Robert Marr Wharam - Partner in Thomas Crapper & Co.
Thomas Crapper was born in Waterside, a hamlet near the Yorkshire town of Thorne, in 1836. When he was around 14 years of age he was apprenticed to a Master Plumber in Chelsea, London. After serving his apprenticeship and working for three years as a journeyman plumber, in 1861 he set up his own company at Robert Street, Chelsea. Subsequently in 1866 he moved the expanding business to the Marlboro Works, in nearby Marlborough Road (also known as Draycott Avenue). Mr. Crapper took a partner, Robert Marr Wharam who brought financial and accounting skills to the enterprise, and together they built a sizeable firm with an ever-greater reputation.
In the 1880’s Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, purchased Sandringham House in Norfolk as his country seat. He set about improving and extending the building as a royal palace. Crapper & Company were invited to supply and install their finest wares for the bathrooms, cloakrooms and indeed all the plumbing and drainage for the project. The firm thus gained its first Royal Warrant.
Of course, such royal approval helped business greatly. Crapper fittings were rightly considered the finest of the time. Many commissions were received for sanitaryware at all manner of buildings, including Westminster Abbey. Victorian Crapper goods are still doing reliable service in private and public buildings all over Great Britain and abroad. The manhole covers of Westminster Abbey (inscribed "T. Crapper & Co., Sanitary Engineers") are popular with tourists for crayon rubbings as mementos of their visit. Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace also have benefited from Crapper goods and services.
However, the company mainly prospered because of their famed quality, attention to detail and service. All of the hard work paid off as Mr. Crapper and Mr. Wharam enjoyed the fruits of their labors, buying respectable houses, goods and furniture.
Crapper & Company effectively invented the concept of the modern bathroom showroom. Bathroom fittings, and especially water closets (toilets) were hardly discussed due to the prudery of the time. Crapper & Company caused a sensation when they installed large plate-glass windows at pavement level in Marlborough Road. The goods were comprehensively displayed within, but shockingly, they were also gloriously apparent on stands in the windows. It is said that genteel ladies would faint away at the sight of the gleaming china bowls! Crapper & Company promoted sanitaryware to a skeptical public, many of whom thought it unhygienic to have a water closet indoors. Even those who were convinced found the subject beyond the pale. Clients would discuss the matter discreetly with their architect or plumber who would arrange for a salesman to call. The representative of the sanitaryware firm would arrive with a selection of miniature loos, washbasins and baths in his bag. The clients would have to imagine how the full-size version would appear and make their choice.
Thomas Crapper retired in 1904 and passed his firm to his partner, Robert Marr Wharam and Thomas’s nephew, George. In 1907 Robert Wharam and George Crapper acquired a new flagship store, 120, King’s Road, a very grand address opposite Royal Avenue and near Sloane Square. The company continued to prosper and large extensions were added to the building, giving even more showroom and storage space in addition to the manufactory at Marlborough Road. The 1920’s and 30’s saw the arrival of Art Deco in the bathroom and Crapper & Company led the way with outlandish designs in the new mode. However, the second World War intervened and like many British firms, Crapper & Company suffered from shortages and the enormous changes in society. By the late 1950’s Robert G. Wharam (Robert M. Wharam’s son) was solely in charge. The firm was long-established and still successful but the Marlboro’ Works had been sold and all operations were based at 120, King’s Road.
Thomas Crapper died in 1910. 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 1950's 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. Mr. Wharam was advancing in years and wished to retire so eventually he sold the firm in 1966 to nearby rivals, John Bolding & Sons. What happened next shocked the whole industry. Despite assurances to the contrary, Boldings mercilessly "asset-stripped" the company and sold the premises at an enormous profit. They moved Crapper & Company to Bolding’s buildings in Davies Street and continued to trade for a few years until they received their just desserts. In 1969 Boldings went into liquidation and all their assets were sold, including Thomas Crapper & Company.
Since then this distinguished firm endured fallow years - but it has survived - and is now an independent company once again. Having held four royal warrants and having existed through five reigns over 140 years, Thomas Crapper & Company is once again manufacturing the finest bathroom fittings from its new facilities.
The Stable Yard, Alscot Park, Stratford - on - Avon, Warwickshire, England. CV37 8BL
Telephone-: 0044 (0) 1789 450 522. Fax-: 0044 (0) 1789 450 523
N. B.: There is no known connection at this time between the Wharam family of Buckingham County, Virginia, and that of Robert Marr Wharam, partner in Crapper & Company, other than the surname and a Yorkshire connection.
This site was last updated 04/18/04