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A History of Plumbing

A Brief History of the Toilet!

Sir John Harrington

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Sir John Harrington – By Hieronimo Custodis – National Portrait Gallery: NPG 3121

The toilet was invented in England. A surprising fact that its creator a man named as Sir John Harrington (1561-1612) invented the first British flushing toilet in 1596. Sir John was a courtier in the service of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Sir John Harrington installed the first recorded prototype flushing toilet in his own manor house which was based in Kelston, England. This toilet was named the Ajax; this is where it is thought the slang word “jacks” originated from.


The Harrington designed toilet was fitted with a flushing type valve. This then allowed water to be released from a tank which in turn emptied the toilet bowl. It was reported that Harrington also gave one to Queen Elizabeth I at her home in Richmond Palace. Again it is reported that the Queen refused to use the toilet because it was deemed too noisy. Although it never really caught on with the rest of English society, royal or the general public, and was considered to be no more than a novelty than a real practical invention. This was in a large part due to the fact of the absence of any basic modern sewer system. It was still very early stages for this invention, and a lot more  refinements still needed to be carried out.

Unfortunately, the Ajax did not receive much popularity in England it was then adopted to a new home across the water in France under the name of Angrez.


T. Crapper Brass & Co. Ltd.

The manufacture of the humble toilet was under the stewardship of a man called Thomas Crapper around the 19 th century. This is when the flushing toilet started to become popular. Thomas
Crapper was born in Yorkshire England. His valve and siphon design was patented in 1891. His company manufactured water closets that found wide acceptance all over Britain. His trade was a plumber who then moved to London England. This is where Thomas in 1961 set up his base manufacturing operation, producing a variety of sanitary ware and plumbing parts in this foundry. As time went on Thomas received Royal warrants, for this great invention. Thomas was also instrumental in the pioneering of the bathroom showroom.



Slang Word!

Just preceding the first World War. These toilets were all imprinted with the name “;T. Crapper Brass & Co. Ltd.” At this time in England there was a large number of American soldiers stationed there. On their return to America they had a new slang term for this relatively new toilet fixture which was “The Crapper”. Another term again widely used in America to describe the toilet is the ‘John’. This term is widely considered a direct reference to Sir John Harrington.


If you research the British word loo, it originates from the French ‘guardez l’eau’ which means “watch out for the water”. During the medieval times in Europe, people often emptied the contents of their chamber pots out of a window onto the streets below. But having regard for the people passing below, they would shout out a warning “Guardez l’eau!”. The words “Guardez l’eau” evolved over time to become “gardy-loo” and finally shortened to simply “loo”.

So, the next time you take the time to use the toilet, think about the history behind this most important household item, and wonder what it must have been like before John Harrington invented the first ever ‘Jacks’!


Apart from having a great knowledge of all things plumbing and bathroom related, The Dublin Plumber is available for blocked drains and any plumbing and heating emergency. All rates listed on website. Contact Kevin mobile 085 866 7631 now





Warning: Lead Contamination

Irish Homeowners may be facing costs of up to €5,000.00 Euro to have lead water mains pipe-work removed from their property.


Previous testing of drinking water on the Northside of Dublin City revealed high lead levels far in excess of legal or safe limits. Areas like Raheny and Clontarf would have a lot of lead water mains pipe-work through their estates.

The lead in the water mains pipe-work can dissolve in to the water that you and your family are drinking on a daily basis. This is a very serious Health Hazard especially for young children and pregnant mothers.  The elderly are also very vulnerable to this serious Health risk a regular intake of even low levels of lead can affect your health.


Houses built pre-1980 would have had their water mains pipe-work installed in lead. Some of this lead pipe-work could have been installed all the way from the stopcock on the path to a position under the stairs or sink unit. In other cases the lead pipe-work may terminate at the front doorway and from this point on copper pipe-work may have been installed internally in the property. Other properties built typically between 1940 and 1960 may have what is called a shared supply? This lead water mains supply pipe could have been laid in the back garden supplying two different properties. The lead water main pipe-work will be located in the ground approximately 18 inches deep this was to protect same both against frost damage or any other type of excavation works.


