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Unknown contraption in Victorian flat

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JimmieS27/07/2017 16:58:18
290 forum posts
1 photos

Anyone able to identify this heavily painted over contraption behind the outer door of our daughter's Victorian flat in Glasgow.

Many thanks


img_4754 (1).jpg

David Colwill27/07/2017 17:09:14
774 forum posts
40 photos

At a guess it is part of a cable operated bell system for summoning the servants. They often had handles in the main rooms (the doorbell was similar but outside). These led back to the servants quarters where there were a number of bells on springs. Upon hearing the bell the servant would be able to see which room had rung. the spring kept the bell moving for a considerable time.

Many thanks.


JimmieS27/07/2017 17:25:14
290 forum posts
1 photos

Thanks David for you suggestion Should have added that she had a water leak recently and the plumber was unable to find the stop cock for her flat so had to turn the supply off for the whole building which went down well!. Could this be it although it would be unlikely being some 4 feet up from the floor.


mechman4827/07/2017 18:41:31
2947 forum posts
468 photos

Clean it off & see if there are any markings on it or the surround...face 22

Steven Vine27/07/2017 19:27:03
340 forum posts
30 photos

Ok, a big stab in the dark here. The round thingy in the middle of the flat bar looks like some sort of pulley. Maybe a cable entered the housing through the hole at 12oclock, went round the pulley thingy, and exited the housing through the hole at 3 oclock.

I've seen quite a few 'dead' housings (made from plaster or wood)similar to that in the old houses I've worked on over the years, but no idea of the function.


mechman4827/07/2017 21:34:02
2947 forum posts
468 photos

On closer looking at I would tend to agree with Steve that it does look like some sort of single pulley arrangement so could possibly be a form of front door / servants call bell arrangement.


Hopper27/07/2017 23:40:05
6217 forum posts
321 photos

Pull the handle and see if the servants come running.

Bazyle28/07/2017 01:04:08
6301 forum posts
222 photos

Check the other houses in the street - one may be better preserved.

Geoff Theasby28/07/2017 01:38:30
613 forum posts
17 photos

"Off the wall" suggestion... I've seen things like this which give access to a chimney flue, for inspection or cleaning purposes. A removable panel a few inches square.


I.M. OUTAHERE28/07/2017 07:05:44
1468 forum posts
3 photos

Flip the lever and see if scotch flows out of the hole , whiskey bubbler pehaps 👍

Edited By XD 351 on 28/07/2017 07:06:25

Edited By XD 351 on 28/07/2017 07:07:07

Martin Shaw 128/07/2017 22:36:47
124 forum posts
37 photos


It's still fairly unusual to find individual stopcocks for tenement flats. When they were built the cold supply from the street runs under the close floor, branches into two and then runs up the kitchen wall to the attic. Each kitchen had a cold tap fed fron this, the attic cistern was typically built from 6" by 3" timber half lapped at the joints and then lead lined, about a 1000 gallons. A supply from this went down the building, each flat tapping off for bathroom cold and hot water cold feed, which is part of the reason why bathrooms were often at the front of buildings. What's the betting that your daughters bathroom is long and thin, and not really big enough for a bath.

I have been to one or two tenements where this cistern arrangement was still in use, but I wouldn't want to live under a 1000 gallons of water contained in a 130 or so year old tank. Didn't really want to go in the attic either, feet deep in pigeon guano at best. More recently when lead pipe removal attracted grants, flats were often repiped and everything connected to mains water, but a lot depended on the factors inclination. Your picture is most definitely not the stopcock but is the remains of a mechanical door bell.


Martin (in Glasgow)

Ady129/07/2017 00:23:45
5069 forum posts
734 photos

she had a water leak recently and the plumber was unable to find the stop cock for her flat so had to turn the supply off for the whole building

They used to just go into the loft, stick an arm into the tank and bung the hole that went to your flat

Not so simple with mains pressure systems

JimmieS29/07/2017 16:42:18
290 forum posts
1 photos

Many thanks to all posters especially Martin for his local knowledge. Our daughter is in a main door flat which, should an attic tank leak, will be the last to suffer. If that happens lets hope there are enough fully carpeted flats above to absorb most of the flood!


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