All Things Local August 2017 : the Butterley Liftpark


The Wulpa

Can you remember Butterley’s liftpark (sometimes referred to as the ‘Wulpa’), which stood at the entrance to the Works at the junction of the Coach Road and the A61?  Built in 1962, it was intended for use as an advertisement for vertical parking and for further technical development. Working very much on the principle of the fun-fair’s big wheel it had a car carrying capacity of 20 cars on a ground area of just 24 x 20 ft with a height of 75 ft.

Each car carrying cabin travelled perpendicularly up or down instead of describing a circle. This was known as the Paternoster system and was first applied to vertical parking in America in 1926. A Swiss engineer, Herr Wullschleger, patented improved guiding systems, which resulted in the Liftpark becoming a commercial proposition. Butterley Company bought the licence to manufacture and sell liftparks in the UK and Northern Ireland.

To park a car the motorist simply had to drive into a cabin, get out of the car and enter the control kiosk to turn a key. The cabin and car then moved up one side of the structure, an empty cabin taking its place. On returning, the motorist had only to replace the key in the required slot and the car was brought back to ground level in a time of approximately 30 seconds. Alternatively the Liftpark could be controlled by an attendant. It was envisaged that the Liftpark could be built as a free standing fully cladded unit or adapted for enclosure in buildings such as a tower blocks of flats or offices.

Minty Wright and his Rolls entering the Wulpa

The maximum size of car was up to 19ft in length and 5ft 9inches high. On the official opening day, the Company Chairman, M.F.M. ‘Monty’ Wright used his Rolls – Royce Silver Cloud measuring 18ft long by 5ft 7 inches high as a parking demonstration vehicle. It must have been a tight fit!

The project was not a commercial success probably (amongst several other reasons), because the idea was well before its time and its operation relied upon state of the art 1960’s electronics, rotary limit switches and photo electric cells.  Several were however sold, the two nearest being in Nottingham near Canning Circus. Perhaps today’s advanced computers would have added a totally different dimension to the project’s success. The Company was in fact preparing designs for 40 and 60 vehicle units, but the end came in 1967 when the Butterley Liftpark was dismantled and the project abandoned. This came at a time when the Company itself was undergoing major internal problems at Board level which resulted in the first of many take-overs, initially by Hanson’s Wiles Group

It is worth noting that the writer has spent a considerable time working in the Far East and has seen Liftparks utilising the same chain and cabin design in high rise buildings in both Seoul and Tokyo, obviously using computerised control systems. Perhaps it was not so much a ‘white elephant’ after all !