A Brief History of Stairlifts

There is some speculation as to the origins of the stairlifts we know today. Many iterations of this useful invention have been recorded throughout history, making it a rather interesting topic to take a deeper look at.

This blog from Alfix Stairlifts explores the fairly short but intriguing history of the stairlift and how they evolved from their potentially royal origins in the 16th century right through to the stairlifts we recognise today.

King Henry VIII’s stairlift

Famous historian, Dr David Starkey, discovered that a stairlift was listed among the possessions of King Henry VIII. While this extremely early version of a stairlift would, of course, have been very different to those we know today, the general idea remained the same; it was listed as “a chair…that goeth up and down”.

Dr Starkey believes that this stairlift would have used a pulley system that required servants to use ropes to manoeuvre the monarch and his stairlift up and down the magnificent 20ft staircase at Whitehall Palace.

It is also possible that King Henry VIII installed the stairlift for similar reasons to those people install stairlifts today, given that he was known for having limited mobility following a jousting accident aged 45.

The development of commercial stairlifts

The first stairlift we would recognise today was invented in the 1920s by a self-taught engineer named C. C. Crispen, who wanted to help his sick friend get up and down the stairs. This invention was known as an inclinator and paved the way for the modern stairlift to develop in the coming years. By the 1930s, the Inclinator Company of America had been established and stairlifts were now mainly being used by polio sufferers.

Like their modern equivalents, these stairlifts consisted of a folding chair and footrest which moved with the aid of rollers up and down a track fastened to the stairs. This system was so effective that the design has hardly changed much over the years.

The modern stairlift

While the fundamental principles of a stairlift haven’t really changed since the 1930s, there was certainly room for improvement. Stairlifts initially were attached to both the stairs and the walls using studs, which caused obstructions in the staircase and wall damage.

Therefore, modern technologies created a stronger stairlift rail that was able to hold the stairlift without being attached to the wall. This reduces the lasting effect of stairlift installation, in the sense that it won’t damage your property, and also makes installation easier, cleaner, and quicker.

The modern stairlift is also much safer than previous iterations. Extra safety features such as seatbelts, footrests and armrests have been developed to ensure that stairlifts are now as safe as possible for users.

If you’re thinking of installing a stairlift, look no further than Alfix Stairlifts. Based in Leamington Spa, we provide high-quality stairlift installation in Leicester, Oxford, and throughout the Midlands. Whether you’re in need of a straight or curved stairlift for purchase or on a rental basis, we’ll have something to suit your needs. Our experienced team is committed to making your home as comfortable and as accessible as possible. For more information, call us on 01926 334848 or visit our website today.