by alan

People, tools and places, their history

December 16, 2018 in Articles

Tools from a 1930’s catalogue

One element that appears when researching vintage garden equipment is the names associated with that particular item. These names may be of the designer, manufacturer, importer, company owner, it may even be a name on a long-forgotten patent.

Sometimes with larger items like garden tractors, rotavators or mowers we also get to know the name of the original owner, that specific individual name; perhaps it was a family member or a sales receipt exists being passed along with the machine to each new owner.

But with small pieces of equipment such as hand tools these individuals names, apart from the manufacturer, remain a complete mystery, there’s no receipt, no trace and often no family link, these tools are the incidental items in a shed, the items with a hidden history. The long lost forgotten name might be the original owner who spent several evenings looking through catalogues, perhaps visiting the local ironmonger to weigh up the pros and cons and different makes as well as the price in pounds, shillings and pence. It might be the head gardener of a big house who chose a new Neverbend spade and the decades of unknown gardeners afterwards that continued using it, cleaning it and wiping it down with an oily rag after use. Who were these original owners and users of all these tools? Probably we will never know…..

…..Until, a few years ago I received a document dated 1930 about a struggling 27 year old garden labourer (I’ll spare his name) who lived just outside Moffat, Scotland. As I look out of my Yorkshire window at the freezing December rain in 2018 it reminds me how much these gardeners of past would both care for and rely upon their basic garden tools all year around even in the depths of winter, these same tools that we see in collections today which must have a story to tell. Not forgetting the physical labour involved in their use.

Below is quoted from the Moffat gardeners1930 document. It is interesting to read the words of someone who was out there, a gardener making the most of the daylight hours and working every minute the day would allow with the spades, forks, sprayers and equipment that we see in catalogues from the time. However he worked, especially mentioning the weather conditions of winter, his income was only just sufficient to cover his outgoings and unfortunate perilous situation he found himself in, hence his written statement:

“I am 27 years of age. I am a garden labourer and have been in the employment of market and jobbing gardener, Moffat, for the past 7 years. My wages are £2 per week. During the year and particularly in the Winter owing to being unable to work for the weather, I have a lot of broken time but [my employer] never keeps anything off my wages on that account and I am supposed to make it up by overtime. During the fruit season I work overtime occasionally and paid extra on that account. In the Spring when householders are putting in their gardens, while it is part of [my employers] business, he allowed me to spend an hour or so after my supper in digging in small gardens, an hour or so is all the time there is for light, the householder pays me.”

It’s perhaps worth remembering that there could be a fascinating history behind every collection of hand tools, secateurs, shears or the everyday garden items that many hands have used. If only they could tell us. Perhaps some of these 1930’s gardeners tools from Moffat are still in use today…or even on a vintage display somewhere?

Here is a selection of catalogue tools with their 1930’s prices:

Garden hand-tools from the 1930’s

1930’s garden, lawn and grass shears

by alan

Then and Now – 1910

April 29, 2018 in Articles

Our latest Then & Now picture is from 1910 and features Ashton’s of East Sheen. The sign in the window announcing the stock of Garden Tools & Requisites and the array of merchandise on the pavement tells us that they probably stocked everything the early 20th century gardener could want.

The image is typical of many shops from that time. Ashton’s featured an expensive curved glass window on the corner, the thermometer  on the wall to the left of the image, the lamps hanging on elegant supports and the impressive sign writing to catch the eye – one would like to think this was a shop of some quality.

The items on display include wooden D handled spades by the entrance, incinerators (of the same design of today), a display of hand tools in the window along with wire netting and seed adverts. The timber wheelbarrow looks a beast with a steel-rimmed wheel and even if some person tried to schlep it away down the street they’d no doubt be out of breath after a couple of hundred yards. 

The lawnmowers and particularly the rollers are of interest. I’m guessing they may have been manufactured by Thomas Green & Sons who were at the New Surrey Works, Southwark Street, London about a ten mile distance from Ashton’s shop. 

But long gone is Ashton’s, little did they know that a century later their wares would make an awesome horticultural display at a vintage show: They’d have thought we were mad!

