but vast numbers of them went up in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. The inner suburbs of virtually any British city consist of little else. They have, of course, now been converted to squeeze an inside toilet and bathroom in.
Another phrase you might hear regarding Victorian era housing is “back-to-back”. This describes a double terrace of houses which share common rearwalls. So they have no back yard or back door. In this type of house there is no room to add a bathroom.
Here is a photo of a terrace of two-up-two-downs near Bolton in Lancashire. The front doors open straight onto the street from the front room. I lived in a house not dissimilar to this in Sheffield when I was at university - the front room had been converted into a bedroom, so I could go out the front door straight from my room. (The rest of my housemates had to use the back door.) We did have a small upstairs bathroom - sadly the outdoor toilet was no longer functional, as it would have come in handy when my female housemate hogged the bathroom!
Here’ a Google Maps aerial view of the same street as shown above. The toilets would presumably have been in the yard at the back. (Note the alley running behind Water Street, called “Back Water Street”.)
In Leeds there are around 17000 back to backhouses still standing , probably more, than any other UK city, Birmingham which is a very much larger city only has eight remianing examples and these have been preserved, its a bit odd to live in a city that is effectively a Victorian museum.
The practice of building back to backs was outlawed under local byelaws in most cities around 1905 under the Local Government Provisional Orders (Housing of Working Classes) (no.2) Bill,which also gave city councils the power of compulsory purchase for the purposes of demolishing unfit housing, including in Leeds, however, during the consultation process before the law was enacted many landowners applied and were granted planning permission in the last few years leading up to 1905. The actual houses were often not constructed for several decades.
This planning permission was valid for another 30 years, it would have been longer but more local byelaws were enacted to close the loophole.
The result was that despite new construction being banned, further back to back houses were added to the housing stock in Leeds right up to the 1930’s.
There were three or four basic structures of this type of house, the earlier type ones are all long gone, they were already being demolished in the 1880’s having been constructed often very poorly in the early 1800’s.
The ones that survive are almost entirely the latter type III but isolated type II may still be around.
A set of housing that was of international note back in 1938 to the extent that Mussolini bragged that when the Axis won the war, Italian troops would be stationed in them…turns out that all that had been done was to replace back to back slums with mulit-level slums and they were demolished in the late 1970’s - less than 35 years life for the project from beginning to end.
And to the present day, here is a local real estate webpage, you’ll find plenty of back to backs on sale, but look at the prices, £110k and up ! no wonder the credit crunch is making these houses look overvalued.
Note on some of these houses the upper windows built our of the roof, this is to add a second bedroom, to replace the original second bedroom on the middle level whcih was used to fit an indoor bathroom - when the outside communal facilites were demolished in the early 1960’s.