A history in road sweepers

26th August 2019


MW Sweeper Hire has been established for 35 years, spanning over two generations. But do you know how old road sweepers are? Or even where they were first invented?

Nowadays, road sweepers are common to see on British streets, but they first appeared in the early 19th century. Around the time of the Industrial Revolution, in the 1840s, Manchester was known as one of the most developed industrial cities. Along with being the home of one of the largest textile industries in the world, it was also the first place that offered passenger rail service.


Sadly, because of this evolution of man-made industries, it meant Manchester also became one of the unhealthiest places to live because of the amounts of rubbish that collected on the streets. To solve the problem Joseph Whitworth invented the first street cleaner in 1843 and called it "The Patent Street Sweeping Machine of Manchester". Across the pond in the United States, the first street sweeping machine was invented and patented in 1849 by C.S. Bishop. These two sweepers were horse-drawn.

In 1911, the first motor driven pick-up street sweeper was invented by John M. Murphy, but only in theory on paper. Murphy managed to convince The American Tower and Tank Company from Elgin, Illinois that the idea could work and they, together, founded Elgin Sweeper Company. For two years leading up to 1913, constant experiments took place and finally in that year, the City of Boise, Idaho, bought their first Elgin Sweeper. John M. Murphy continued to improve the sweeper and, in 1917, he patented the next version with a conveyor belt to carry dirt from the broom to the dirt box instead of a slat conveyor that was in the original.

Not much changed for 20 years on the sweeper front. Back then, it was believed that only large items of rubbish needed clearing and the smaller pieces could be washed away with the rain. Only later on did people realise that this rubbish would then pollute the waters from surface run-off.

As standards have greatly improved, today street sweepers are equipped with water tanks and sprayers which loosen particles and reduce dust, Brooms that clean these and move them under the sweeper. These are also met with vacuum which places them into a collection bin or a hopper. A regenerative air street sweeper cleans with forced air which creates a swirling effect which loosens the debris. When loosened, negative pressure sucks the debris and places it inside a hopper.


MW Sweeper Hire is a Norfolk Trusted Trader, with an array of vehicles to tackle any situation. Equipped with the latest industry specifications, our Stocks S8400 Sweeper expertly restores ALL sites from driveways to stadiums to their original states – or better – within short timescales. Our heavy-duty machine is a tool that not only effectively clears everything in its path but is completely user-friendly for our operatives; helping to optimise the best results for all clients. Designed with premium quality components and innovative technology, this is no ordinary sweeper!

Street sweepers keep fish and wildlife from heavy metals and other pollutants, improve water quality, keep drains clean and reduce chances of flooding. If you are interested in using this long-standing service to help keep our country clean.


Get in touch to discuss your requirements, we will advise you on the best service for your needs and provide you with a quotation.