And now the shop is a fast food outlet as in the image below.

by alan

1936 Catalogue Sprayers

February 21, 2017 in Articles

A popular paste distemper. 28Lbs for 4/6.

A popular paste distemper. 28Lbs for 4/6.

It’s 1936 and we are looking through the latest catalogues for a new sprayer, the choice is wide with sprayers to suit every budget and every spraying need. A new sprayer may be needed because there’s a new job such as whitewashing to be done as in the image on the right, or perhaps the old sprayer has started to fail and corrode from sulphur or lime, or even there’s been some dubious chemical through the old sprayer such as Corry’s ‘Weed Death‘ which was advertised as ‘Better than Arsenic‘ for killing weeds and plants, their adverts were a bit grim and macabre, we’ll thoroughly wash our hands and move on.

Whatever the reason for a shiny new sprayer, they start at a low-price point, or as we say in Yorkshire ‘For the more economically-minded man’. An all-purpose hand sprayer for spraying fruit and roses, bushes, crops, limewashing, creosoting and disinfecting was available for 23/- as in the image below. This was probably a good entry point sprayer but a pneumatic sprayer would be even better…..

1936 Complete all-purpose spaying outfit

1936 Complete all-purpose spaying outfit

For the greenhouse a small handheld pneumatic sprayer would be ideal as in image A below. This sprayer ‘being made with tubular handle is most useful for spraying grapes, rose trees, and tall plants out of reach of the ordinary sprayer by fixing same on pole or ordinary bamboo lance‘ – so now we know why some sprayers have hollow handles!

The knapsack sprayers in images B and C were able to hold a greater volume of liquid with B being able to spray corrosive liquids too. Knapsack sprayer C had to be specified with a tinned copper container in order to spray corrosives such as lime and sulphur. This knapsack sprayer was quoted as being ‘The strongest and best finished Knapsack Sprayer on the market‘ with the best leather shoulder straps and a 39 inch lance. 

Pneumatic hand sprayer and knapsack sprayers

Pneumatic hand sprayer and knapsack sprayers

The pneumatic sprayer in image F below was particularly suitable for disinfectants and insecticides and could either be carried on the back or sat on the ground during use. The bucket sprayer D and Non-splash sprayer E were also ground-dwelling sprayers. The bucket sprayer is a very common item often seen at sales, complete with a four gallon bucket and a double-action brass spray pump it also came with an all-metal strainer to keep lumps out of the mixture when filling and cost 35/- complete in 1936. 

The Non-splash sprayer in image E was ‘an entirely new departure in spraying machine construction…built on the lines of a milk churn..with a zinc gauze strainer thereby obviating all danger of the liquid splashing when being transported‘. It was fully guaranteed to give many years excellent service and was also 35/- or 39/- with lever handle.

Vintage bucket sprayers including non-splash and pneumatic

Vintage bucket sprayers including non-splash and pneumatic

The lever spraying machine, image below left, was suited to large areas of limewashing, the lever action enabling a high pressure to be gained and a finer spray too. The hose connection could be swapped over so the machine could be used either left or right-handed. The barrow sprayer, right image, is another lever-pump sprayer suitable for all classes of spraying with the pump being detachable so the barrow could be used for carrying water, rubbish or many other goods and as a multipurpose item was painted green rather than being unpainted, was this so it blended into the garden better or just a selling point?

Lever spraying machine and a barrow sprayer

Lever spraying machine and a barrow sprayer

But in the world of sprayers bigger with more gadgets could be better. The single-wheeled water barrow sprayer in the right image below has a galvanized tank measuring 16″ x 18″ x 12″ (10 gallons) which is painted inside and out, with an anti-spill rim and sprayers for plants, a jet for windows and also for car washing too. The first car power washer documented?

We have included here the swing water barrow on the left because it’s so advanced for loading water into itself with a hand-powered 1 & 3/4 inch semi-rotary pump with air vessel. Ideal for carrying water about for cleaning up after white washing the buildings. Price? A 40 gallon barrow with rotary pump and wheels for 96/- . 

Vintage Swing Water Barrow Sprayers

Vintage Swing Water Barrow and Barrow Sprayer

Although the sprayers are unmarked there’s a reference to Westhill sprayers, more than likely the sprayers were mainly from that one supplier.