Yesterday I visited the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight, Wirral. While I was there I went to ladies’ loos. It was like stepping back many decades to the days when each cubicle had a penny slot machine on the door.
The pennies in question, which had to be inserted into the machine before the knob could be turned, the door opened and the deed done, were old pennies – also known as coppers (presumably because they contained copper). There were 240 pennies to a pound before decimalisation.
There was no need to pay to use the loos in the Lady Lever. The brass machines have been kept, beautifully and lovingly shone so they gleam, as a vintage feature. Back in the days when you did need a penny to do the necessary in a public loo, the euphemistic phrase “I’m just going to spend a penny” really did mean just that!