by alan

Husqvarna – Nearly Found One

March 11, 2019 in Articles, Machinery

Some machines appear to be rare, scarce, non-existant, but are they? Or are they out there hiding in the bushes? This article is about how elusive some items can be….or perhaps I’m not searching in the correct place for the one specific item I’m after.

If anyone has ever been looking for a machine then at some point it can all seem rather fruitless, but all may not be lost because sometimes a little more information just suddenly appears – hence the ‘Husqvarna – Nearly Found One‘ title. (Note: I still haven’t actually found the 1970’s Husqvarna mower I’m looking for (pictured below)…or a non-brochure photo yet but the search continues just to prove they exist out in the wild, I’ll not give in!)

Husqvarna is a company which is generally associated with chainsaws and motorbikes in the UK, but there’s also some vintage and collectable machinery and lawnmowers. I used to have a Husqvarna mower from the mid 1990’s with a variable drive mechanism powered by a small rubber wheel which unfortunately heated up and disintegrated through time, it certainly could burn rubber but at the expense of not propelling the mower an inch. It’s very soul-destroying having to push a self-propelled mower! 

Husqvarna 500 mower – the red ones were self-propelled and the blue ones were push models.

Having had the 1990’s mower with the problematic drive mechanism I was intrigued to read a couple of years back that there had been some earlier Husqvarna mowers launched here in 1972. These were amazing 12-speed, 2-stroke, advanced machines and available in BLUE and RED colour schemes – that colour choice alone just gives them a cool edge and sets then apart from anything else that was on the market. 

My new and latest research, with specifications further down this article, tells that this was an incredibly advanced mower as mentioned in UK  gardening magazines of the time and had a couple of refinements, improved front-wheel drive and a steel rear flap in 1975, also detailed in magazines. They were out there, they were being advertised in many publications including professional journals, they were exhibited on show stands, but where are these mowers today? They cannot all have vanished after a long life being sold by dealers? If anyone ever finds one then they’ll get an incredible piece of 40+ year old, modern mower history for probably less than £50 – start searching!

After a bit of colour correction the blue model may have looked like this.

These smooth ABS shelled mowers were available as a push-version, that’s it in the unusual blue and white colour scheme, and in the red scheme was the self-propelled front wheel drive version. 

The engine is encased and has the pull handle at the middle of the front cover and the mower was advertised as having “clean, almost streamlined styling…the smooth uncluttered lines making it easier to keep the machine clean and smart“. Powered by a 120cc (3.5hp), Swedish-designed, two-stroke engine the mower was described in the brochure as ” Everywhere it has been demonstrated experts have commented on it’s low noise level ‘Environmentally acceptable, agreeable – almost silent’ “. Two-stroke?

It was also stated in the literature that it was ‘Europe’s rarest power mower‘ which is an odd thing to say when trying to sell a product, however, it turns out they were right and getting on for nearly 50 years later it remains rare, indeed where have they all gone?! Europe seems devoid of them also and I’ve even scoured Swedish auction sites and the nooks and crannies of most European countries online resources.  

Then, a year after I started looking for this mower I find a magazine advert (image right) with dealers name and address of Hyett Adams in Gloucestershire, which confirms they were sold in the UK and it wasn’t just some magazine hear-say to fill their editorial pages.

And the mower turns out to be even better than I originally thought…..finding one for £50 seems more of a bargain than ever….

It could use either it’s side or rear discharge, a system Husqvarna calls ‘Duo-Jet’. It had a low profile for cutting under shrubs and low branches as well as inset wheels so it could cut up to lawn and path edges and was height adjustable from 1″ to 3″. Then, to add to the list it benefited from front-wheel drive which, if anyone has used one, is a brilliant thing to have. 

The air-cooled engine was Swedish designed and potentially in-house Husqvarna created with a Repco ignition and Gutner carburettor. The two stroke was clever and featured two separate tanks, one for petrol and one for oil. The mixing taking place automatically by a built in pump in the fuel filler cap so that when the tank is refilled with petrol the correct amount of oil is added. 

The 12 speed was a ‘variator belt-drive’ allowing variable ground speed up to 6kph whilst the cutting blade maintained maximum speed.

So where are they all, not one can I find in existence in red, blue or otherwise. I have a few theories that after years of use then engines may not have been economical to repair; other replacement engines may not have been easy to transplant into that specific body shape; and the ABS body shells are difficult to repair if damaged and certainly do not bend or dent like steel does.

Maybe all the mowers reached the end of their useful lives and my search is at an end? Some machines are really elusive and however much searching is done, adverts, drawings, newspaper articles or technical specifications detailed, the machine just refuses to appear. 

Perhaps then, I’ll shift my focus to another machine and see if I have more luck finding one of the rare, UK demonstrated, walk behind Bolens tractors from 1927.There’s got to be one somewhere on this isle, or are we 92 years too late…?

Bolens tractor as demonstrated at Long Ashton, Bristol, in 1927

by alan

Ariens (& Gravely)

February 18, 2019 in Articles, Machinery

Ariens Jet Tiller

Many of the machines and pieces of equipment that are collected fall in to one of three categories: pedestrian machines, ride on machines and hand tools. But there are three more categories which we rarely think of, these are:

1. Popular manufacturers we know really well and the vast majority of their products are generally available. 

2. Manufacturers that we have heard of, know their products exist and they appear from time to time

3. Manufacturers or rare machines on the edge of obscurity that sometime turn up but may already be extinct or all traces passed through the scrapyard long ago. 

One company that fits neatly into the second category is Ariens from Wisconsin, USA. A company which made their first Rototiller in 1933 and now a global company incorporating Countax and Westwood in Oxfordshire. Ariens have a fantastic museum, more details at the bottom of this page.

