A crane escort for last of the Sparrow brothers.

The funeral cortege of Bath businessman and last-surviving Sparrow brother, Gordon Sparrow, makes its way to Haycombe Cemetery, Bath today (June 22nd), with a mobile crane escort to celebrate the life of one of the founding fathers of the global lifting industry.
© Mark Sparrow

Gordon – who was 82 –  was the last of the three brothers who founded one of Bath’s biggest businesses.

Gordon Sparrow, the youngest and last surviving Sparrow Crane brother passed away on June 1st, aged 82.

He was the youngest of the brothers who founded Sparrow’s Crane Hire after the Second World War, at a time when Britain was in dire need of lifting machinery to rebuild bomb-damaged cities like Bath.

The three Sparrow brothers. From left to right: George, Gordon, Alf.

The brothers designed and built their own cranes, often adapting ex-army trucks and vehicles, and they were instrumental in pioneering much of the lifting technology seen on today’s building sites.

Gordon Sparrow was born in Shophouse Road, Twerton, on 23rd August 1933, and was the youngest of seven children. His father ran a petrol station and car repair business on the Lower Bristol Road, while Gordon’s mother was in charge of the family’s adjoining transport café.

At West Twerton Boys’ School, Gordon showed a real aptitude for engineering and it wasn’t long before he was servicing his headmaster’s car.

He went on to pass his driving test on his 17th birthday before being called up for National Service. Gordon was posted to Egypt’s Suez Zone as an armoured car driver with the Royal Dragoons.


He often said that National Service was the making of him and enjoyed regaling friends and family with tales of his time in Egypt.

After the Army, Gordon returned to Bath and joined brothers Alf and George in starting a crane business. It wasn’t long before they were running a very successful venture that became a household name. The company’s bright red cranes were a familiar sight on roads and building sites all over the country.

Sparrow’s Crane Hire was floated on the Stock Exchange in 1968 and became a major quoted company with offices around the world. The firm kept its headquarters in Bath, on the site of the family’s original petrol station, but the business was eventually sold in 1986 and the two older brothers retired.

These images are from Sam Farr – and my thanks to him for letting me use them. They were taken at the old Berkeley Nuclear Power Station when – as Sam says – Sparrows ‘ owned the largest mobile crane in the UK’.

Gordon wasn’t ready for retirement and he went on to set up successful crane businesses in Bristol and Coventry. He was widely acknowledged as an elder statesman of the crane world.

Gordon’s life wasn’t all work because, in 1955, he met and married Bath girl Sheila Cleverley, and the couple had four sons and a daughter together. They celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary just two weeks ago.

As well as keeping up with his many business interests, Gordon enjoyed spending time with his eight grandchildren and, for the past two years, he was a resident at Springfield Care Home, where he was a popular figure and will be fondly remembered for his sense of humour and nuggets of wisdom.

Gordon is survived by his wife Sheila and four children: Leigh, Timothy, Mark and Emma. 

Director’s Note: My thanks to Mark Sparrow for sending me this obituary of his father. My thoughts are with him and the rest of the family.

You can link to the company website via https://www.sparrowcrane.co.uk