King Henry VIII and the Stairlift
Dr David Starkey, the famous historian, discovered amongst a list of the King’s possessions that King Henry VIII had installed a stairlift in the form of “a chair…that goeth up and down” to transport the King up the 20ft staircase at Whitehall Palace. Henry VIII was known to be obese but he also had difficulty getting about because of a jousting accident he had aged 45.
Dr Starkey believes that this first stairlift would have used a block and tackle system with servants using ropes to lift the monarch and his royal stairlift up and down the magnificent staircase.
The First Commercial Stairlifts
The stairlift has come a long way since ropes and a pulley! The first stairlift that we would recognize today was invented in the 1920s by C.C. Crispen who wanted to help his sick friend get up and down the stairs. He called his invention the inclinator. By the 1930s the Inclinator Company of America had been established and was mainly used by victims of polio.
These stairlifts were more in keeping with what we see today, consisting of a folding chair and footrest which moved with the aid of rollers up and down a track fastened to the stairs. This system has been found to be so effective that the design has hardly changed much over the years.
The Modern Stairlift
This simple device for transporting people up and down stairs has become so popular, thanks to the independence it gives, that many companies now offer a wide range of stairlifts such as:
Straight stairlifts: the most common stairlift for the most common type of staircase.
Curved stairlifts: for staircases which curve round.
Outdoor stairlifts: as some properties have outdoor steps either to get into the building or in the garden. Acorn stairlifts was established in 1992 and they developed the most modern stairlift yet, the Acorn Superglide 120.