The History of the Skip

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Posted by Keith Hirst on 30 July 2018

Where did the skip get its name?

The etymology of the skip is not entirely clear. Going back to the industrial revolution of the 18th Century, coal miners used baskets known as ‘skeps’ to hold the coal they collected. With coal mining production increasing, larger metal containers were constructed to maintain the levels of coal being produced. It is very likely that the ‘skip’ evolved from the ‘skep’, due to the resemblance between the coal mining carts and the metal skips used today.

How and when was the skip first conceived?

Fastforwarding to the 1920s, waste disposal systems consisted of horse-drawn carts lugging waste to the local dumping ground. Unfortunately, these dumping grounds started to become less and less local, due to households deciding they wanted to live further away from these unhygienic areas. As a result, horse-drawn carts started severely struggling to carry large amounts of waste on long-distance trips. Edwin Walker, an employee of the lorry manufacturer ‘Pagefield’, partnered with an engineer to come up with a solution to this problem. Together they equipped wheels to the bottom of large containers and used the containers’ newfound accessibility to load them onto the back of trucks much more easily. This allowed for longer distance journeys to be completed with larger amounts of waste being disposed of. This innovation came to be known as the Pagefield system.

The development of the Pagefield System – Freighter

As time moved on, the Pagefield system saw modernised advancements from rival companies. Shelvoke and Drewry, a British manufacturer of specialised commercial vehicles, developed a waste disposal truck known as ‘The Freighter’. The main advancement of this truck was that it was petrol-operated. The Freighter was a much more powerful truck than the trucks previously used in the Pagefield system and soon became the primary vehicles used in waste disposal.

The development of the Pagefield System – Dempster

In 1935, George, Thomas and John Dempster of the Dempster Brothers Construction Company introduced a hydraulic winch to automatically lift the container directly from the back of the truck and dispose of waste accordingly. This invention greatly reduced the manpower involved in waste disposal and became the foundation for the modern-day waste disposal trucks we see today. Adding to their success, the Dempster Brothers created the suitably named “Dempster-Dumpmaster”, which used mechanical arms to lift up the skip and pour the contents into the back end of the vehicle. The Dempster Dumpster was specially designed to incorporate a space for holding and compressing the waste without the need of carrying the actual skip.

The modern day skip

With the cementing of a fully functional waste disposal system in place, the skip saw a significant overhaul in its design. Ubiquitous as it is today, the skip soon began to universally take the shape of a trapezoid; with a wide top and deep interior. Skips today are found almost always in two colours: red and yellow. These colours were chosen specifically, as their vibrancy provides safety by warning passersby that there will likely be heavy machinery around.

At Thompson Fuels & Skip Hire Ltd, we know all there is to know about skips. Our passionate and qualified team are dedicated to providing the best quality services in all areas of waste management and disposal. For more information, please contact our specialist team today.

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