Well and outbuildings at Chawton
As for washing, and personal hygiene, when you visit Janes cottage at Chawton you can see inside her and Cassandra’s bedroom a cupboard with a jug and basin for washing their hands and face but also a chamber pot. This was used during the night to urinate or defecate in. Imagine doing that with somebody sharing your room.
Whether the water in the jug for washing was hot or cold can only be speculated. To heat the water up would have taken a lot of effort. Not only drawing from the water from well but then heating it over the open fire in the kitchen and then taking it upstairs. I would speculate that Jane mostly got washed in cold water even in the winter. Perhaps an ice pick to break the ice would have been appropriate in winter months.
Wash basin and chamber in Jane's room at Chawton
The chamber pot would have had to be emptied in the morning. At the time cesspits were popular but they could smell and overflow. Claire Tomlin says that Edward had a new cesspit dug for them. However another and I would say more hygienic method of dealing with human excrement used at the time was a dry earth closet.
A dry earth closet is a wooden seat with a hole in the top, with a bucket underneath. Dry earth or peat is then ladled on top of the human waste to reduce the smell and to help it decay. When the bucket is full the contents are then dug into the garden to help the vegetables and plants grow. (Last image at bottom: view of the garden from Chawton cottage.)
Some people have even attached religious significance to the use of earth closets. They believe using an earth closet is a way of returning Gods minerals to the ground where it came from.
Perhaps we all need to have modern earth closets installed.
Posted by Tony Grant, London Calling
PS: Continuing the subject, Vic wrote a review on Jane Austen's World about Privies and Water Closets.