Thread Number: 14672
Sturtevant central vac . HELP!
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Post# 155401   10/14/2011 at 11:28 (4,521 days old) by fletch ()        

I am contacting you from , and on behalf of , the Blackpool Grand Theatre in England.
In our cellar we have a Sturtevant central vacuum . There are hose connection sockets on all four levels of the auditorium .
I have been in touch with Geoff Sturtevant , who runs the Sturtevant web site in the U.K.he was very interested , but unable to help with any information .
I have also been in touch with Vincent Tocco , who runs the U.S. site . The snippets of information that he was able to provide , suggest that the machinery
was manufactured before the end of 1919 .
The Grand Theatre opened in july 1894 , and had a major re-fit in 1910 . If the machinery was installed in 1910 , it would make it , one of the earliest Turbo vacs in the U.K.
What i am trying to find out is when this technology was introduced into England ,and was it by Sturtevant ? The technology was introduced in the this time .
The owner of the British Vacuum Cleaner Museum , was unable to help with information , but did suggest yourselves , as the best possibility of furthering my quest.

Post# 155452 , Reply# 1   10/14/2011 at 21:50 (4,521 days old) by Jayelux (Dallas, TX)        
Hope someone can help you

My partner and I used to live on Chandler's Rest in Lytham. We are Americans but lived four years in Lancashire and loved every single second of it, including seeing many shows at the Blackpool Grand Theatre. (Also had many fun times at Funny Girls.) Seeing your post brought back some terrific memories. I have high confidence that you will find some answers on this forum.

Post# 155536 , Reply# 2   10/15/2011 at 12:07 (4,520 days old) by collector2 (Moose Jaw, Sk)        

collector2's profile picture

The concept of stationary cleaners in England started with the British Vacuum Cleaner Co (Hubert Cecil Booth) around 1902. If memory serves the first ones he installed were in Buckingham Pallace and Windsor Castle. In the next couple of years they were installed in The Houses of Parliament, Savoy Hotel, Empire Theatre, Leicester Square Theatre and Gaiety Theatre as well as many other buildings


Post# 155583 , Reply# 3   10/15/2011 at 20:24 (4,520 days old) by kenkart ()        

If I were you , the first thing I would do is see if the turbine and motor will turn, if so, they both probably have either grease fittings or some type of oil reservoir, I would lubricate them properly, replace the belt if it looks worn, then check to see if you are getting power to the unit, probably 220 there unlike our 110 or 120 volts...Then empty the dirt collector and then turn it on, watching closely for smoke or sparks, if there is an issue with the motor, it can be repaired by a competent electric motor shop, or replace it with a more modern motor of equal any event it should be used!! The Fox Theatre in Saint Louis has a 1929 Spencer unit that runs as good as it ever did!!Please do not junk it, it is a part of history that can still be used!

Post# 155778 , Reply# 4   10/17/2011 at 11:25 (4,518 days old) by centralvacs1928 (Chicagoland)        

Wow! Thank you so much for sharing, that is very cool. Do you have a picture of the hose inlets?

I'd bet it runs...those big old motors are indestructible. Just make sure everything turns, and see about adding some lubrication.

Here's a photo of a machine similar to yours (the book belongs to Andy Weter, who posted it here a few years ago)...not sure if the belt-driven turbine unit came earlier, or was a concurrent option.

Post# 155803 , Reply# 5   10/17/2011 at 17:42 (4,518 days old) by goadie12 ()        

Wow that's very cool is there any chance that you still have the original hose and attachments to go with it I know it's a long shot but I just thought it would be interesting to see what they came wth back in the day thanks? Zach

Post# 156256 , Reply# 6   10/21/2011 at 12:28 (4,514 days old) by fletch ()        
open hose socket

