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Moving the impossible

Mar 19, 2012
Deputy editor David Jordan took a trip to specialist mover Aston Spinks' headquarters in north London to find out how the black art of moving valuable awkward things into awkward places has become a successful business.

Imagine getting a call like this: “Hello, we’re moving to a new flat in Maida Vale in a couple of weeks and we need to move my wife’s Grand Piano. Trouble is it’s on the fourth floor and the stair case is very narrow, I’m not sure it’ll go up there. Could you send someone over to have a look?”

I think it’s fair to say that most of us would be, to say the least, less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a job like this, but for specialist movers Aston Spinks it’s all in a day’s work. It doesn’t have to be a piano - although they do account for around half the company’s business – anything awkward or fragile, a large sculpture, a piece of antique furniture or a valuable painting are typical of the kind of things  the specialist teams at Aston Spinks thrive on.

I asked General Manager Julian Rout about our make believe man on the phone with the Grand Piano and how they would manage such a large delicate item if it couldn’t be taken up the stairs. “We’d probably remove one of the windows and crane it in through there,” said Julian. “Our guys are experts at doing that, it’s nothing unusual, we do it all the time.”

Around 70% of Aston Spinks’ jobs are in London but the company operates throughout the UK and also has weekly runs to Hamburg, Berlin, Brussels and Amsterdam, delivering high-value items for customers including some of London’s top retailers museums and auction houses.

“We train all our operatives in house and our standards are very high,” said Julian.  “We’re also very careful about selecting people with the right temperament and attitude; it’s no good having someone who is impatient and likely to cut corners.”

Julian took me on a tour of the warehouse at their north London base. As you’d expect, security is a high priority and every room we entered was heavily protected with steel doors, electronic locks, movement detectors and CCTV.  As we passed through the rows of covered pianos and temperature controlled rooms of antique furniture, Julian pointed out some of the tools of their trade: special custom-made trolleys of various sizes, mini cranes, winches, furniture hoists, stair walkers and other specialist devices for getting awkward things into awkward places. “It just wouldn’t be worth a general removals company investing in this kind of gear because they’d hardly ever use it. It’s better to call us in and let us handle that part of the job. We’re not in the general removals business so there’s no conflict of interest and we pay a fee to the removals company for every referral.”

If a job involves a particularly heavy item or a lift to an upper floor address, Aston Spinks arranges for specialist lifting equipment to be brought in and will draw up a lift plan in line with current regulations. In some cases, especially in London, arrangements have to be made to close a street or suspend parking in the area while the move is taking place. Whatever needs to be done Aston Spinks takes care of everything so that the customer has only one point of contact and minimal involvement in the operation. And because they’re dealing with works of art and other expensive items, All Risks Liability insurance is continuously in place. 

“Has a job ever come along that was impossible?” I asked Julian. “No, not really, but very rarely it can be too expensive to do the work involved. For example, if we needed to remove a wall to gain access for say a large piece of furniture it could amount to more than the value of the item and the customer might decide not to bother. But no, I don’t think there’s ever been a case where we just couldn’t find a way.”

So, the next time you get a call from someone wanting to move a hot-tub into his penthouse flat, or a Henry Moore sculpture to a basement in Chelsea, you might like to give Aston Spinks a call.

They can be contacted on 0208 561 4321 or visit

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