The Name’s Crapper

It is amazing when you think about the number of leaps forward that the Victorians made when it comes to science, technology and engineering.

The list of their achievements is an extensive one.

Yet one that often gets overlooked, is the advances they made in sanitation and sanitary engineering.

Indeed , the advances the Victorians made with regard to the disposal of household ordure are truly impressive, and it could be argued that those 19th century sanitary engineers did more to save lives than some of the medical pioneers of the age.

Over on the YouTube Channel, I feature many videos that focus on everyday life in the Victorian Metropolis.


Take for example, the sewers under London.

From 1858, following a long and hot summer, the River Thames all but dried up, and, given that up to that point it had been the main sewer for London, the result was not a pleasant one.

The smell across the capital was so bad that the year became infamous as the yes of the “Great Stink.”

The politicians, who were directly affected by it on account of the fact that the Houses of Parliament were right over the Thames, decided that something had to be done about it, and tasked the Ministry of Works with solving the problem once and for all.


The man who came forward to help rid London of the toxic effects of using the Thames as a convenient sewer was Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who, over the next twenty years, constructed a vast network of sewers beneath the streets.

The impact his creation had on the health and well-being of Londoners was both instant and long lasting.

It ended the Cholera epidemics that had plagued London for most of the centuries, and it made the City’s air far more pleasant to breathe than it had been for several centuries.


As Sir Joseph Bazalgette, was toiling away beneath the streets, a Chelsea plumber by the name of Thomas Crapper was hard at work above the streets, developing a series of sanitary appliances that would revolutionise the way London did its business, quite literally!

From manhole covers to toilet cisterns, Thomas Crapper showed himself to be a true pioneer, and, in the following video, you can learn all about this Yorkshireman, whose name was destined to become synonymous with the act of visiting the toilet.


There are many myths about Thomas Crapper.

He did not, for example, as is often stated, invent the flushing toilet.

He did however make the process of visiting said appliance a far more pleasant experience.

He was, however, just one of a number of likeminded individuals who toiled ceaselessly to improve the bathroom arrangements in the homes of the Victorians, and, as such, the video is a tribute to him.