Thank you for the replies so far .
Hubert Cecil Booth did indeed manufacture the first british machines that were mechanically powered . These were huge machines that were moved around on a cart , pulled by a horse . They provided a mobile cleaning service . They were powered by a petrol engine , not electricity . They were ordinary vacuums , not
turbo vacs .
Booth gave a free demonstration , at his local resteraunt , making sure that it was well advertised . He attracted quite a crowd . Word got back to Buckingham Palace , about how well it had performed , and he was asked to clean the carpet , in the central aisle of Westminster Abbey , ready for the coronation of Edward the seventh. He was then asked to clean the carpets in the palace , which led to several more prestige commissions .
Several years later he installed a machine in Buckingham Palace , still petrol fueled , and very noisy .
Orders for his machines soared , and amongst his installations and sales were included , the Houses of Parliament , Windsor Castle , the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar .
The first electrically powered machine was built and demonstrated in San Francisco in 1906 . This weighed over 90 pounds . The following year James Spengler came up with his upright invention , which was light enough to be mobile .
Sturtevant ,( the american fan company ) , designed and perfected , the idea of the turbo vac , and the first such machines , were introduced in 1909/1910 in the
Sturtevant had a branch in London from 1896 to sell their products on the european market .
After the first world war ,they had to divest themselves of this branch , and it became SturtevanT engineering ltd . U.K.
When the London branch became independant , they changed the way the name was written .
Originally it was written as Sturtevant . Afterwards it was written as SturtevanT , with a capital S and T .
The plate on our machine has a small t at the end .
Unfortunately we no longer have the hoses and tools .


Post# 156266 , Reply# 7   10/21/2011 at 14:08 (4,514 days old) by luxman107 (USA )        

love the pics, thanks for sharing..awesome looking machine..wouldn't it be great to have something like that my house..

Post# 156290 , Reply# 8   10/21/2011 at 16:45 (4,514 days old) by RainbowD4C (Saint Joseph, Michigan )        

rainbowd4c's profile picture
How would they turn the unit on? Machines now you just plug the hose in and maybe flip a switch on the hose handle. I can't see that happening back then.

Post# 156298 , Reply# 9   10/21/2011 at 18:04 (4,514 days old) by centralvacs1928 (Chicagoland)        

There would have been a switch or switches centrally located...likely in closets where the hoses and tools were intended to be stored. You can see that the electrical conduit feeding the machine goes into a box, which may be a relay enclosure allowing any number of switches around the theater to control the machine. Below that looks like the fused disconnect, as any kind of large equipment has.

When I was ten or twelve, my parents took me to see Casa Loma in Toronto...beautiful and fascinating in many regards, but what especially intrigued me were the central vacuum inlets in the baseboards around the house. They looked like Spencer inlets, and I spent most of the tour locating them, and trying to find the switches to activate the system, as well as the machine itself. No luck on either count...

Post# 156300 , Reply# 10   10/21/2011 at 18:08 (4,514 days old) by centralvacs1928 (Chicagoland)        
Sturtevant Inlet

I saved this picture off of a website several years ago...unfortunately I don't remember where it's from. This inlet is set flush with the baseboard, and "Sturtevant Vacuum Cleaner" stamped into the metal. I would guess it's earlier, rather than later.

Post# 156301 , Reply# 11   10/21/2011 at 18:13 (4,514 days old) by RainbowD4C (Saint Joseph, Michigan )        

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In some of the pictures I've seen from past posts in the past years the hoses and attachments looked huge and cumbersom. Looking at the openings of the inlets they look like the diameter wasn't that big at all.

Post# 156315 , Reply# 12   10/21/2011 at 22:13 (4,514 days old) by vacuumfreak (Ontario, Canada)        

I just had a question... What is that steering wheel looking thing above the far right part of the unit?

Post# 156704 , Reply# 13   10/24/2011 at 04:30 (4,511 days old) by fletch ()        
switch unit

dear all .
if you can get to see my photo album , you will find several more views of the machine , including the switch unit .


Post# 156738 , Reply# 14   10/24/2011 at 12:42 (4,511 days old) by BrianKirbyClass (Eudora Kansas)        

briankirbyclass's profile picture
Seems like i read once where many Central Vac inlets of this period required a special key to be opened and locked closed. This key would have been used by the maid, butler, or whoever was doing the vacuuming, and would have probablly been kept on the maids cart, with the hose and vacuum attachments.
Ive also seen pics of the actual hose and attachments for these older models, and they look VERY heavy and cumbersome.
Ive also heard that as large as these central units were, when they were turned on, the entire building would Rumble!, and were so powerful that several inlets could be opened and used at the same time.

Post# 156748 , Reply# 15   10/24/2011 at 14:38 (4,511 days old) by vacuumfreak (Ontario, Canada)        

Here's another picture posted by Andy a few years ago. These are some of the tools that would have come with it:

Post# 157998 , Reply# 16   11/4/2011 at 11:42 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
Sturtevant central Turbo vac

Here is a bit more information and some more views .
To give you some idea of size , the red bricks in the wall behind the machinery , are 9 inches x 3 inches .
The pipe going through the wall leads under the stalls ,(ground floor ).