In order for you to do a visual correct identification of lead water mains pipe-work, the colour of same is silver/grey depending on its surroundings. In some cases you may need to strip back a section of lead water mains pipe-work to reveal its original structure.


Kevin Farrelly understanding of the current situation is that from the boundary of your property all water main pipe-work is the responsibility of the homeowner. On the public side Irish Water have the responsibility of replacing this section of lead water mains pipe-work. Again this is not set in stone and individual cases and property types may differ.


In June the government has introduced a grant to assist homeowners in paying to have their lead water mains pipe-work replaced. The name of the current scheme is called the Lead pipe replacement grant scheme.  Homeowner can apply to their local authority, which in turn will apply to recoup the monies from the relevant Government Department. I understand that the take up for this grant is very slow.


Homeowners with incomes of up to €50,000.00 Euros will be eligible to apply for a grant of up to 80 per cent of the cost price up to €4,000.00 Euros. Those homeowners on an income of between €50, 000.00 and €75,000.00 should be entitled of a grant of €2,500.00 Euro or 50 per cent of the cost price. These figures are based on an overall replacement cost price of €5,000.00 Euros.

Kevin Farrelly would now urge Homeowner to check or have checked their properties for lead contamination. Also to avail of the Government Grant to have this work carried out if required.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

Stop Rats from Entering your House with Ratflap

Have a Rat Problem? Want to Solve It?

Rats entering your home can make your home both inhabitable but mostly undesirable. Until now preventing rats entering your home via sewer pipes was difficult because of the requirement of efficient waste water flow inside the sewer pipes.

The Ratflap device acts like a non return valve when it is fitted into you sewer drain. The Ratflap unit works simply by blocking off sewage pipe access to rats from the outside while still permitting the free flow of water and waste from the inside.

Historically the method of dealing with this type of situation was by using pesticides or rat traps.

The last thing you want to happen is a rat after eating poison dying in your sewer drain. Rat traps are designed only to work after the rats have arrived, and bringing germs and disease into your world.

Correctly Installing the Ratflap will prevent rats from entering your home thus preventing all the problems associated with same. Alternatively if you already have rats in your home the installation of the Ratflap will allow the rat to pass through the unit but now block a re-entry which will now solve your rat problem. To rats the main pathway into your home is through your sewer drains you can now prohibit their access.

RatflapHow Does RATFLAP Work?

The Ratflap unit when installed will fit snugly into your sewer pipe and secured in place. Its steel flap opens when fluids need to flow freely into the sewer, but until then, the flap remains closed and prohibits rats from entering. Quite simply, fluid flows out, but rats can’t get in. This means that if you have multiple of drains but only one Ratflap may be required to protect your home.

The unit can be fitted in either the outlet pipe from your home (reverse the flap) or in the pipe between your home system and the main road sewer. If your home was built before 1960 the chances are that you will have an interceptor fitted on the pipe from your home to the main sewer and in this case you may only need a drain plug to solve your rat problem.

What Size Ratflap do you need?

The Ratflaps come in 3 sizes for the common diameter drains: 4 inches (102mm), 6 inches (152mm) and 9 inches (229mm). You will need to measure the diameter of your own drain. Some old clay pipes are 5 inches (127mm) in diameter.

Ratflap Sizes

Emergency Dublin Plumber
Helpful Tips and Tricks

Blocked Drains

When it comes to blocked drains,  the keyword here is “prevention”; this is the best way to save you from falling victim to bad odours from your clogged kitchen sink. The cheapest and simplest method of preventing a blocked sink is to install a sink strainer, they are readily available to buy from most DIY outlets.

