5 Iconic Cranes And Their History

Since ancient times, cranes have played a vital role in the development of buildings and the progression of society.

Cranes are usually a sign of positive change in a community because where there is construction there is usually economic growth.

Sometimes however, cranes will not only play a pivotal role in the construction process, but their visual presence will become as iconic as the constructions themselves.

Here we have picked out a selection of iconic sites where cranes have stolen some of the limelight from their surroundings.


Sitting on the river Thames as part of one of London’s many landmarks, Battersea Power Station’s blue cranes have overlooked the Thames since the 1950s. Their function was to unload coal into hoppers over the conveyors in order to feed the power station.

The striking cranes were decommissioned in 1983. In the thirty years they have lain dormant, their structure had severely deteriorated. In 2014 the listed cranes were dismantled and taken to the Port of Tilsbury for restoration.

Having grown so inseparable from the historic site, the cranes will be reinstated in 2017 before the power station’s new properties and riverside park open in 2019.

La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia is one of the city’s main tourist attractions. One of the most intriguing aspects of this towering church is that it is yet to be finished. With over 130 years in the making, the cranes have become a staple part of the building’s structure, and will remain so until the day it is eventually finished.

La Sagrada Familia’s first stone was laid in 1882, the site’s current architect has vowed to have it completed by 2026. This will mark one hundred years since the death of its original architect, Antoni Gaudi.

Salford Quays

Built in 1966, Salford’s blue cranes were placed on the quays in 1988 and towered over the docks until they were unfortunately taken down in 2013.

The cranes served as an iconic reminder of Salford’s rich docking industry. Local campaigners tried to have the cranes restored and moved to a new spot, however the council could not justify the cost of keeping and restoring them to meet health and safety standards.

Cockatoo Island

Between 1930 and 1945, Cockatoo Island was a major player for shipbuilding and repairs in the South West, especially throughout WWII.

Crane structures were numerous and vast on the island’s many docks. Cockatoo’s operation closed in 1992 and lay dormant until Sydney Harbour Federation Trust began renovations and opened it to the public in 2007.

The island has now been placed on UNESCO World Heritage List. The crane (pictured above) stands alone overlooking the bay as a reminder of the island’s rich history in 20th century Australia.

Finnieston crane

Though it is now disused, this 174 ft crane stands tall in the centre of Glasgow as a symbol of the city’s shipping and engineering heritage.

It was constructed in 1931 as a replacement for an original 130 tonne crane which was used in the late 19th century. The crane was primarily used for the lifting of tanks and steam locomotives for export to the British empire.

Such is the positive symbolic power of the crane, that no-longer-functioning cranes often remain in place. Representing a poignant era of development in a community’s history, it is both remarkable and moving that such machinery can transcend its typically negative aesthetic categorisation.