Did You Know? 8 Curious Facts about Stairlifts

Written by stannah

At first glance, a stairlift might not seem so exciting, but there’s more to this helpful home appliance than meets the eye. Read on to learn more about the curious world of Stannah stairlifts!

King Henry VIII - Portrait


Historians now believe that Henry VIII was the owner of the world’s first stairlift. Listed among a detailed inventory of the King’s possessions was an object described in the royal records as a ‘chair… that goeth up and down.’

This world-first stairlift is thought to have been necessary to move the Monarch up and down a 20-foot staircase in Whitehall Palace in London. Historian David Starkey theorizes that a similar system was used on Henry’s warship, the Mary Rose, to move the Monarch up the stairs. This would have consisted of a ‘block and tackle system’, with servants pulling ropes to move the contraption. Why did the King need a stairlift? While Henry VIII is quite well known for being rotund, but Starkey doesn’t believe it was obesity that caused him to need assistance moving up and down the grand staircase at Whitehall Palace. It’s generally accepted that Henry VIII was very physically active and considered quite dashing in his youth. Starkey said that Henry VIII “took an incredible amount of exercise, horse-riding around 20 miles a day”. However, it appears a jousting accident in 1536 caused a severe injury to the King’s leg – one that, due to the medical practices of the time, was not properly cleaned – leaving Henry VIII practically immobile. This likely contributed to his weight gain and in turn left him struggling to ascend the Whitehall Palace stairs.

2…how the largest stairlift manufacturer got started?

Stannah History

Stannah was established in London in 1867 by Joseph Stannah, an engineer with decades of experience in the profession. Initially, Stannah produced cranes and hoists used for transporting goods from merchant ships. Then, around the turn of the century, Joseph decided to devote himself entirely to the production of passenger lifts.  However, it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that Stannah entered the stairlift business in earnest. In 1974, Stannah Lifts was transferred from London to Andover, and the following year the first Stannah stairlift was produced. In 1979 Stannah began exporting its stairlifts. Since then, Stannah has established itself as a manufacturer and world leader in the stairlift industry and as the largest manufacturer of lifts in the United Kingdom. In 1992, subsidiaries were opened in the USA and the Netherlands, in 1995 in Italy and in 2003 in Slovakia. The company acquired Irish distributors in 2005, Norwegians in 2010 and Swiss distributors in 2017. In February 2011 Stannah produced its 500,000th stairlift while the Prince of Wales visited the Andover headquarters.

Jon Stannah and Prince Charles

  1. … there are many types of stair lifts.

There are several types of stairlifts: fixed and mobile, indoor and outdoor, electric and manual. They have different purposes, depending on the needs of the person using them, but, all stairlifts are designed to help the user overcome the architectural barriers of a staircase. They can be installed in indoor and outdoor environments and most use battery power to climb and descend stairs. Though power from an electrical outlet is typically required a Stannah stairlifts consumes very little electricity (approximately as much as an electric kettle!) For those who have mobility problems with their lower limbs or knees, a stairlift is more practical than some of the alternatives.

Stairlifts are sometimes called escalator chairs, escalator lifts, and a few other names, but you can always recognize a stairlift by its basic construction: a chair on a rail that takes the user up and down stairs.

Solus – Stannah Collection

4…. buying a stairlift is less demanding than moving from your home.

A common concern people have when buying a stairlift is the price; but many forget to consider the true value of a stairlift when compared to the cost of some of the alternatives. If you can no longer get up and down your stairs, you might consider moving to a bungalow or a flat. It might even seem like the easiest option. When was the last time you moved to a new house? Do you remember what that involved? Sorting through years’ worth of cherished items…and lots and lots of stuff. Stuff you don’t even remember owning. Packing everything into boxes. Hiring a delivery truck. All the heavy lifting and carrying and moving and worrying. That’s before even mentioning the hassle of trying to sell your own house or finding a new one within your price range. It’s not just that moving to a new house costs a huge amount more than buying a stairlift; it’s also about the emotional toll it takes on you. It’s exhausting. And it’s sad. Leaving behind all the memories you’ve built up over the years.

5. …  a Stannah stairlift can carry the weight of an adult polar bear.

Stannah Sofia can carry the weight of an adult polar bear.

Our stairlifts are made to withstand up to 5 times their maximum weight limit – they could even hold an adult polar bear! And because there are probably no bears climbing your stairs at home and your safety is our priority, we have set a weight limit for each model that will ensure that your stair lift does its job for several decades! A Stannah stair lift can safely carry about 160 kilograms without any problem. However, each model has specific characteristics for each type of need.