Surely though, for the UK market in the 1970’s and 80’s didn’t Ariens just build and sell lawnmowers to us? 

Yes, they did make mowers for the UK market, although we haven’t pinpointed when any of Ariens machines first hit the UK, but Arien’s also made a range of tillers too, including the Jet tiller and the Rocket tiller with the latter being available to us. These are great machines and brilliant names from the late 1950’s with the build up to man jetting off to the moon. Shame that modern machines by nearly all manufacturers are now referred to by a list of numbers and letters and not some fanciful names to reel the customers in with. 

Ariens Super Jet Tiller 1961 (US advert)

There are some Ariens tillers out in the UK, with some savvy owners (inc. VHGMC members) having one or two in their collections. There’s also quite a range of mowers too from the 1970’s and 80’s, some which occasionally appear. 

We will start with the Jet Tiller. Powered by a Briggs and Stratton or a Clinton engine in the 3hp to 4.5hp range and with a working width of 8-20″, like a Merry Tiller this was a front-tined machine. There was also a Jet Super and a Jet Deluxe.

The advert image on the right shows the 1961 Jet Super which had the reverse included as standard and an increase to 24″ turbo tines. The Jet Deluxe had a 5hp engine. Although these machines are in America I cannot find any mention of them in the UK, perhaps you have one or a UK brochure? The VHGMC are on the search to see who has one!

But the bigger machine being the Ariens Rocket (image below right) does appear in the UK, presumably there may just be the smaller Jet lurking somewhere out there?

Ariens Rocket with 7hp Tecumseh Engine (VHGMC – Darmic1)

The larger Rocket is a rear-tined machine, as opposed to the front-tined Jet, and has engines in the 5hp to 7hp range which could turn the soil at up to 178rpm. By 1974 the Rocket was also available with optional electric start and had two forward and reverse speeds and an increase of turning the soil up to 235rpm. 

As mentioned the Ariens Rocket tillers are in the UK and are robust machines worthy of having, the image, right, is from the VHGMC archive.

In 1989 (from a UK brochure) the tiller range included the 214 (2hp B&S, 14″ front tined), 524 (5hp B&S, 24″ front tined), 5020, (5hp Tecumseh, 20″ rear tined), 7020, (7hp Tecumseh, 20″ rear tined).

Importing to the UK:

As with many machinery manufacturers we find that the importers or sole distributors can vary over the course of time. In the 1970’s Norlett (link to gallery) imported Ariens tillers, yard and garden tractors and the riding mowers into the UK and Ireland until 1981 when Lely Import LTD took over the importing. 

Some of the machines imported by Norlett included the 14 and 17hp tractors with both gear and hydrostatic drive. There was also a range of attachments including dozer blade, dump cart, rotary tiller and the mower decks which can be found in the UK although some of these may be scarce and in any event did some of these attachments also fit the Norlett tractors too?  Some of the Ariens tractors are also badged Norlett (see source image).

In 1979 the riding mowers, mostly with white mower decks, included the 7hp with 28″ cut (RM728) and the 6hp  with 26″ cut (RM626) both with optional electric start. The 11hp lawn tractor (YT1138) had a synchro balanced Briggs and Stratton engine and a 38″ cut. 

Ariens Rider Mower, RM728, 7hp, 28″ cut from 1980 Brochure

By 1981 and the installing of Lely Import LTD most of the riding mowers (8 different models were available in the UK in 1980, see source text) had optional electric start, and by 1983 all models were generally advertised as having up to six forward gears plus reverse, see source text. Available was the Ariens Flex-n-Float mower deck to give a professional finish, giving the customers a choice of collecting, discharge or mulching the grass cuttings. 

In 1984 Ariens (UK) Limited were advertising walk behind mowers including the LM21SE model which was advertised in Scottish Field magazine, see source text.

In 1985 the rear-engined RM828 (there’s also an SRM830 model), 8hp Tecumseh powered, riding mower which was designed to cope with wetter grass as we find in the UK was on sale for £1570. The design of this machine and future ones is the one most often seen (sometimes minus the mower deck) on auction websites. 

1989 sees the Ride-on mowers include the FM26E, Tecumseh, at £1091 and the FM828E, Tecumseh at £1436. Two Kawasaki powered ride-on mowers included the RM928E and RM1232E at £1608 and £1838 respectively. Attachments included vacuum baggers at £251, Dozer blade at £298 for the larger ride-ons. Front weights £84, Tyre chains £74, Lawn scarifier £114. 

YT series tractors included the YT1232BG at £2068, YT1232KH at £2528, YT1238KH at £2643. Attachments included grass baggers at £344. 42″ front blade at £401, 36″ Snow blower at £1063, Ariens trailer at £573. 

Details about Ariens complete range of vintage UK machines as well as others such as pedestrian mowers and snowblowers in the UK are sketchy, if you have any details or brochures then that’d be great, we’d love to see them and fill in some details on this page. For America Ariens have a museum in Wisconsin, and along with their Gravely machines it looks a great place – have a look at the following link to see the extensive collection: Ariens Museum*

There is also a video on Youtube* giving a tour of the machines on show, some will be as imported into the UK or as close as possible:

*Please note cookies/GDPR for external websites.

by alan

Canal & Towpath Tractors

December 5, 2018 in Machinery

Recently there’s been an interesting forum discussion about light tractors which were used on the canal towpaths in the 1950’s and 60’s. There were various tractors including the Wickham tractor, David brown 2D towpath tractor and the Garner tractor. 

The whole thread can be found here and if anyone has any more information then please contribute. 


Garner tractor on a canal towpath

A modified Fordson as a canal towpath tractor

by alan

Every Machine Has a History

July 25, 2018 in Articles, Machinery

A Barford Atom to add to the collection perhaps?

