Born in 1854 and apprenticed at the age of seventeen, Frederick Humpherson was intelligent and largely self-educated and the family archive contains a leather-bound book containing twenty three of his original City & Guilds certificates. These were all gained by Frederick at Elementary, Intermediate and First Class levels between the age of 17 and 21 and included such subjects as Acoustics, Light & Heat, Metallurgy, Applied Mechanics and Machine Construction & Drawing. A remarkable achievement considering that he was then working eleven hour days for Thomas Crapper!
In 1900, Frederick Humpherson purchased three small cottages in Holmes Place along Fulham Road which he demolished and built showrooms, a warehouse, extensive workshops and a mansion flat above. The company moved there in 1901 and the family archive still has the working drawings. The property was sold in 1973 and became the first Holmes Place Health Club.
Humphersons’ proudest claim is that they produced
‘The Original Pedestal Wash-Down Closet’, and the direct ancestor of the type in use worldwide today and is a tribute to the skill and inventiveness of the family. This model, the ‘Beaufort Pedestal Closet’ was awarded the Certificate of Merit of the Sanitary Institute of Great Britain in 1885. Despite the success of this model, Humphersons were still producing the old valve closet which was still much in demand. Indeed, two of these ‘Perfect Elastic-Valve Closets’ were still in use in 1970. Thomas Crapper’s rival and better known claim that he produced the first washdown closet has been finally discounted by experts in the field and Frederick Humpherson is agreed to have been the true inventor.
His great achievements in the sanitary field are now universally acknowledged and his many inventions and designs have been given due credit. His patents include: an improved lead pipe joint and an improved waste water preventer in 1885, a siphonic flushing cistern in 1888, a pedestal water closet in 1891 and in 1892 an automatic or intermittent siphonic flushing apparatus. By comparison, Thomas Crapper has no patents listed which pertain to the design of a WC suite. Indeed, his most famous ‘invention’ was the syphon which was actually designed and patented by Giblin of Fulham who then sold the patent to Crapper.
Frederick’s younger brother Alfred, was Geoffrey Pidgeon’s grandfather and the family firm was left to him by Frederick in 1919. Alfred died in 1945 and left the company to his daughter Edith – Geoffrey Pidgeon’s mother – and her brother Sidney. Geoffrey joined the firm in 1947 and he became the fourth generation of the family to sell sanitaryware. In his early days in the business he filled many roles, including that of lorry driver and would frequently collect cast iron cisterns that had been badged as ‘Beaufort’ specifically for Humphersons from a supplier in Fulham. This supplier was also used by Crapper and identical cisterns were also badged (as ‘Leveret’) for him.
Humpherson & Co was sold in 1981 and Geoffrey started Original Bathrooms at the present premises. The name is taken from the description ‘the Original pedestal washdown closet’ in the Humphersons’ 1890 catalogue. .