THOMAS CRAPPER & Co. Ltd. - Plumber, Entrepreneur & By Royal Appointment.



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.

Thomas Crapper.


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 Royal Warrant.
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.