One of the pleasures, or depending on ones view it could be a fault, of any hobby is gathering up new items whether they are needed or not. For instance a model railway enthusiast may start with a single train and a loop of track one Christmas and bit by bit they end up having purchased most of Hornby by the following festivities. Or someone may decide to start cycling for a bit of leisurely exercise, initially on a basic bike but in a mere few weeks and by the time one can jokingly utter ‘Are you entering the Tour de France?!’ they’ve already progressed to buying the most advanced carbon fibre race bike and squeezing their unhealthy body into lycra. You see hobbies are addictive, contagious and sneakily devour time and suck money from wallets when we are not looking and thus propel us along the route of collecting overload – whether it’s a train set, a new bike, an even better bike, or some nice horticultural machinery. 

It’s no surprise then that in a small corner of Yorkshire some new machines are hovering on the horizon. The well-practiced horticultural-collectors mantra of ‘I’m not getting any more machines ever again‘ shrivels and dies as machines which are in running condition, free and local are drawn to me by some magical force.

The three tick-boxes of ‘Running Condition’, ‘Free’, and ‘Local’ are just so hard to resist, good manners dictate that one has to at least have a look at the items …and take along a trailer, you know, just in case. 

Barford Atom 15 with Cylinder Mower

One of the machines up for perusal is a Barford Atom 15 with cylinder mower attachment, pictured on the right, a machine not out of the ordinary then. It’s a machine I’d never really considered, but, and this is a big but, it’s got local history. We know where the Barford has been since new. We know who bought it and where from, why they bought it and exactly where it was used. In the art world that’s called provenance meaning that after a bit of eureka research the knock-off Picasso that you had a hunch about and picked up at the car boot sale for £3 turns out to be the genuine article, becomes ridiculously desirable and is now worth £3 million. Unfortunately provenance doesn’t make the Barford worth any more, it adds to it’s interest, makes a nice story and brings the machine alive but financial gain just isn’t going to happen. As with several machines I have, no amount of pretty archive pictures and bulging folders of historical data will add to their monetary value and the only way to make them worth more without major grafting is to tape a £20 note to the fuel tank. But that doesn’t matter, it’s a hobby and the research is as interesting as the machine itself, in fact sometimes the history is more fascinating than the actual machine.

Unusually this article is briefly about a specific machine. And just as this Barford has a history so does every machine and they are always worth researching. If you have a manufacturer name, address or makers plate then five places to start are:

Google Books:
Graces Guide:
London Gazette:
Old Maps:
British Newspaper Archives:  

Or for a specific town, street, factory or dealer premises try searching for old postcards on Ebay, or even archive films of towns that have been uploaded to Youtube, possibly even see if the town has a history group online with gallery images –  you’d be surprised what there is. 

Onwards then with the Barford. It’s got a very nice brass suppliers plate, pictured above right, attached to the frame, and this Barford started life being supplied by Smith Brothers LTD, Towngate Works in Keighley. They were agricultural and dairy engineers. I know the premises no longer exist, demolished decades ago and replaced by a new-fangled concrete building housing shops beneath the bus station multi-story car park, unfortunately replicated all too often in too many places. But thankfully the internet is a fascinating place to rummage about in and find the most incredible things, like a picture of the Smith Brothers shop in Keighley (probably not long before it was demolished) and the side alley the Barford would have been wheeled out of in the late 1950’s. With Smith Bros truck outside with baler twine loaded and a Morris Minor down the road it’s an image that takes us back to a rose-tinted era.

The recreation ground where the Barford spent it’s working life

And where was this Barford Atom heading? It was on it’s way up the valley having been purchased by a local village council to cut the grass on their recreation and sports ground (map image, right). This Barford was purchased with two attachments, one being the cylinder mower and the other a sickle bar mower, it was bought purely as a mowing machine. The recreation ground which once had a cricket pitch still exists and created when the mills came in the mid 1850’s although just like Smith Brothers premises they have been demolished to be replaced by more modern buildings. 

I cannot help but think that this little Barford was there on the recreation and cricket ground to assist other machines, even today the area is still large and would take an age to mow. And what machine preceded it and did the mowing before the Barford was purchased? Research with the parish council may provide the answer. 

As time passes by the Barford did a lot of work and on close inspection has had the handles professionally repaired several times, it was a machine for work. That is until for whatever reason the Barford gets relegated to the back of the machinery shed, possibly it needed repairs, possibly it was replaced by a newer machine with a wider cut, perhaps with a seat and shinier paintwork? 

Barford and cylinder mower back in working order

As with many machines as every day passes the scrap man moves closer. How many machines have been rescued from the scrap? Until one day someone asks what’s happening to the Barford and that’s the point that it’s fortunes turn. It gets repaired with a complete engine overhaul, it gets new parts and a coat of paint and ends up in preservation, it’s a story that is told countless times for a huge number of machines. 

This Barford survives, partly through it being a brilliantly engineered machine and also that someone saw that it shouldn’t go to scrap. 

And does the Barford work? Why of course, it starts instantly and runs well and may even have seen off many machines that have been and gone on that recreation field over the last few decades. 

If you have a machine that needs a bit of research as to the suppliers it came from then again I’d suggest the following resources, you never know what you may discover.

Google Books:
Graces Guide:
British Newspaper Archives:
London Gazette:

Old Maps:

Barford Atom 15 with Cylinder Mower


by alan

Machines in the North East – 1988

June 14, 2018 in Articles, Machinery

Qualcast Suffolk Punch 35S and the cheapest price in the North East

This month our search for machinery takes us to the north-east of the UK, to be more precise it’s to a now defunct chain of home improvement stores by the name of Dickens. By all accounts Dickens was a fantastic place to shop. They said that they had ‘…the biggest, the cheapest and the widest range of mowers in the world…’. They also had tillers, rotavators, lawn rakes etc and there’s a very short video clip at the bottom of this article – can you name any of the machines?

