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The Origins of Cranes: A Concise History

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

It’s easy to take things for granted. We just assume things materialised out of thin air. We don’t tend to think about where they came from. If you dig into, well, anything at all, you’ll typically find that all those things you’ve been taking for granted have a pretty fascinating history.

And the same can be said of cranes. You could drive past a handful on any given day without pausing to think about how those large pieces of infrastructure came into this world. Well, wonder no more! We’re on hand to guide you through the long and storied history of the humble crane.

Mobile crane

The First Cranes

The ancient Greeks were the first people to utilise cranes. That actually shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since the Greeks were the first civilisation to do a lot of things. It’s pretty impressive to think that they figured out the crane back in 515 B.C. They used a winch and pulley system, which had replaced the use of ramps to get things off the ground. We’re not going to pretend that the cranes of ancient Greece were so fantastic that we could still use them today…but they did set in motion the use of cranes, and in effect, the various types of cranes we have today all come from the original crane of ancient Greece.

A Great Leap Forward

It was pretty difficult to use cranes of old. After all, they were powered by hand. So it was effective but pretty tiring. The great leap forward came with the invention of the hydraulic press, which resulted from plenty of advanced work from the Frenchman Blaise Pascal (also the inventor of the roulette wheel!). In the 19th century, the rise of metal use — steel and iron in particular — meant that cranes could begin to function in the modern sense.

The Types of Cranes We Have Today

You might be surprised to learn that today's cranes are essentially the same as those of the 1800s. If you have a heavy-duty crane today, it will be more refined and better-built than those of the 19th century. Plus, they’ve gotten bigger. The principles that guide the crane remain the same, but we’ve just figured out how to do it on a larger scale.

The Future of Cranes

As you can tell from the history of cranes, cranes don’t stay still for too long! There are always developments coming into play. And so we can expect further developments in the future, too. Modern cranes are largely just industrial, but crane installation in the future will largely be infused with information technology, with data and remote control and sensors helping to improve functionality.

Crane and Lifting Services

Here at Crane and Lifting services, we have been proudly serving Barry, London, Bristol, Cardiff and beyond with reliable repairs and installation for over 100 years.

Contact us today to discuss your requirements.

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