THE STORY OF THE VACUUM CLEANER.
The British Vacuum Cleaner & Engineering Co. Ltd.
Goblin Works. Leatherhead. Surrey. - Written Circa 1960.
The vacuum Cleaner from which a great Industry was created
first saw the light of day in the year 1901, when a Mr.
H. Cecil Booth F.C.G.I, M.I.C.E. Consulting Engineer,
turned his attention to the creation of a mechanical method
of removing dust from carpets and house furnishings by
means of air suction.
The idea originated from a visit by Mr. Booth to a theatre
in the year 1901 to investigate a new machine which blew
the dust from the carpet by means of compressed air. "Now"
thought Mr. Booth, "if this system could be reversed,
and a filter inserted between the suction apparatus and
the outside air, whereby the dust would be retained in
a receptacle, the real solution of the hygienic removal
of dust would be obtained."
A few days later, Mr. Booth tested his theory by taking
a handkerchief cupped around his mouth and bending down
sucked in against the back of a plush chair. Investigation
showed a ring of dirt on the handkerchief.
From that time Mr. Booth went ahead. A few months later,
on August 30th, 1901, the machine from which the present
whole world Industry has sprung was patented, and the
Vacuum Cleaner Company Ltd., was formed. On the prospectus
issued by the Company, the words "Vacuum Cleaner" were
inscribed and this is the first record of the phrase being
introduced in to the English Language. Soon after, a complete
portable machine was produced.
The Vacuum Cleaner differed from most modern vacuum cleaners
only in that the apparatus mounted on a trolley was left
outside the building to be cleaned and suction pipes ran
from the machine into the building. The basic principles
however were exactly the same. The introduction of the
Vacuum Cleaner to the public coincided with an important
event: the Coronation of King Edward VII, and in connection
with this great event, the Vacuum Cleaner was to prove
of considerable service. A consequence of the rehearsals
that were taking place daily in the Abbey, was that the
thick blue carpet became coated with dust. Sweeping was
useless for the dust would settle again. Then someone
had the idea of cleaning the carpet by the new 'Vacuum
Cleaning method.' Soon afterwards, operators were set
to work on the carpet, restoring it again to its pristine
Mr. H Cecil Booth was still the Chairman of the British
Vacuum Cleaner & Engineering Company Ltd. in 1960.
| The first Vacuum Cleaner Demonstration aroused considerable
interest among titled nobility who crowded the Abbey,
and news of the occurrence soon reached the ears of Lord
Chamberlain. Shortly afterwards the following letter was
received by the Company:-
have submitted the subject of the Vacuum Cleaning Company's
operations to the King, and I have his Majesty's permission
to ask you to give a demonstration of its actual working
at Buckingham Palace on Thursday next the 23rd. instant
at 12 o'clock, when I hope His Majesty will have an opportunity
of witnessing it.
If you could make it convenient to call here tomorrow,
Tuesday between 12 and 1 o'clock we could together settle
details of the trial."
As recorded in the "Court Journal" October 25th, 1902,
the directors "had the honour of giving an exhibition
of the Vacuum Cleaning process before their Majesties."
The direct result of this was the B.V.C. Vacuum Cleaners
were at once installed in the Royal Palaces, the Company
being granted His Majesty's Royal Warrant of Appointment.
The Palaces of most of the Royal European Courts were
A tremendous reception was accorded the new invention
both in England and Europe, and the Vacuum Cleaning Company,
as it was then called, was inundated with enquiries for
cleaning private houses, theatres and public buildings.
From the original machine mounted on a hand truck, the
Company went forward and equipped larger vehicles drawn
by horses. The same method was employed for the apparatus:
pipes were led from the machine into the building to be
cleaned. In this connection there were some difficulties
for crowds followed the van through the streets. The authorities
claimed it caused an obstruction of the Public Thoroughfare,
and until a ruling was given in Mr Booth's favour, the
Company were often summoned for obstruction.
Mr Booth's machine became the fashion. Mayfair Society
women gave "Vacuum Teas", glass tubes being fitted to
the apparatus so that guests might see the dust being
sucked through the tubes to the dust receptacle in the
So, from the original idea began the growth of the invention
which was to create a great Industry. With the changing
times, new electrical machines were produced and the Company
could look back with pride on their progress.
Then came the first World War in 1914, and in common with
other industries the Company, now called the British Vacuum
Cleaner & Engineering Co. Ltd., was called upon to
use its extensive experience and knowledge to help combat
the enemy. The Government was not long in realizing the
many applications in ammunition manufacture to which the
invention could be applied, and its use was extended during
the Second World War.
