George Johnson Lifts - History Profile

George Johnson started business around 1850 as a builder.

He was an inventive character and set out to design a manually operated hoist to reduce the tedious job of carrying bricks up a scaffold during building construction. This hoist was first produced around 1860 and apparently caused several strikes by site labourers seeing their jobs at risk.

With the success of his venture into the lift field, George turned his hand to the design of a range of lifts. These were all hand operated with many models available for carrying anything from a dinner plate to a disabled person.

The factory in Battersea was originally equipped with many staff, all lifts were hand made mainly from timber by skilled carpenters and the engineering components hand forged.

The first machine to arrive was a treadle operated lathe, the talking point of the factory. The company had its own transport in the form of a horse (provided by George’s brother) with a choice of three horse vans. A stable was provided within the company.

Around 1870 a steam engine was bought to power all the machinery, superseded by a gas engine in 1904. Finally during the 1930’s electric power arrived and modern machinery was purchased.

As Mr Johnson reached retirement his interest turned to auction sales where he would buy anything and everything. Once buying a wooden leg, when questioned why he answered, “You never know.”

Mr Johnson introduced his nephew to the business, Mr Littlechild, back in 1866 and gradually handed over the business to other younger members of the family. To date there are still three members of the family managing, operating and financing the current business. Several of the engineers have been working for George Johnson since they left school, one in fact for over 50 years.

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