Excelsior Night Soil Service advertisement 1899

Early Strathfield sanitary services

By Cathy Jones

Prior to the connection of sewerage services in Strathfield and Homebush, toilets were located in outhouses (a small shed containing a toilet) located at the rear of the house. Bathrooms in homes did not contain toilets prior to the installation of sewerage utilities. Human waste (also known by a historical euphemism ‘night soil’ or according to Wikipedia, the modern term is  fecal sludge) was deposited into pans and was collected by contractors, who visited each house and picked up the pans on a frequent basis usually at night. One such collector was Mr A Hainke, the owner of the Excelsior Sanitary Waggon and Pans, located at Liverpool Road Druitt Town (now Strathfield South).

In an article dated 1899, it was reported that Mr. Hainke’s system was used by the councils of Strathfield, Concord, Drummoyne, and Five Dock (Strathfield Council and the former Concord Council are featured in the ad for Excelsior featured above and below).  Testimonials to this system were provided by Ald. F. W. Parsons, Mayor of Strathfield; Ald. Allen, late Mayor of Strathfield; Mr. James Dight, M.P., Redmyre Road, Strathfield ; Ald. W. K. Chapman; Mayor of Concord; Mr. Joseph N. Horne, Inspector of Nuisances, Strathfield Council and Messrs. James B. Orr and J. E. Knight, 149 King-street, Sydney, late of The Pharmacy, Homebush.


The article describes the system as ‘speedy and efficacious’ and states that “the ground is prepared by trenching, and the contents of some 1 500 to 2000 of the air-tight pans are deposited therein daily, under the supervision of the manager. Owing to the chemical process there is an entire absence of offensive effluvia, all germs being destroyed. The trenches are at once filled and the waggons and pan thoroughly cleaned.

In cases where contagious diseases are known to exist each pan under goes the process of cleaning three times, after which they are exposed to the sun and air for some time. Then they are again packed into the waggons, ready for the next day’s work. The area of the ground is about 550 acres, secured by a substantial paling fence, and divided into small paddocks for vegetable gardens.

For, owing to the above-mentioned chemical process, in time the ground becomes very fertile, and suited to the growth of fruit trees and vegetables that would well compete with those grown on the model farms. Taking into consideration the prevalence of such epidemics as measles, scarlet fever, and diptheria, it is to be regretted that Mr. Hainke’s sanitary system is not more universally adopted. Mr. Hainke is certainly to be congratulated on the success of his sanitary efforts”.


National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), Monday 2 January 1899, page 3

© Cathy Jones 2019

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One comment

  1. Fascinating. I wonder what was added to the mixture to sanitize it. Sounds more eco
    friendly than what they do now – and they grew veggies from it!!


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