In the years that followed the First World War, an ever
increasing quantity of Goblin Vacuum Cleaners were manufactured,
and not only in this country but throughout the World
the merits of the production were gradually commanding
|However, to turn to the Industry as a whole
and the wider applications which had grown from this first
Early in the nineteen-twenties, the Company's Technical
Staff had seen the need for a complete apparatus which
could be employed in the ever growing number of Cinemas
which were being erected and B.V.C. Central Vacuum Cleaner
Installations were introduced.
The system employed was briefly as follows:- In place
of the original Portable machine, a complete equipment
was installed at the time of the erection of the Cinema
and pipes were led through the walls to various points
in the foyer, vestibule, etc. When the Cinema was to be
cleaned, all that the operator had to do was attach the
hose and cleaning tools to a nearby floor point, and with
the machine set in motion, dust which would be harmful
to patrons was effortlessly removed. Not only places of
entertainment, but many important buildings were cleaned
with similar installations. For many years the Houses
of Parliament had been cleaned by this method, and other
prominent buildings included Thames House, County Hall,
Sunlight House, etc, etc. The contribution of the Vacuum
Cleaner to the improvement of the Public Health has been
a considerable one. During the First Great War when the
Royal Naval Reserve were at the old Crystal Palace there
had been a serious outbreak of spotted fever. The many
deaths alarmed the Naval Authorities and it was decided
to clean out the Crystal Palace. The Company were asked
to send a fleet of machines and 26 tons of dust were removed
and the fever ceased. It is interesting to recollect also,
that when a certain small theatre not equipped with dust-removal
apparatus was vacuumed. 8.5 cwts. of dust were removed,
and a subsequent analysis revealed that this dust contained
the germs of nearly every disease known in this country.
Another considerable contribution to public health was
made when they tackled the problem of removal of flue
dust by suction from Industrial Boilers and so maintain
full boiler efficiency. This system proved to be hygienic
in the fact that flue dust no longer poured into the air
from chimneys of Gas Undertakings thereby polluting the
air, and it was also found the boilers could be sooted
while under steam so that it was found unnecessary to
shut down for this work to be carried out. Today most
modern Power Stations in this country and abroad are equipped
with B.V.C. Flue Dust Removal Plant. Other applications
included the pneumatic conveyance of fine coal, grain
and other commodities whereby these were sucked by the
vacuum from barges and trucks and carried through tubes
direct to warehouses and dumps.
|Today, with the benefit of these years of
experience, this great industry carries on its works to
the benefit of the community at large. Practically all
the most progressive of the Transport Undertakings clean
their Railway Carriages, Buses, Trams, etc., by the aid
of pneumatic dust extraction and the Food Industries also
benefit with the introduction some time ago of flour bag
cleaning by air suction whereby, with the aid of powerful
pumps, the residue flour is taken from the bags. Wherever
food in powder form is used the system ensures that all
containers are left entirely without residue which might
produce germs and harmful effects. The most recent application
of the vacuum cleaning principle and one which is gaining
considerable popularity is the B.V.C. Chimney Sweeping
Machine. This machine has been designed for use on all
open domestic fires and boilers and makes the usual dirt
and confusion of chimney sweeping a thing of the past.
Every particle of soot is drawn by vacuum into a metal
container to be disposed of when the operation is completed.
So it is today that Mr. H.C. Booth and his colleagues
at B.V.C. can look back with satisfaction on the growth
of a great Industry of which they can rightly claim they
were the pioneers.
Also see: A history of Goblin (B.V.C.) Ltd dated 1969
Vacuum History). Serious scholars may be interested
in the paper entitled , "The origin of the vacuum
cleaner" by H Cecil Booth, which was published in
the Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 1934-35 Vol
|BVC is a world-leading British
manufacturer of Industrial Vacuum Cleaners, Vacuum Pumps
/ Exhausters and Central Vacuum Cleaning Systems.
BVC were founded over 100 years ago when the inventor
of the vacuum cleaner Hubert Cecil Booth founded the British
Vacuum Company which evolved into the present BVC.
BVC design, build and install special purpose vacuum units
and fixed pipe systems and offer a full after-sales service
to cater for the complex applications and needs of 21st
century manufacturing industry and military facilities
including ATEX compliance and stringent Health & Safety
To maintain high Quality products and service, BVC are
a BS EN ISO 9001:2008 accredited company.