It can sometimes be a mystery as to who sold which machine, take any vintage machine and if really lucky a search of the chassis or tin-work may perhaps result in finding a dealership sticker, generally it may be a local mower shop or an agricultural supplier. These details are helpful in determining where a machine originated from or at least the point where the transaction was logged. We are aware that there’s garden equipment and machines from the 1970’s and 80’s finding their way into collectors hands, yet these machines may not have originated from that trusty local lawn mower dealer or from an agricultural supplier, these 1970’s and 80’s machines may simply have been picked up from the local DIY store or catalogue company, think B&Q, Argos, Woolworths and even Green Shield Stamps.

This takes us onto Dickens home improvement stores, they were like an independent B&Q and actually were eventually bought out by B&Q. Dickens advert shown below from April 1988 at the start of the mowing season to attract the spending public shows a vast range of electric and petrol mowers and strimmers too. Who knew there were so many different models on sale at this time? A transcript of this model list and prices will be at the bottom of this article for perusal. Or click this link to see a larger image of the advert.

Dickens Home Improvement Hypermarket Advert 1988

Briefly, there is a huge range of electric mowers. What’s the difference between the Qualcast Concorde RE25X and the RE30X apart from £10.00 ? Or the Flymo Sprinter E25 and E30 ? A brochure would be mighty helpful!

Of note is the advert showing there is a petrol Flymo Strimmer Weedeater 1400 and also a 1700 model – potentially a rare machine now as many may have expired through the last 30 years. The price then was £114.99 which is equivalent to some £308.00 today so a hefty investment for a homeowner.

Mountfield have some mowers and all with the 3.5hp Tecumseh engine. Mountfield were mentioned in a previous article where some machines were made until 1982 in a factory in Luxembourg (article here) but where these would have been made is unknown. Business-wise there is a connection between Mountfield and Norlett of Belgium; then Qualcast bought Norlett, and further Qualcast/Flymo at the time had a production plant at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham not far from Dickens. It’s all very complicated and tenuous – but with Dickens saying they had ”…the biggest, the cheapest and the widest range of mowers in the world…’ it makes one wonder if they were mostly sourced from the nearest factories at a bargain price perhaps? 

There isn’t a Mountfield electric mower in the bottom right corner of Dickens advert, they may not have been manufacturing them at the time, but their petrol mowers show that the price nearly doubles between the Mountfield Emblem 15″ and the 16″ self propelled with electric start, both with a 3.5hp Tecumseh engine – would that be a premium product at the time? 

There also happens to be a brilliant Youtube video for a 1976 Dickens television advert. This advert briefly shows machines on display in their garden centre with a tiller, rotavator and mowers at about 50 seconds.

Can anyone name the machines being shown in the video below?

Is that a Norlett Beaver Powaspade in gold and white? (see above comment re:Norlett/Flymo/Qualcast) 

The machines in the printed 1988 advert with prices:

Black & Decker RM45  £169.99
Black & Decker RM41  £149.99
Black & Decker RM40  £129.99
Black & Decker RM37  £114.99
Black & Decker RM33  £109.99
Black & Decker RM2  £64.99
Black & Decker C35  £64.99
Black & Decker HX3  £49.99
Black & Decker T1C  £54.99
Black & Decker HS1C  £44.99
Black & Decker RS1C  £29.99
Black & Decker C30P  £59.99

Qualcast Panther 30  £29.99
Qualcast Rotamo E30  £33.99
Qualcast Panther 30S  £49.99
Qualcast Concorde E30  £64.99
Qualcast Concorde RE25X  £74.99
Qualcast Concorde RE30X  £84.99
Qualcast Concorde XR35  £99.99
Qualcast Hoversafe 25  £39.99
Qualcast Hoversafe 30  £49.99
Qualcast Rotamo 300R  £59.99
Qualcast Punch EP30  £159.99
Qualcast Punch EP35  £179.99
Qualcast Suffolk Punch 30S  £209.99
Qualcast Suffolk Punch 35S  £228.99
Qualcast Suffolk Punch 43S  £249.99
Qualcast Turbo SR40  £234.99
Qualcast Turbo SR46  £259.99

Flymo Minimo S  £44.99
Flymo Sprinter E25  £49.99
Flymo Sprinter E30  £54.99
Flymo Sprinter E38  £79.99
Flymo Minimo Plus XE25  £74.99
Flymo Sprintmaster XE30  £89.99
Flymo Sprintmaster XE38  £114.99
Flymo Chevron 300T  £79.99
Flymo Chevron 350S  £109.99
Flymo Strimmer Minitrim  £24.99
Flymo Strimmer Multitrim £33.99
Flymo Strimmer weedeater 1400  £94.99
Flymo Strimmer weedeater 1700 £114.99

Mountfield Emblem 15″ Tecumseh 3.5hp 4 stroke engine £199.00
Mountfield Empress 16″ Tecumseh 3.5hp 4 stroke engine £249.00
Mountfield Empress 16″ Self Propelled, Tecumseh 3.5hp 4 stroke engine £299.00
Mountfield Empress 16″ Self Propelled, Key Start, Tecumseh 3.5hp 4 stroke engine £369.00

by alan

What was on sale in 1960….

March 16, 2018 in Articles, Machinery

A selection of garden equipment in 1960

1960 is our year of choice for this article, it was the year that The Beatles was officially named and formed, the Mark 1 Mini had only just recently been introduced and in space exploration the first probe was launched to go to Mars although it failed to reach it’s target. 

