ON THIS DAY: Death of Doncaster toilet pioneer Thomas Crapper

An advert for Thomas Crapper products.
An advert for Thomas Crapper products.
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It was 106 years ago today that a Doncaster-born man whose name became synonymous with toilets died.

Thorne-born Thomas Crapper died on January 27, 1910 - and more than a century after his death, his contribution to modern society is a massive one.

A Thomas Crapper cistern.

A Thomas Crapper cistern.

Contrary to popular belief, the plumber who founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London, did not invent the flush toilet.

He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock.

He was noted for the quality of his products and received several royal warrants.

Manhole covers with Crapper's company's name on them in Westminster Abbey are now one of London's minor tourist attractions.

Thomas Crapper

Thomas Crapper

Thomas Crapper & Co owned the world's first bath, toilet and sink showroom, in King's Road until 1966. The firm's lavatorial equipment was manufactured at premises in nearby Marlborough Road.

He was born in Waterside, Thorne in 1836 - the exact date is unknown, but he was baptised on 28 September 1836.

In 1853 he was apprenticed to his brother George, who was a master plumber in Chelsea. After his apprenticeship and three years as a journeyman plumber, in 1861 Crapper set himself up as a sanitary engineer, with his own brass foundry and workshops in nearby Marlborough Road.

The flushing toilet was invented by John Harrington in 1596. Joseph Bramah of Yorkshire patented the first practical water closet in England in 1778. George Jennings in 1852 also took out a patent for the flush-out toilet. In a time when bathroom fixtures were barely spoken of, Crapper heavily promoted sanitary plumbing and pioneered the concept of the bathroom fittings showroom.

In the 1880s, Prince Edward (later Edward VII) purchased his country seat of Sandringham House in Norfolk and asked Thomas Crapper & Co. to supply the plumbing, including thirty lavatories with cedarwood seats and enclosures, thus giving Crapper his first Royal Warrant. The firm received further warrants from Edward as king and from George V both as Prince of Wales and as king.

In 1904, Crapper retired, passing the firm to his nephew George and his business partner Robert Marr Wharam. Crapper lived at 12 Thornsett Road, Anerley, for the last six years of his life and died on 27 January 1910. He was buried in the nearby Elmers End Cemetery.

It has often been claimed in popular culture that the slang term for human bodily waste, crap, originated with Thomas Crapper because of his association with lavatories. A common version of this story is that American servicemen stationed in England during World War I saw his name on cisterns and used it as army slang, i.e. "I'm going to the crapper".