Famous Sanitaryware Makers

The names of several inventors and entrepreneurs have become tightly linked with sanitaryware. These famous makers have played a key role in the evolution of toilets, baths and basins.

John Doulton

John Doulton (1793-1873) and his partner John Watts established a pottery and porcelain in Lambeth, south London in 1815. Doulton's son Henry Doulton (1820-1897) joined the firm in 1835. The company became Britain's leading manufacturer of sanitary wares, as well as industrial ceramics, art pottery, ornamental and commemorative pieces, and tableware.

George Jennings

George Jennings (1810-1882) invented the wash-out design of toilet with a shallow pan emptying into an S-trap. In 1838 Jennings set up his own business in Lambeth, later in Blackfriars. By 1847 he was well-established in the manufacture of quality earthenware at premises in the Parkstone Pottery in Dorset.

Concentrating initially on industrial items and terracotta goods, he later turned to basic items using a number of other potteries to manufacture many types of water closet. Jennings was the first to apply the new sanitary designs to public conveniences. He introduced his ideas at the 1851 Great Exhibition at Hyde Park, with his 'Monkey closets' in the 'Retiring Rooms' of the Crystal Palace. Over 800,000 visitors paid to use this facility. By 1895 he had installed public conveniences all over the world.

Thomas Crapper

Thomas Crapper (1836-1910) was a manufacturer, supplier and installer of sanitary goods (bathroom fittings, WCs etc.), plumbing and drainage. It is thought that there is no connection between his name and the slang term. He founded Thomas Crapper & Co in 1861 with his partner Robert Marr Wharam. After the death of Thomas, his brother George continued the company.

By the late 1950's Robert G. Wharam (Robert Marr Wharam's son) was solely in charge. The firm was long-established and still successful, but wanting to retired, Wharam sold the firm in 1966 to nearby rivals, John Bolding & Sons. Boldings asset-stripped the company and moved Crapper & Co to their own buildings in Davies Street. In 1969, Boldings went into liquidation and all their assets were sold - including Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd. The company name was effectively mothballed until the name was bought in 1998. The company is now based in Stratford-on-Avon.

John Shanks

John Shanks founded a plumber's business in Barrhead, Scotland in 1851. The family were clever inventors who patented many new processes, valves and other technical advances. They invented a valve which allowed toilets to be installed in ships. Shanks ceased to exist in 1969 and the company Armitage Shanks Ltd came into being.

Thomas Twyford

Thomas William Twyford (1849-1921) came from a family of potters who had started making commercial pottery in 1680. In the early 1880's Thomas designed, developed and manufactured the first one piece wash out pedestal closet and called it the 'Unitas'. In 1887 Twyford opened his factory in Cliffe Vale near Hanley.