THOMAS CRAPPER & Co. Ltd. - Plumber, Entrepreneur
& By Royal Appointment.
HISTORY OF CRAPPER & CO. - IN MORE DETAIL.
Thomas Crapper, 1836-1910; Sanitary Pioneer. Manufacturer, supplier
and installer of sanitary goods (bathroom fittings, W.C.s etc.)
plumbing and drainage. Improver and promoter of the 'Water Waste
Preventer' (the syphon fitted in British cisterns); promoted plumbed-in
bathroom fittings and brought them 'out of the closet'; inventor
and patentee; Sanitary Engineer and supplier of goods to kings,
princes, the nobility and gentry; founded Thomas Crapper & Co.
in 1861; successful entrepreneur, self-publicist, Mason and member
of the Royal Horticultural Society.
Thomas Crapper was born in Waterside, a hamlet near the
Yorkshire town of Thorne, in 1836. The exact date is unknown but
it is thought he was born in September. His family were of modest
means although his father, Charles, was a steamboat captain. When
he was around 14 years of age he was apprenticed to a Master Plumber
in Chelsea, London. After serving this apprenticeship and working
for three years as a 'journeyman plumber', in 1861 he set up his
own company at Robert Street, Chelsea.
Subsequently in 1866 he moved the expanding business to the Marlboro'
Works, in nearby Marlborough Road. (Much later the name of the
street was changed to become part of Draycott Avenue, as the General
Post Office complained there were too many roads in the capital
named after the war hero, the Duke of Marlborough).
Mr. Crapper took a partner, Robert Marr Wharam (pronounced 'Wareham')
who brought financial and accounting skills to the enterprise
and together they built a sizeable firm with an ever-greater reputation.
In the 1880s Queen Victoria purchased Sandringham house, in the
county of Norfolk, and gave it to her son, Edward, Prince of Wales
(later King Edward VII) for his principal residence. After a few
years he demolished the old house and began construction of a new
royal palace. Crapper & Co. were invited to supply and install their
finest wares for the bathrooms, cloakrooms and indeed all the plumbing
and drainage for the project. Thomas Crapper thus gained his first
During a tour of inspection of the work with the
Prince, His Royal Highness asked Mr. Crapper for a light for his
cigar. Our founder did not smoke and so could not oblige - but
from that day forward he habitually carried a gold matchbox in
his pocket! The firm received another warrant from Edward when
he became king and another from George V when he was Prince of
Wales. A fourth was granted (just after Mr. Crapper's death) in
1910 when George V ascended the throne.
Of course, such royal approval helped business greatly and Crapper
fittings were rightly considered the finest of the time. Many
commissions were received for sanitaryware for all manner of buildings,
both grand and not so grand. The list includes Park House, where
(much later!) Princess Diana was born and even Westminster Abbey.
Victorian Crapper goods are still doing reliable service in private
and public buildings all over Great Britain and abroad. The manhole
covers of Westminster Abbey (inscribed 'T. Crapper & Co., Sanitary
Engineers') are popular with tourists for wax-crayon rubbings
as mementoes of their visit! Some Crapper W.C.s were recently
discovered as far away as New Zealand. We are contacted regularly
by people who have antique Crapper wares in their homes and we
are pleased to assist with spare parts and restoration when required.
However, the company mainly prospered because of their famed
quality, attention to detail and service. Every item was checked
and tested before it left the works and only the best apprenticed
engineers were employed. From the earliest days a repairs workshop
was installed next to the foundry. The company could hardly conceal
their glee when regularly asked to repair broken sanitaryware
produced by less-fastidious competitors. It is doubtful that any
other firm offered such a service.
All the hard work paid off and Mr. Crapper enjoyed the fruits
of his labours and acquiredthe trappings of wealth: property,
land and chattels. He and his elder brother, George (who helped
him when he first established the business) drank in the Finborough
Arms, in Kensington. Regularly, they would begin the working day
in the tavern with a bottle of champagne - a tradition the current
managing director would dearly love to revive, but his staff would
not stand for it.