It’s fair to say, things have been pretty potty this week at Blenheim Palace. The stately home of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill has been cast into the spotlight, of what you could be forgiven for thinking is a slapstick sequel to The Italian Job.
The loo-t in question? A £4.8million solid gold toilet.
Don’t worry though it’s not a relic of Imperial might, used by Mr Churchill during wartime efforts while the rest of the British people were subjected to rationing. That would’ve been a loo-dicrus setup. The toilet is actually a newly commissioned piece of artwork, entitled America. A working loo that people can actually wee in (with usage limited to 3-minute time slots, there wasn’t much chance for anything else), it had been part of an exhibition to be used by visitors to the palace, which is the current home of the Duke of Marlborough.
With many a visitor having been attracted by the opportunity to use such a costly commode, it also drew the attention of nefarious types looking to pinch one-off…the premises.
On Saturday, a Hollywood-style heist saw thieves burst-in for the toilet, steal it and head off into the unknown.
Despite having nothing to go on, police have since arrested two people, but no trace of the toilet has been found. It’s quite hard to imagine how the thieves in questions managed to break into the World Heritage Site, rip a fully-functioning toilet out the wall, and make off without getting caught short.
Blenheim's chief executive Dominic Hare said the palace had "a sophisticated security system
", so how were they not able to lift the lid and flush out these crooks?
In all seriousness though, this is theft and while the loo’s removal has left significant damage to the 18th century building’s internal plumbing, the biggest fear is that it will be melted down into 18-karat liquid gold and we’ll never be privy to its whereabouts.
Observing this bizarre chain of events with my PR hat on (fedora if you were wondering), I can’t help but have a mixed opinion on how this will impact Blenheim.
If the loo isn’t ever found and we never find out the truth to this Sherlock Holmes-esque mystery, then 1) we may have to live in a world without a blockbuster film on the heist gracing the big screen, and 2) Blenheim’s tourism clout could suffer. Eyebrows have definitely been raised over its security and it could put off future exhibitors, loath to allow expensive artworks to be displayed in the palace.
If the toilet is found safe and well and returned to the stately home though, then I’d imagine tourism will spike as people flock to spend their pennies on spending a penny in a golden piddle pot. I didn’t even know the toilet existed until reading about its snatching across all the nationals, but now I’m desperate to use a solid gold loo.
Ultimately, the PR value of this unfortunate event lies solely on whether the loo is found. Great PR if found, but it will be much crapper PR if not. If only we had a Pickles on the case.