The Starla: is our most customizable stairlift thanks to the different options of upholstery and wood trim we offer you. You even get to choose which type of wood you’d like on your stairlift, if you want it at all! Part of the versatile nature of the Starla is that it can also be installed on both straight and curved stairlifts, so depending on what your stairs are like, the weight capacity of your Starla will vary. Starla straight stairlift weight capacity: 350lbs Starla curved stairlift weight capacity: 300lbs

The Siena: is our most popular stairlift thanks to its simplicity and practicality. It’s also one of our most adaptable stairlifts, which means that as well as the many colour choices and options of upholstery, it can be installed on both straight and curved stairs. There is a slight difference between the weight capacity depending on the type of stairlift you need for your house, so this is worth bearing in mind.

The Sofia: is our most elegant stairlift, while still being as safe and reliable as all our other models. It’ll carry you up and down in comfort and safety and meet all your mobility needs. Sofia stairlift weight capacity: 300lb

The Outdoor Our outdoor stairlift is the ideal solution to take you to your favourite outside areas comfortably, without risking your safety on uneven steps or slippery ramps. Outdoor stairlift weight capacity: 300lbs

6. …the stairlift is a movie star.

Starla-Stannah – Quartet

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Even the cinema, in its own way, has paid homage to the stairlift several times. Probably one of the first appearances of a stairlift in a movie was in Witness for the Prosecution, taken from the homonymous comedy by Agatha Christie. It featured a wooden stairlift without a seat belt. It would be unthinkable today to make a loved one climb into this sort of stairlift, but it wasn’t so abnormal for the time. The 1957 film tells the story of a famous criminal lawyer, Sir Wilfrid Robarts, who finds himself, after a heart attack, returning to work. A noir movie with stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power among the lead characters.

Gremlins (1984)

In the mid-1980s, a horror comedy debuted in American theatres, featuring strange little monsters, known as “gremlins”. The film Gremlins was a huge success, in part due to one classic scene featuring a stairlift. In the scene, Mrs Deagles descends the stairs with her stairlift, before being attacked by the chaotic critters. One of them enters the house and with the typical Gremiln grin, he sabotages Mrs. Deagles’ stairlift, sending her flying up the stairs and out the window!

For the record, Mrs. Deagles’ was NOT a Stannah Stairlift!

Up (2009)

The most recent famous participation is in the feature film Disney-Pixar’s UP – The poetic and sweet story of Carl Fredricksen, his neighbour Russell and the strength of dreams. The message is to never give up on other people and to follow your dreams, even if they’ve been left in the drawer for years and years.

Quartet (2012)

Among the protagonists of the movie Quartet by Dustin Hoffman, there is also a Starla. Stannah’s stairlift chair, specially installed in the Hedsor House in Buckinghamshire. In the movie is the Beecham House, a residence for retired musicians and opera singers. The Beecham House is a funny and sweet place to live and get older, where all the famous guests continue to be engaged in their professions in one way or the other, including lecturing and initiating young people to music.

  1. …Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother owned a Stannah.

At the Stannah headquarters in Andover, and more precisely in the department where the rails of each individual staircase are produced, a story is told. It is one of Stannah’s most cherished stories, because it is both real and royal (in Italian reale means both royal and real) Years ago, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s mother had a Stannah stairlift installed in Balmoral Castle, Scotland, where the royal family spent their summer holidays. Stannah’s technicians built the stairlift according to the same safety and installation rules as any other. The Queen Mother eventually reached the venerable age of 102 years and Stannah was proud to have helped her live her later years, unencumbered by the stairs.

  1. …how long are the longest rails Stannah has ever manufactured?

All rails are handmade and welded at Stannah’s headquarters in Andover (UK). But the longest rails are made specifically for Italy. This is because the medieval architecture and the conformation of the buildings in the historic centres do not allow for the installation of elevators for reasons of space and aesthetics. Moreover, a large part of the senior population lives in these historic centres and often need the help of stairlifts to overcome the obstacle of the stairs and reach their apartment. The record for longest curved rail ever produced by Stannah was 72 metres for a stairlift that was eventually installed in Italy. The longest straight stairlift measured 12 metres.


Why going under a ladder means bad luck.


In ancient Egypt, the figure of a triangle was considered sacred. And it is also considered sacred in Christianity because it evokes the concept of trinity. A staircase resting on a wall forms a triangle and passing “through” the triangle was considered an affront to the gods, a fact that would attract their anger. And it is certain that attracting the wrath of the gods was not an ideal scenario.

A similar concept developed in the Middle Ages, when soldiers attacked a castle and tried to climb over its walls. They would climb up long wooden ladder, while those who defended the castle threw boiling oil or pitch on the unfortunate. For this reason, being under a ladder was considered dangerous and, of course, particularly unlucky.

Further reading: 

Stairlift Dimensions
What is a stairlift?
Which is the best stairlift for me?

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