The Cause

It’s all about what you put down your drains!  The main culprits we find on a daily basis are the following:

  • vegetable waste such as peels
  • all types of cooking oils
  • coffee granules
  • soap residue
  • and sometime even hairs.

If you can imagine all of this type of waste materials going down your kitchen sink no wonder the end result is a blocked sink or blocked drain.


The Dublin Plumber has this advice for all homeowners, purchase a new waste bin for under your kitchen sink unit. This is now going to be use to create compost, put all your vegetable waste matter in to same also include tea bags and your coffee waste. When the new bin requires to be emptied just add to your compost pile.


Now let’s take a look at what drain maintenance your can carry out to prevent you ending up with a blocked drain. On a periodic basis pour some type of bleach product down your drain this may help take away foul odours. Do this also while running your hot water as the hot water will keep oil products running through the drain pipes removing the possibility of a blocked drain.

Blocked Sink

If you are faced with the following the water in your sink drains away very slowly you most probably have a blocked sink or drain situation. Don’t worry help is at hand this method may act as a quick fix for you. Start by mixing the following ingredients put two or three tablespoons of baking soda into the drain now follow this with a cup of white vinegar. Now allow this solution to start working it will start to foam when you see this reaction do not become concerned it will not cause any damage to your sink or drain pipes. Leave this for about 30 minutes or even up to an hour and then test if the sink is now unblocked by running some water. If the sink is still clogged you may be required to repeat this process.

Action Required

If the above action still results in the sink being blocked another course of action may be required. Now try what is commonly known as the plunger, the device is also readily available to buy in shops. Firstly you have to block up the sink unit overflow opening. You can hold a cloth over same or use sticky tape to cover same. The reason this is required is that when you start to use the plunger it stop air escaping and reducing the plunging action. When this has been completed get your plunger and place the rubber dome head over the sink unit outlet. Now start using the plunger the action required is to press same up and down thus creating pressure in the drain to force the sink blockage clear.

If this does not solve the blocked sink problem you may now be required to remove the sink unit trap. This is usually situated under the bowl in the sink unit. This is a U bend type object one side is connected with a screwed connection the other is connected on to the waste pipe with a same type of fitting. If your kitchen sink has water still present in the bowl you may have to remove this excess water using a cloth to soak up same. When this excess water is removed place a bucket or basin under the U bend trap and carefully remove same. The bucket should gather any water from the sink unit trap and pipe-work. Now empty the contents of the sink unit trap into your bucket. In some cases you may have to rinse out this trap using warm water maybe in the bathroom. Now replace the totally cleaned trap onto the sink unit and pipe-work re-tightens same. Now run the taps in the sink unit and hopefully the blocked sink is unblocked and the water runs freely.

If this action does not work, you may require the services of a professional!

Caustic Soda

Homeowners very often use the likes of Caustic Soda very often to clear blocked drains sometimes the use of chemicals can make the situation worse. Caustic soda is a very dangerous chemical and at all times should be handled with extreme care. Due to the hazardous nature of this product it should be keep out of the reach of children.

First Aid

If caustic soda comes in contact with your skin, remove the caustic soda as quickly as possible by washing with plenty of water. If in contact with the eyes, again wash thoroughly with water and repeat this process every 30 minutes until clear. Do not us soap at any time in this process. You may require the professional services of a doctor if the situation is serious. If the chemical is ingested you must immediately drink milk, contact your local doctor or make your way to a hospital.


This is the correct method to introduced caustic soda into a blocked drain. Firstly you must pour a quantity of boiling hot water down the blocked drain in order to warm same. Now introduce the caustic soda into the drain you must ensure to protect both your eyes and all skin contact from this chemical. When caustic soda is properly used it can clear a blocked drain and must be properly flushed out of the drain. Otherwise the chemical will harden like cement which can add to your blocked drain problem.

Drain Technician

If you have used caustic soda or any other chemical please inform your drain technician of this matter. Caustic soda is a very strong alkali; this should never be used with any other chemical.
Thank you for reading this blog.