Post# 157999 , Reply# 17   11/4/2011 at 11:45 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
the name plate

The way the name is written , shows that it dates before 1919 .

Post# 158000 , Reply# 18   11/4/2011 at 11:47 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
the motor

A close up of the motor

Post# 158001 , Reply# 19   11/4/2011 at 11:54 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
Wall socket

this unpainted wall socket , is the same colouring as the photo posted by centralvacs 1928 . they all have the Sturtevant name stamped into them as well .

Post# 158003 , Reply# 20   11/4/2011 at 12:03 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
internal pipework

This pipe comes up through the stalls floor , the inlet is on the end of the spur to the left , at ground level .The pipe then goes straight up the wall and through the ceiling above to the dress circle .

Post# 158004 , Reply# 21   11/4/2011 at 12:06 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        

The pipe going up , and me on the floor.

Post# 158005 , Reply# 22   11/4/2011 at 12:09 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
dress circle

the pipe comes up through the dress circle floor ,again the inlet is on thr end of the spur , then it dissapears up through the ceiling .

Post# 158007 , Reply# 23   11/4/2011 at 12:17 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
upper circle

the pipe comes up through the upper circle floor , the inlet being just above floor level . the pipe continues upward through the ceiling to the gallery , but there is a branch pipe to the left , that goes up to the grid , which is the highest part of the theatre , above the stage .

Post# 158008 , Reply# 24   11/4/2011 at 12:26 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
the grid

over at the back near the wall , where the ends of the wooden joists are visible .you can make out about a foot of protruding pipe , this is where the branch from the upper circle terminates , and where the inlet is situated .
the floor beneath it was removed in 1950 , to install the current scenery flying system .

Post# 158009 , Reply# 25   11/4/2011 at 12:39 (4,500 days old) by fletch ()        
further information

The switch box on the wall to the right of the machinery , is the only means of activating the vacuum . someone had to go down there and switch it on , and again to switch it off .
There are no locks on any of the inlets .
I don't know what the steering wheel thing is , it is seperate to the machine , and probably nothing to do with it at all . I didn't throw it away , just in case.

Post# 158011 , Reply# 26   11/4/2011 at 14:10 (4,500 days old) by vacuumfreak (Ontario, Canada)        

Does anyone have any pictures of the Spencer unit at the Fox Theatre?!


Post# 158013 , Reply# 27   11/4/2011 at 14:31 (4,500 days old) by CODYF ()        

Have you tried to turn it on?

Post# 158063 , Reply# 28   11/4/2011 at 23:21 (4,499 days old) by collector2 (Moose Jaw, Sk)        

collector2's profile picture
The picture of the motor shows a spigot above the bushing for oiling. It might be a good idea to put some three in one electric motor oil in it and turn it over by had a bit before you apply power to it. Just to loosen things up.

Post# 158070 , Reply# 29   11/5/2011 at 01:27 (4,499 days old) by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

Look on the motors nameplate to see what oil it uses.3 in one may be too light unless it formulated for very large motors.-Like 5 hp and above as this motor appears to be.Before you try to turn things by hand--MAKE SURE THE POWER IS DISCONNECTED TO THE UNIT!!!We don't want anyone getting wrapped up in this beast.Locate the power disconnect switch before working on the unit and turn it off-and lock it out if you can.

Post# 158358 , Reply# 30   11/7/2011 at 17:06 (4,497 days old) by centralvacs1928 (Chicagoland)        

Thank you for sharing more pictures! I love old central vacuums, and this has to be one of the oldest out there.

I would really encourage you to see if it runs, if you haven't already. Just a quick "pulse" on-off should allow you to safely see if it runs at all (or doesn't, or blows the fuse, etc.), and if you get some noise and movement, then turn it on and watch what it does. Those big old motors usually run forever, and I bet if you hit the switch it will come to life just like it did 100-some years ago.

Keep us posted!!


Post# 158569 , Reply# 31   11/10/2011 at 11:50 (4,494 days old) by fletch ()        
the motor

I have managed to clean the plate on the motor , sufficently to read , that it was manufactured by Brook Motors Ltd Huddersfield. Which is in Yorkshire , in the north east of England . There isn't a live power feed near the machine , but I did turn it by hand , and from the sound of things , it needs a good clean out .
I forgot to put this photo on last time . This is the inlet , in the middle of the gallery seats.

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