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Who invented the stairlift?

2nd September 2019

Many believe that stairlifts are a modern-day invention, but this is not the case. While the stairlifts you see today boast cutting-edge technology, the very first stairlift was invented a lot longer ago than you may think.

This guide takes a look at the history of stairlifts in the home, who invented them and how they have evolved over time.

When was the first stairlift invented?

Records show that the very first stairlift dates to the 1500s and historians have discovered that Henry VIII was the first person in the world to own a stairlift.

Historian Dr David Starkey found in an inventory of King Henry VIII’s possessions that there was ‘a chair...that goeth up and down’ and it is believed this was made to move the royal up and down his 20-foot staircase in Whitehall Palace in London.

The monarch not only used at stairlift at home but is believed to have used one on his warship, the Mary Rose, to move him up the stairs.

The world’s first stairlift used a block and tackle system that would see servants pull ropes to move the chair up or down. There are many theories as to why the king needed a stairlift, but it appears he suffered a jousting accident in his youth, and this left him immobile and needing a stairlift to get around.

Who invented the stairlift?

While no one is sure who invented King Henry VIII’s stairlift, it is Pennsylvanian self-taught engineer C.C. Crispen who is accredited with inventing the first commercial stairlifts.

In 1923, Crispen thought of a method of aiding his friend to travel from floor to floor, which eventually became a chair that could climb stairs. The idea started when he visited his neighbour who had been confined to his upstairs bed through illness.

The engineer then drew up plans for a folding wooden chair with a footrest that moved with the aid of rollers up and down a steel bar that was attached to the stairs. This would enable his friend to come downstairs without needing the help of a carer.

It was this chair that eventually became known as the Inclin-ator and it took a year to fully develop before being displayed for the first time in a showroom in 1924. Later in 1928 Crispen invented the first residential electric elevator in 1928 to help people living in homes with winding staircases.

How have new stairlifts evolved?

There has been a lot of change since the first stairlift was used centuries ago as they are now commonplace across homes in the UK.

The mobility aids are now affordable for everyone so older adults who struggle to climb stairs and others with mobility difficulties can continue to live at home and keep their independence.

Disability travel blogger Emma, who runs the site Simply Emma, explains just how important new stairlifts are:

“A stairlift was incredibly important during my childhood and early teen years. At the time our family home was a semi-detached house and the bedrooms and bathroom were upstairs. It was vital that we had a stairlift so I could access the upstairs.

“Having the stairlift meant my parents didn't have to risk injury/accidents by physically carrying me upstairs multiple times each day. The stairlift gave me the freedom to go up and down whenever I wanted without worry because I knew I was safe.”

Modern stairlifts have evolved over the years and are now made to your specific staircase and here are the different types you can buy:

  • Straight stairlifts: the most common type of staircase is straight, and this is the most popular type of stairlift.
  • Curved stairlifts: staircases that feature curves will need to have curved stairlifts installed.
  • Outdoor stairlifts: nowadays there are stairlifts you can use outdoors. This enables keen gardeners to be able to access their garden and scale outside steps.

The newest designs of stairlifts feature a range of new technology including wireless remote controls, swivel seats and a variety of safety features.

With so many stairlifts coming in all shapes and sizes in contemporary Britain, there is no limit to the choice available to the nation’s elderly and others with limited mobility. Whether it is through joint inflammatory conditions such as arthritis or injury, stairlifts provide an essential service which helps those in need to live a fulfilled life.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.