1911 Women’s Terror at Britain’s First Underground Escalator

On the 4th October 1911 Britain’s first escalators were introduced, connecting the District and Piccadilly platforms at Earl’s Court underground station in London.

10 months later “the fair sex” were still struggling to get to grips with it, as reported in the Pall Mall Gazette

A “MOVABLE TERROR.” LADIES AND EARL’S COURT ESCALATOR.

“I wish you would take the lift, mother, and not those horrible stairs.”

A young lady thus summed up her dislike of the moving staircase at Earl’s Court Station to-day.

Illustrated London News - Saturday 14 October 1911
Illustrated London News – Saturday 14 October 1911

A “Pall Mall Gazette” representative who overheard the remark ventured to ask why she objected to those horrible stairs”?

I simply cannot bear the sensation,” she replied, ”of standing on a platform that is moving downwards and looking into an abyss-like space. It really makes my head swim. The first time I tried the staircase, just out of curiosity, I was upset for the rest of the day.” 

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Our representative, who made further inquiry into this “movable terror” of ladies, found that, so far, the escalator has not been a success with the fair sex, and that only a comparatively small number of lady passengers had availed themselves of it. They still preferred the lift, though the downward movement was somewhat trying to the nerves.

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“To my mind,” said a lady of somewhat mature age, the moving staircase is useless. It does not help one more in catching one’s train than the lift, and, besides, it causes emotions far worse than those of the lift.”

One cannot help thinking that those ladies are right, for it happens at almost every hour of the day that people, especially women, approach the staircase, no doubt with the intention of trying it, but on seeing what it is like, retrace their footsteps.

Pall Mall Gazette – Saturday 17 August 1912

Harrod’s Escalator 1898

The first Reno Inclined Elevator in Britain was installed at Harrods, London, 1898
Illustrated London News – Wednesday 01 December 1999
An early example of an escalator circa 1890 Image: Review of reviews and world’s work Year: 1890 Publisher: New York Review of Reviews Corp Contributing Library: Robarts – University of Toronto INTERNET ARCHIVE

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