Back down on earth and with our new Mini on the driveway trying to out-shine next doors Morris Oxford, there was also a whole host of equipment available for the garden.

The image on the right shows some of the items that no self-respecting suburban homeowner should be without to keep their garden as tidy as possible.

Clockwise from top left is the Fisons Evergreen fertilizer spreader able to treat 64 sq yards of lawn on each fill-up. The price was 59s 6d for the spreader and the fertilizer itself was from 3s 11d. 

The Greensleaves garden shears on top of the box were 34s 6d and were available from Derry & Toms the London department store in Kensington. 

For a more upmarket experience why not shop at Harrods? They were retailing the illustrated lawn roller which could be filled with either water or sand, available in several sizes with a range of prices starting at £3 7s 11d up to nearly £7. One’s chauffeur could fetch it home for ones gardener…..

The Army & Navy Stores were selling the small Webb Lawn Trimmer push mower for the smaller areas of lawn for £7 19s 7d, whilst the push lawn aerator was £4 15s and another Harrods purchase. 

The Tarpen Little Giant chainsaw in the very bottom right corner of the first picture could be used with a single hand and cut through 4″ branches, the price to you in 1960 was £22. 


Shay Rotogardner 125

There were many machines on sale in 1960 which were engine powered. One such was the self-propelled Shay Rotogardner 125, pictured right, powered by a “four-stroke Aspera engine and impulse starter making it easy to operate” according to sales literature. It had specially tempered steel tines that “will break up any soil“. The cost of the complete machine as pictured was £67. 

Or how about something to cut the lawn such as the Ransomes Sprite pictured below. In April 1960 Ransomes were advertising this as a new mower with 14″ cut and as being ‘the lowest priced motor mower in it’s class‘ costing £32.17s.3d. For something more expensive on sale at the same time and also from Ransomes was their Marquis mower with 18″ or 20″ cut powered by a Clinton 4-stroke 117cc engine, prices started at £74.1s.9d, and £89.0s.6d for the 20″, an electric version was also available.


Ransomes 14″ cut Sprite for £32.17s.3d.

Webb battery mower

Through the decades battery-powered machines have been a bit of a novelty, if one didn’t want a petrol mower or be tethered by an electric cable to a three-pin plug then in late 1960 Webb had the answer with their ‘new to the market‘ rechargeable battery mower model, no mess, no fumes or noise. Webb previously showcased a remote controlled battery mower to the general public in 1959 at the Chelsea Flower Show but this one is just the ordinary walk-behind type – there’s a great vintage image on our Webb gallery of a sale of a battery mower taking place.

The battery mower cost £58.19s.5d for the 14″ cut and £48.19s.10d for the 12″ cut. They were available from ‘all large stores and hardware shops‘ so Webb were reaching out to a large customer base and could see some potential.

Still in 1960, Godfrey’s of Marylebone Lane, London, were advertising the “Allen Universal Self-propelled Motor Scythe” with a two or four stroke Villiers engine – pictured below.

The image shows it with an attached spray tank and four foot lance, apparently all the attachments just plugged in. The machine itself was £98.15s; the spray tank was £23.10s; spray pump including lance was an additional £39.4s.6d. 

Allen Scythe with spray tank, pump and lance

Hayter Scythe with a Villiers 4-stroke engine.

Several manufacturers designed machines that were able to take attachments just like the Allen scythe could with the sprayer. Hayter made the Hayter Scythe – pictured right is a model which consisted of a power unit that could be used as a rotary scythe or cylinder mower. Powered by a Villiers 4-stroke, 265cc engine and with a three-speed gearbox and kick start the machine had adjustable cutting height for the scythe attachment and could be converted to a 30″ cylinder mower complete with roller, a good machine for a larger garden where the most use could be gained from it. Again available from Godfreys, or A.T.Oliver & Sons, Luton or our favourite (who most have sold every machine ever created) Robert. H. Andrews Ltd, Sunningdale. Price: £119.10s; cylinder mower an extra £47.16s; and the grass box another £7. 15s. 

For helping around the garden in the early 60’s, the Army & Navy Stores were selling a light but strong metal wheelbarrow with pneumatic tyres for £15.4s.6d. The image below shows it fitted with a useful screen for sifting soil made by Barrowscreen. Sold by Woodmans of Pinner the Barrowscreen cost 34s 11d and could fit any barrow.

Wheelbarrow by Army & Navy Stores 1960. Fitted with a soil sifting Barrowscreen.

Finally, two smaller items which could have graced a 60’s shed was a flame gun on wheels called the Sheen-X. and also garden sprinklers from the American Everain range, both items illustrated below.

The Sheen-X had a tank that could hold one gallon of paraffin and could destroy surface and deep rooted weeds with ease. Price was £12.17s.  The Everain sprinklers were both adjustable, the larger one could cover up to 2400 square feet, the smaller one a 50 foot diameter. Prices were £6.7s.6d and £3.12s respectively.

Sheen-X paraffin powered flame gun.

Everain garden sprinklers.

by alan

Howard Bantam 1950

February 22, 2018 in Articles, Machinery

Humour can capture the attention of the prospective customer far easier than any serious advertising might.

All from 1950 are the following four adverts for the Howard Rotavator ‘Bantam’. Each is carefully crafted to highlight the difficulties of gardening that the Bantam can overcome: Digging, weeding and labour saving. 

The fourth advert proves that an oily machine can be a great fashion accessory for the owner outside their 16thC Elizabethan mansion. 

There are more Howard images in the VHGMC Howard gallery pages.

