Lots of old Victorian houses that have been converted into student accommodation would have had an old-style privy (outside toilet) in the back garden. Most will have been demolished or decommissioned over the years, and while a few may still function, they’re unlikely to be welcoming places you’d be willing to venture into to ‘spend a penny’.

Most owners of student houses with an outside toilet simply don’t want the hassle of maintaining them and making sure the water pipes to them don’t freeze during the winter months. It’s far easier to get rid of them and reduce the hassle. Reducing the hassle is a common theme when it comes to much of the beauty and integrity of these lovely Victorian student houses. Why go to the expense of retaining and maintaining the character of a house when it’s arguably easier to strip everything away? After all, the commonly held view is that the students won’t appreciate what you do and will just trash the house anyway, so why bother?!

You’ve only got to walk around many of the streets in Lenton and you’ll find that the student houses are usually pretty easy to identify. The lovely front gardens many of these houses once had will have given way to concrete to provide a parking space or an area to store wheelie bins. In many cases it’s the same inside: fireplaces will have been ripped out; elaborate cornice rails and ceiling roses will be gone; classic Milton floored tiles will have been carpeted over and stained-glass doors replaced with something basic from the local timber merchants!

When we bought 66 Sherwin Road in 2015 it was already a licensed student HMO, but it was in need of some major TLC. We were faced with a decision: do we rip everything out, including the character of the building and just turn the house into another ‘vanilla’ student house or do we try and upgrade the house whilst maintaining as much of the character of the original building as possible? We chose the latter option and this extended to a sympathetic repair of the outside privy!

The re-roofed privy

We decided we wanted our student house to be a comfortable, warm, inviting, light, secure, safe and pleasant to live in and we wanted it to retain as much of the original heritage as possible. As parents of three students ourselves, we wanted the parents of the students staying in the house to walk into the house and be happy with the choice that their son or daughter had made.

We believed — and this was a risk — that if we presented a clean, well-presented, well-maintained and loved house then the students would respect the house and look after it for us. Well, they have, and we are incredibly grateful for the support we’ve had from the students (and their parents) that have rented our house over the last 3–4 years.

This summer we continued with our rolling program of work on the house and overhauled the outside toilet. Why? Well, we did it because we want the students to be able to enjoy the garden and have BBQs and friends around and have easy access to a toilet. It’s also really handy for us when we visit (as we do most months) to tend to the gardens. It may be a small thing but in our view these small things matter.