The Long Drop

Until I moved to the northeast of England I had never heard of the word ‘netty’.  It was when we moved into a converted byre I discovered that our immediate neighbour had two at the bottom of his garden.  These are substantial stone-built structures that could withstand a direct nuclear attack. However, they pale into insignificance compared with the architectural wonder that is the The Long Drop. According to the history page at Roses Bower Farm, this is the highest perched ‘netty’ in England. Remarkably, it was used until the mid 1950’s when Bob Murdie installed the farm’s first flush loo. Before that time, the short walk down the hill to the Long Drop must have been a pleasant alternative to the ‘thunderbox’ located in the farm yard!  Not something to negotiate in a drunken stupor:

The Long Drop

This is such rarity that of all the derelict structures at Roses Bower, the netty is the only one to have been renovated. These buildings were reputedly the home of Rosamund Dodd. Legend has it that Rosamund fell in love with a Charlton chieftain and the two of them built the original dwelling as a discreet lovers nest, probably during the early 1500’s. A bower is a secluded place and hence Rosamund’s bower became Rose’s Bower, which in the 1900’s simply became Roses Bower. There are still significant remains including one resident who suffered The Long Wait:

Low Roses Bower Low Roses Bower Low Roses Bower Low Roses Bower

(click on the images to enlarge)


  1. easyweimaraner · June 18, 2014

    It’s a great place to discover treasures from the past, thanks for sharing a great post about such an interesting place with me

  2. throughenglisheyesmark · June 18, 2014

    A lovely set of images, well done 🙂

  3. Thom Hickey · June 18, 2014

    Thanks. Fascinating spooky stuff. Regards thom

    • northumbrianlight · June 18, 2014

      Many thanks Thorn – there must be ghosts aplenty at Roses Bower 😈

  4. LaVagabonde · June 18, 2014

    Now I know what a ‘netty’ is, but what’s a ‘byre’?

    • northumbrianlight · June 18, 2014

      A byre is a cowshed – when we first saw ours it still had the milking stalls in place and a central drainage channel which ran down to a cundy (a large stone built drain). You have given me an idea – some time I will post some pictures of how it was.

  5. Cate Franklyn · June 18, 2014

    I love these little gems of North England history.

    • northumbrianlight · June 18, 2014

      Thanks Cate – me too. We came across this one quite by chance whilst on a walk out in the wilds of Northumberland.

  6. katieprior · June 18, 2014

    Great images and a fascinating story, the nettles at the long drop made me cringe though!

    • northumbrianlight · June 18, 2014

      Thanks Kate. The possibilities for an uncomfortable visit are endless 🙂

  7. What a fantastic place! I love seeing derelicts where nature is reclaiming the space 🙂 Nice processing too!

    • northumbrianlight · June 18, 2014

      Many thanks Sarah – Roses Bower is in a beautiful setting above Warks Burn which meanders down to the North Tyne, 5 miles to the east.

  8. suej · June 18, 2014

    I love these old places with a history… 🙂

  9. littledogslaughed · June 19, 2014

    Fascinating-always interesting to learn about older structures elsewhere and terrific pictures too Robin!

    • northumbrianlight · June 19, 2014

      Many thanks Meg – it was an unexpected bonus finding this on an amble around the wilds of Northumberland.

  10. Tish Farrell · June 20, 2014

    Love your long-drop piece, Robin. They are of course still a feature of Kenyan life, with many news stories surrounding them – tales of collapse and lost babies due to unexpectedly giving birth while paying a call. They get a mention too (plug alert) in my recent post/story excerpt e-Xtract.
    But I also remember them in my rural Cheshire growing up in the ’50s. Our farmer neighbours still used one that was quite a way down the garden, and a source of anxiety when I stayed with them once. In fact at that time is was a mark of great modernity for otherwise quite well heeled Georgian farmhouses to upgrade from the longdrop to the elsan, said malodorous vessel placed discretely in some former bedroom, behind a heavy plastic curtain. Interesting topic – human waste management!

    • northumbrianlight · June 20, 2014

      Fascinating topic isn’t it 🙂 Your Cheshire upbringing must have been more rural than mine – everything was plumbed and indoors in Hale 🙂 My grandparents’ outdoor privy with cut-up pages from the Andover Advertiser was quite primitive enough for me. Such facilities always remind me of Michael Palin’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ i.e. the similar arrangements on a dhow – tricky in a rough sea I imagine. I think I will stick with P&O.
      PS – thoroughly enjoyed the eXtract.

  11. Malin H · June 24, 2014

    Excellent post and fantastic images!!!

  12. elisa ruland · June 28, 2014

    I can’t imagine that most of the structures built today would withstand the long test of time, as did the netty. (love using new words). Great find, beautiful shots and background story.

    • northumbrianlight · June 28, 2014

      Thanks Elisa – as you say, even modest buildings were made to last which seems to demonstrate great faith in the future. I like ‘netty’ too – can’t imagine its derivation. All the best – R

  13. Raymond Scott · June 10

    I remember this place from over 60 years ago. I attended Brownrigg Boarding School as a pupil and we used to roam the countryside on adventures. Happy memories.

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