Dogged by digging? Howard Bantam 1950



Worried by weeds? Howard Bantam 1950


Gardening? I though I knew it all! Howard Bantam 1950


My Bantam’s a treasure – Howard Bantam 1950


Howard Bantam Brochure

by alan

Ginge mowers and tools

November 13, 2017 in Articles, Machinery

Ginge-Raadvad, owners of the Royal Danish Foundry and By Appointment To The Royal Danish Court

During the late 1960’s a hugely successful Danish manufacturer by the full name of Ginge-Raadvad was launching their range of lawn mowers and garden tools into the UK market. Marketed as Ginge (pronounced Ging-ha) nowadays it is a little known make but had big ambitions with some snazzy sales patter, yet although the name is known there’s zilch been written about the company in the UK. It’s a bit like tapioca pudding, we know the name and what is but fail miserably at describing it in any meaningful way. 

But Ginge in the UK has thankfully left a paper trail of adverts and news articles from 1967 to 1978 before gently taking a back seat.

All manufacturers regardless of the machines or tools they are making seem to have a pretty good and ambitious start and Ginge were no different. Although Ginge came to the UK and then silently went leaving behind a few mowers and little evidence of being here, they had actually been making mowers for a long time and obviously knew what they were doing. In the Danish Foreign Office Journal of 1951 they are stated as making ‘a mower powered by 1.5hp, 4 stroke continental engine, oil bath filter, rope starter, auto reverse and magneto ignition‘. I cannot find a picture of that mower but I’m guessing it’s a cylinder side-wheel mower (2 wheel). 

It’s often difficult to pin down when a manufacturer actually launched their products. Thankfully Ginge must have had a decent secretary or marketing person who sent out some sales copy to a few magazines as the Gardeners Chronicle & New Horticulturalist of 1967 has a glowing  report: ‘This year [1967] sees the introduction of the Ginge range of lawnmowers and gardening equipment to the UK. Among the mowers is a 12″ machine weighing only 17lbs claimed to be the lightest ever. This is the Ginge Prisma, the recommended retail price of which is only £6 14s 9d including the rust proof [plastic?] grass collecting box‘. This is followed by the impressively named World’s Press, News and Advertisers Review with ‘Ginge-Raadvad (UK) LTD [their full trading name] , subsiduary of Danish manufacturer of the Ginge range of lawnmowers and gardening equipment to be launched in the UK in 1967′. 


Before getting on to the mowers which Ginge are best known for, they also made a range of handtools and equipment too.

Ginge Long Handled Grass Shears 1968

1968 saw the launch of a range of Ginge products. These included the long-handled grass shears (£3 15s), pictured right, also standard grass shears (£1 17s 6d) and a long-handled self-sharpening lawn edger (£3 5s). An additional advert from the same time states there was a garden roller (£6 19s 3d) and a hose reel too. Gardeners Chronicle in 1968 commented that the new hose reel was “..easy to operate and easy on the eye, rotates smoothly and noiselessly” 

It’s worth mentioning that Ginge thought that  garden hoses were worth exploring. In 1973 Ginge-Raadvad considered ordering from a supplier a huge 80 miles of reinforced PVC garden hose with a guaranteed life of at least 10 years, this was under consideration for launch in the UK market (Source: Europlastics Monthly, Vol.46).  

The 1972 59R oscillating sprinkler costing £1.98 was claimed to be the cheapest on the market. It watered lawns up to 1900 sq ft and was one of three oscillators, the other two cost £2.45 and £3.15. There was also the ‘675’ Turret sprinkler. 

1974 saw  “Eight Ginge sprayers, from small household models suitable for window boxes and small garden flowers, right up to super automatic sprayers with capacities of 3, 5 and 7 litres. Ginge trowels, a plant fork, cultivator and weed iron“, (Source: Amateur Gardening 1974)

As we can see Ginge was certainly taking on the domestic garden from all angles and aiming to be in everyone’s garden shed and on their lawn too. 

Lawn Mowers

The 1967 launch of the mowers included an advert in Gardeners Chronicle stating that ‘You’ve never seen such  good-looking lawnmowers in your life until you’ve seen the Ginge range. Never handled such smooth running grass-cropping machines until you’ve whipped round your lawn with Ginge‘.

Several adverts for Ginge mowers appear in April 1968 in Scotland. This is hardly surprising since Ginge had a newly set up factory at Irvine Industrial Estate, Irvine, Ayrshire, as well as manufacturing mowers at their factory in Copenhagen. There was also an office at Croxley Green, Herefordshire, although the address appears to be a residential street so presumably an outpost office. 

The mowers available were all cylinder mowers, the hand propelled Prisma 12″ (£6.19.9d) and Futura 16″ (£8.19.9d). As shown in the image, right. 

Powered cylinder mowers were the Meridia 18″ (£34.19.9d) and the Atlanta 21″ (£49.19.9d) in the same style as in the image. A year later in 1969 the Meridia and Atlanta prices had increased by £5 each.

According to newspaper reports it was claimed that since the launch of these machines in 1967 they captured 6% of the British lawnmower market in the first twelve months. It was hoped to increase this to 10% with their new lightweight mowers. One of the key selling factors was an “unconditional guarantee on all lawnmowers and garden equipment against faulty workmanship and defective materials“. (source). 

Following in 1970 were two 19″ rotary mowers powered by  4-stroke, 3hp Aspera engines, the mowers differed in engine specifications with one having an auto-choke. Prices were £23 and £28 for the better spec machine. Cutting heights for both were 3/4″, 1 1/2″ and 1 3/4″. 

However ambitious Ginge were with their mowers there’s nothing like a bit of comparative testing to spoil the party. Enter one consumer magazine to put the spot light on a range of mowers in 1970. Pitting the Ginge against similar side-wheel cylinder mowers such as one from Gamage, the Suffolk Viceroy MK11, Spinney side wheel mower, Husquvarna from Sweden and the Qualcast B1 was certainly going to cause a squabble on the front lawn. Which was best? 


