A seemingly unusual name for a small service elevator – the dumbwaiter, or dumb waiter, must surely have an interesting story behind its name.

If you don’t know what a dumbwaiter is, let us explain. Dumbwaiters are small elevators used to bring food, groceries, laundry etc up and down multiple floors. The hardwearing lifts are designed for the use of goods rather than people.

The history of the dumbwaiter actually dates back thousands of years, to around 200BC, where an architect described installing a dumbwaiter to move goods in a building he was constructing.

When the term dumbwaiter was first used is still not exactly know; but it is thought that it came to be used when large houses employed a team of kitchen staff and servants, that operated out of servant’s quarters in the basements of these houses.

Servants would use the lift to transport dishes from the kitchen, up to the dining room, and back down to the kitchen for cleaning again. The dumbwaiters meant noise and cooking odours were isolated from the rest of the house.

This silent option to serving food to guests could well be where the term dumbwaiter originated, as it was like having a silent waiter; not seen and not heard.

From the manual, rope-and-pulley origins of the dumbwaiter; through to modern designs by way of the industrial revolution, and the inclusion of electric motors installed into dumbwaiters, they are still common today.

In the 21st Century we still find dumbwaiters in most modern, chic bars, restaurants, clubs and pubs. These reliable workhorses still provide the unseen and unheard delivery of goods between floors as effectively as ever before.

Gone are the days where servants would operate the rope and pulley to deliver food to the awaiting lords and ladies at dinner. Modern day dumbwaiters come with heated cabins, state of the art intercoms and safety locks. So, whilst the technology has changed the name still remains: dumbwaiters.