The idea for bespoke toilet cisterns came from a drunken tale by one of Catchpole & Rye’s contacts – a man who was trying to, shall we say, “purloin” a manhole cover from a street in Ramsgate with his father’s builders’ merchants’ name on it.
A number of years ago, explains Catchpole & Rye’s managing director Tony O’Donnell, if, as a company, you bulk-bought items from certain iron foundries – be they manholes or cisterns - you could have your company name embossed onto them. So romantic was the traditional quirk that O’Donnell decided to reinvent the idea in favour of today’s buyer, with prices starting at £1,680. Cast from marine-grade aluminium, measuring 32cm x 49cm x 20cm and all made by hand in Kent using traditional sand-casting methods, Catchpole & Rye’s cisterns can be finished in myriad options to suit the client – from a Farrow & Ball paint colour to a polished, glossy copper coating.
The message on the cistern can vary from a family name (several were made for homes expert Sarah Beeny for her country pile in the north, with the names Swift & Beeny on them as a tongue-in-cheek reference to her commercial – and marital – union with husband Graham Swift), or a toilet-humour-style joke (“Gunmakers Shoot Straight” for the Gunmakers Arms pub) to a family crest, coat of arms (either real or imagined), address or a notable date. Once the design has been chosen, an initial template is made, and if there’s a logo or motif involved, a resin mould is created and approved before the cistern is cast.
“They tend to be put into downstairs cloakrooms,” says O’Donnell, “so a little bit of humour comes into it. Often, unless you look really closely, you won’t realise that what you expect to be branded in a typical industrial way is actually uniquely personalised.”