The comparative tests found that the Gamage, Suffolk Viceroy and Spinney mowers all gave a good cut on short grass and they all easily tackled medium grass in one cut and even did quite well on the long grass. Apparently ‘the other mowers were not quite so good‘, oh dear, not the best outcome. Additionally it was found that the rear-mounted grass box on two mowers including the Ginge got in the way of the operators feet. (1970 magazine reference for mower test). Good news though was that the build quality of the Ginge stood up to scrutiny and the mower roller survived unscathed in acid tests ‘unlike the others‘. 

1970 also saw the MI 04 Orbita mower being as the ‘lowest priced four-stroke rotary mower on the UK market’ at £23.00. (source: Surveyor magazine)

Advertising in Amateur Gardening in 1973 ‘Ginge have taken the hardwork out of mowing. They’ve produced a selection of lightweight Hand Mowers, Motor Mowers and Rotary mowers that literally glide through the grass‘.

1974 saw Ginge offering seven lawn mowers: three hand mowers, three motor cylinder mowers and one rotary mower.

In a 1975 copy of the Agricultural Machinery Journal, Ginge are reported to still importing the 12″ Prisma mower as well as the Futura and Comet range, they were obviously popular mowers and must have worked well. Also stated is that Ginge were importing three 3.5hp rotary mowers with 15″ and 19″ cuts priced from £59.00 to £78.50. Cylinder mowers also included two 18″ 2hp self propelled mowers priced £94.50 and £105.00 respectively. 

It then all starts to fizzle out just a mere 8 years after an ambitious 1967 start in the UK with 1975 when we start to see a change and Sheen of Nottingham were offering a 3.5hp four-stroke Ginge mower for sale. 

Ginge Rotomower

Announced in 1976 the Agricultural Machinery Journal state that ‘…mower maker Ginge-Raadvad has given up its central operation in the UK and appointed four importers to handle the range’ . In 1977 Sheen were reported as having taken on the range of Ginge mowers (Source: Agricultural Machinery Journal April 1977) and by 1978 Sheen were importing quite a range of Ginge mowers including the handmowers of: HD28 (28cm cut) at £24.50; HD38 (38cm cut) at £28.50; H26 De Luxe 38cm cut at £37.00. All prices included the grassbox. There was also the R48HB 19″ rotary mower with a 3.5hp Briggs and Stratton engine. 

1976 saw the closure of Ginge’s Croxley Green office in Herefordshire. But what happened to the Irvine factory? Anyone know?

The Ginge name continued in the UK under presumably different importers. 1992 sees an advert for the Ginge Garden Caddy, an open steel frame on wheels designed for holding garden debris and carrying tools. The caddy had a guide price of £50.00 and was available from Ginge of Denmark. 

And after much research that is the current known story of UK Ginge. 

Ginge mower dealers Scotland 1968

by alan

When Machines Go Modern

August 2, 2017 in Articles, Machinery

Reo Mower Advert USA – 1950 – Reo made it to the UK eventually under the Wheel Horse brand.

When searching machinery in any archives it becomes apparent that although machines were well-made and created to do a job, there was also a lot of thought behind the marketing too and creating machines that kept up with public demand – who wants last years model when there’s an updated, sparkling new one just been released? 

Manufacturers would go to great lengths to promote their machines with colourful advert and brochure images as in the image on the right, and also marketing tactics such as special HP deals or perhaps promoting new machine innovations to outperform the competitors. It didn’t just stop at advertising either, on the whole manufacturers were generally looking to the future, making their machines more efficient, lighter, more cost effective to manufacture, buy and run. 

At least a few designers were looking to leave their competitors behind by creating machines that had a modern look. These new designs may have looked updated and modern on the outside but sometimes the actual mechanicals were the same under the tin work as the previous models – the public doesn’t mind as long as it looks like a new model. Some machine designs were becoming squarer and angular and there are quite a few machines that demonstrate that – some may not have made it past the mock-up stages or got to market.

This article does showcase the skill of the designers and their ability to produce (mostly) an aesthetically pleasing machine. Below are machines with some inspired and interesting design to their tin work. 

Qualcast Jetstream mowers 1979

As an example of marketing: The image on the right shows two Qualcast mowers from 1979. The mower on the left is a “Standard” Jetstream with a 3hp Briggs and Stratton engine, 18″ cut and and 4 height adjustments, retailing at £113.45.

The mower on the right is a modern looking Qualcast Jetstream De-Luxe rotary mower, retailed at the same time as the “Standard”, powered by a slightly larger 3.5hp Briggs and Stratton engine but with the same 18″ cut, this had a retail price of £135.00.

That equates to a £20.00 premium for the more modern De-Luxe design of the Jetstream – they’ll both cut the grass exactly the same, and the engines will both have intermittent hissy fits but doesn’t the more modern design look better, sleeker, impress the neighbours more and worth the £20 increase? Argos actually had it on offer in 1979 at £109.99 vs £99.99 for the “Standard” making it even more of a bargain.

Another machine shown in the image below that doesn’t seem to have dated much through the decades is the Garner industrial tractor when fitted with the optional full body tin work. Even today the addition of the tin work makes it look a smart machine, the designers obviously thinking about how the final machine will look and the attention to how the bodywork is sculptured. I still haven’t seen one of these fully-kitted out tractors or an image on the internet yet, perhaps the optional tin work was expensive? The image below shows one being exhibited in 1954 at the National Association of Groundsman’s Exhibition at The Hurlingham Club, London. The VHGMC have a Garner register here

1954 Garner Industrial Tractor with optional body kit.

Even John Allen & Sons created modern designs, a huge leap away from the Allen Scythe is a 1955 Allen Rotary Sickle, shown below. This machine was powered by a 2-stroke engine (potentially 2.5 hp from other reports) with kick start. Excellent for dealing with “neglected grassland and hedgerows” it had a handlebar extension to use when taking a first cut at tall, rough grass. price was £67 15s. A fairly modern enclosed design, the top cover is hinged at the front and lifts up to reveal the engine and workings, but what were the colours and livery of the tin work? Again another machine that has proved elusive.

