Thomas Crapper Grave Re-Dedication
Saturday 4th May, 2002, at Beckenham Cemetery
by Simon Kirby, Managing Director, Thomas
Crapper & Company Ltd.
Thomas Crapper died on 27th January, 1910 and was
buried at Elmer's End Cemetery, Beckenham, Kent. In those days the
area was semi-rural; now a busy part of South-East London although
it is still in the county of Kent. The cemetery, in Elmer's End
Road, is today entitled Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery.
The grave was restored by enthusiasts many years
ago but has since deteriorated. The marble was black with grime
and lichen; some of the lead letters were missing; a small elder
tree was growing through one corner and the other end was subsiding
into the ground.
The firm decided to fully restore the grave last
year. When the project was completed, a re-dedication ceremony seemed
appropriate. The local rector, the Reverend Canon Derek Carpenter,
kindly agreed to officiate and the date, 4th May 2002, was agreed.
Over 30 attended, many by the name of Crapper, including
one (living) Thomas Crapper, a Major in the Royal Signals. The event
was acclaimed as a great success by all participants. Revd. Carpenter
had succeeded in finding a reference to a 'cistern' in the Bible
and duly read the passage to those assembled around the grave. This
was followed by prayers and a brief address from Simon Kirby, owner
of Thomas Crapper's original firm. The sun shone from a clear-blue
sky on the gleaming white marble of the tomb.
After the short service, some went to inspect Mr.
Crapper's last house, complete with blue plaque; some walked around
the cemetery. Other notable Victorian 'residents' include W. G.
Grace, the great cricketer, Frederick Wolseley, who produced the
first British motor-car and Samuel Rowbotham, founder of the Flat
Earth Society. Next the celebrants travelled to the nearby Bromley
Court Hotel for a champagne toast to the immortal memory of Thomas
There were representatives of Messrs. Twyfords,
Royal Doulton and Spode. Telegrams were read aloud from Armitage
Shanks Ltd., Dr. Adam Hart-Davis, Lucinda Lambton and other interested
parties from around the world. These last include owners of bathroom-related
American web-sites and Mr. Ken Grabowski, author of the forthcoming
definitive biography of Mr. Crapper.
Flash-bulbs popped, toasts were proposed and names
and addresses were exchanged - for most of the Crappers had not
met before. Many brought photocopies of their family trees and together
they discovered to what extent they were related.
Simon Kirby then presented a brief history of the
man and the surviving firm, illustrated by slides of old black-and-white
photographs. Following this, the buffet and champagne were consumed
in a lively atmosphere. Stories were elicited and offered in great
number by all present, as they munched into a large cake, baked
and decorated as a Crapper '814' W.C. Cistern!
Some Crappers stayed at the hotel and continued the celebrations
until the early hours.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile day;
also a mark of respect for one of our great Victorian pioneers to
whom we all owe so much.
At some point we will organise another 'flush' of
Crappers and Crapperologists - the centenary of Mr. Crapper's death
is 2010 but we are not sure that we can wait that long!