Bet you think it’s Thomas Crapper?
You’d be partially correct if this is your guess but Mr. Crapper is just one of several men who can lay claim to ‘toilet inventor’.
There’s Sir John Harington who gave rise to the term ‘use the john’ and let’s not forget Mr. Brahms and Mr. Cummings who all had a hand in designing the greatest invention to human health – but don’t get a mention in popular culture.
The Earliest Toilets
There’s archaeological evidence to show running water was used to wash away sewage in the Bronze Age 4000 years ago and the Romans used running water to flush away waste in communal toilets – after they had all used the shared bottom wiping sponge.
So the water-filled toilet is an old idea, but it remained an expensive luxury up until Victorian times.
Until then most people used a basin and threw it out the window. The word ‘loo’ is derived from the French term ‘guardez-l’eau’ which the more socially aware would shout before launching the world most disgusting missile from the bedroom.
If you didn’t fancy smelling your own under the window all day you could also leave it outside for The Night Soil man to collect and turn into fertiliser.
Grim times with many diseases so thank goodness for Sir John Harington.
He was a godson of Queen Elizabeth and being somewhat badly-behaved was banished from court in 1596.
During his banishment he invented the water closet which was called the WC for short. It was a simple pan beneath a seat that was flushed with running water. No doubt invented to try and impress his godmother.
It worked – Sir John’s WC was installed at Richmond Palace and given a blessing by the Queen.
Unfortunately, it was then ignored until Alexander Cummings designed a properly usable WC in 1775. Then Mr. Joseph Brahms built on the design and patented a flushing water closet in 1778.
Welcome Mr. Crapper To The Table
Flushing toilets went quiet again until the arrival of Mr. Crapper. While he didn’t invent the flushing toilet, he did give his all to the public relations of his plumbing company.
Victorian Mr. Crapper patented the U bend, the floating ballcock, and pushed to install sinks next to toilets claiming to have invented ‘the lavatory’ a room where toilet and handbasin sit together.
Thomas Crapper put his name on every manhole in London and was employed as plumber to Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. He even has a website today.
So Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the modern flush toilet. That claim goes to several people, but probably Sir John Harington has the strongest claim.
It’s such a shame ‘I’m going for a Harington’ didn’t catch on.
Sir John must feel totally crap.