Thomas Crapper was born in Yorkshire in 1836, into a family of modest means. At 14 years of age he was apprenticed to a Master Plumber in Chelsea, London. After serving his apprenticeship and then working as a journeyman, he set up in his own right in 1861 as a plumber in Robert Street, Chelsea.
Five years later he moved to larger premises, Marlboro' Works, in nearby Marlborough Road. He quickly gained a singular reputation for quality and service; the company expanded and by 1907 had established a flagship on the King's Road opposite Royal Avenue.
It is popularly thought that Mr. Crapper invented the W.C., and that the vulgar word for faeces is a derivative of his name, but neither belief is true. However, etymologists attest that the Amercian word, "crapper", meaning the W.C. is directly from his name. He relentlessly promoted sanitary fittings to a somewhat dirty and sceptical world and championed the 'water-waste-preventing cistern syphon' in particular. Indeed, he invented the bathroom showroom and displayed his wares in large plate glass windows at the Marlboro' Works. This caused quite a stir and it is said that ladies observing the china bowls in the windows became faint at this shocking sight!
Mr. Crapper's inventiveness was well known; he registered a number of patents, one of which was the 'Disconnecting Trap' which became an essential underground drains fitting. This alone was a great leap forward in the campaign against disease. Amongst others was one for a spring-loaded loo seat which, as the encumbent arose, leapt up pulling rods which automatically flushed the cistern! This was rather less successful. Over time, the rubber buffers on the underside of the seat began to perish, and became sticky. This caused the seat to remain down, attached to the loo pan for a few seconds as the user got to his feet. Seconds later the seat, under stress from the powerful springs, would free itself and sweep violently upwards - striking the unfortunate Victorian on the bare bottom! The device became popularly known as the 'Bottom Slapper', consequently was not a commercial triumph.
By the 1880's, Crapper & Co.'s reputation was such that they were invited to supply the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) at Sandringham. Subsequently, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey all benefited from Crapper goods and services. Today, the Crapper manhole covers in the Abbey are popular for brass rubbings! Crapper & Co. remained by Royal Appointment to Edward when he became king and was also warranted by George V, as Prince of Wales and once again as king.
Thomas Crapper died in 1910 and was buried near the grave of the cricketer, W.G. Grace, in Elmers End Cemetery. The company continued under the guidance of his old partner Robert M. Wharam, his son Robert G. Wharam and Mr. Crapper's nephew George Crapper. However by the late 1950s, after the demise of the original partners, it was evident to Robert G. Wharam that with no Crappers or Wharams left to run the business, the sale of the company was becoming inevitable. In addition, perhaps people cared little for quality and tradition during that period. In 1963 came the end of an era; Thomas Crapper & Co. became the property of a rival, Messrs. John Bolding & Sons, Ltd..
Subsequently this distinguished firm endured fallow years - BUT SURVIVED - and is now an independent company once again. Having held four royal warrants and having existed through five reigns over 148 years, Thomas Crapper & Co. is once again manufacturing the finest bathroom fittings.