Thomas Crapper (1836-1910)

Thomas Crapper is often credited with inventing the flush toilet. This he did not do but can be credited with developing a range of sanitary-ware and plumbing connected with the original invention.

The lavatory or water-closet was invented much earlier in the Elizabethan age by Sir John Harrington in 1596. Hence the polite term ‘to visit the john’. Elizabeth 1st had more than one type of throne. She would have: she was Harrington’s godmother. Nor did the term crap originate with Crapper’s name – it is a much earlier Middle English derivation – but has become synonymous with it. The epithet Sir has also been misappropriated to Thomas Crapper. He was never knighted. What we do know is that today Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd is a thriving sanitary-ware business with a worldwide reputation.

Thomas Crapper spent the last six years of his life living at 12 Thornsett Road, Anerley, SE20. His house is next to that of Walter de la Mare, both now with blue plaques, but they lived in the road at different times.

60 years before Crapper was born in Thorne, South Yorkshire, in 1836, the first patent for a flushing toilet was made by watchmaker Alexander Cumming. From the age of fourteen, as a trainee plumber apprenticed to his brother George in Chelsea, Crapper had a mind to capitalise on the invention. By the age of twenty-five he owned his own plumbing business and opened his first bathroom showroom in 1870. He became a pioneer in bathroom showrooms. His clients were the wealthy and noble. Soon he became very rich, receiving several royal warrants.His first royal warrant was from Prince Edward to supply plumbing and thirty lavatories at Sandringham. Several more royal warrants followed from Edward as king and then by George V.

A pioneer of such plumbing engineering and successful for many years (the floating ball-cock was his unique invention) Thomas Crapper passed the firm to his nephew and retired in 1904. He died in 1910 in Anerley at the age of 74. He is buried in Elmers End Cemetery.

Thomas Crapper & Co survived as a firm until 1966 when it was sold. In 1969 it went into liquidation. But it was relaunched by Simon Kirby as Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd and is based at Stratford-upon-Avon where it specialises in heritage-inspired sanitary-ware using Crapper’s unique name and style. Check out the website link below.