1955 Allen Rotary Sickle

Some designs went very angular, or the designer got carried away with his ruler and set square. Shown is the Auto-Culto 55, it was a boxy machine with the tin work being an interesting design decision, the flat top perhaps being a handy place to put a flask of coffee when having a break. According to newspaper reports the machine was powered by a “four stroke Villiers 150cc engine which develops 3bhp at 3600rpm. It can be used with a variety of attachments.” The attachments included a flexi-drive chainsaw and hedgetrimmer. Also an out-front rotary mower. Anybody have an Auto-Culto 55 in the back of the shed? The right-side image is from a 1964 Smithfield Show report. 

Auto Culto 55

Probably the best know modern design is the Shay Rotoscythe. The image below is a late image from 1955. This machine is visually an excellent piece of design and an ingenious development of the lawnmower too. The mower was also available with ‘moss pegs’, these attached to the mower blade and acted as a scarifier to remove moss from the lawn. The earliest newspaper advert reference the VHGMC has found to the Rotoscythe is from May 1934, the electric model being £11 and the petrol model £19.

Shay Rotoscythe advert 1955

Even abroad there were some interesting machines taking on a modern look:

Below is something different and proves that manufacturer did look for something to capture the buyers imagination. Retailed in America in 1978 was the Sears Maxi Mow. A quirky looking machine, this 5 speed self-propelled mower had the added benefit that it would take ordinary black bin bags and the mower would then fill the bags in the rear compartment. This would not work in the UK with our intermittent weather and damp grass, did it work efficiently anyway with it’s vertical grass chute? An interesting design nonetheless, although probably a nightmare to dismantle to service the engine. 

1978 Sears Maxi Mow – USA

In France the Staub cultivators (pictured below) had a makeover moving away from the traditional look of the vintage cultivator that we all know so well. 

The 1980’s Staub range are in a striking livery of white, blue, silver and chrome and their appearance has a great presence, it is a surely one to catch the eye in the lineup of machines at a retailers in France. Particularly the 6000 model below from the early 1980’s is a successful overhaul of a traditional machine. In the flesh it is visually faultless – some even have go-faster arrows on top of the white fuel tank! 

Staub 6000 – 1980 – France

In Sweden the Husqvarna company was making the MK 500 mower (pictured below) in around the late 1960′ early 1970’s, these mowers were retailed in the UK. This smooth ABS shelled mower was available in two fashionable colours, either a mid-blue colour for the push-version or if preferred there was an identical looking self-propelled front wheel driven model in bright orange, as pictured. The mower was advertised has having “clean, almost streamlined styling…the smooth uncluttered lines making it easier to keep the machine clean and smart“.

Powered by a 120cc (3,5hp) two-stroke engine the mower was described in the brochure as ” Everywhere it has been demonstrated experts have commented on it’s low noise level ‘Environmentally acceptable, agreeable – almost silent’ “. Two-stroke?

It was also stated in the literature that it was ‘Europe’s rarest power mower‘ which is an odd thing to say when trying to sell a product, however, it turns out they were right and 40-odd years later it remains rare, indeed we still haven’t seen one!

1960’s/ 70’s Husqvarna MK500 mower – available in blue or orange for the fashionable gardener.

Looking back through the images we seem to have chosen quite a few machines that remain rare. The Rotoscythe, the Qualcast Jetstream mower and the Staub tractor in France are available, the others not a sign of them. Have you got one of them?

by alan

Mr Rollo and his Croftmaster Factory – 1955

July 13, 2017 in Articles, Machinery

Rollo Croftmaster

We are sure that many members would be able to recognize a Rollo Croftmaster tractor? Although rare, I am hoping that there will be one or two at the Scottish Tractor World Show in Edinburgh in March 2018.

According to newspaper archives from 1955 the original, basic idea for the Rollo Croftmaster tractor was initially conceived and “ideas put on paper” three years earlier making it a light bulb moment somewhere in 1952. 

That ligh bulb moment was not only to create a small, capable and affordable tractor but also a way to help Scottish crofters. There is an excellent newspaper article (below, right)  from March 1955 which explains all and partly quoted with other newspaper sources comprises:

For years Mr John Rollo, O.B.E.,  had turned over in his mind ideas for helping Scots crofters. He had seen the acres of barren countryside in the Highlands and the primitive means of cultivation. 

Mr Rollo’s first improvement was a tricycle tractor, pedal driven. It could plough one-sixth of a mile per hour. It was slow but much quicker than the old ploughs that were being used.

From this evolved a power-driven tractor with a .98hp engine. Then two years later a four-wheeled tractor powered with a 3hp engine, which he named Croftmaster. (Another newspaper quotes that the Croftmaster could plough an acre of land on two gallons of petrol)

A Scottish business man bought 50 of them right away and gave them to the Highland Development Fund to distribute to the crofters on easy payments. Apparently these tractors were offered at cost price (no profit) with no deposit and five years to pay with the cost being £190 each.

In September 1954 the Croftmaster was put on display at the Scottish Industries Exhibition at Kelvin Hall, Glasgow where foreign buyers and manufacturers were attracted to the stand. Dr Olivetti (of typewriter fame) was keen to have the Croftmaster in Italy to help the farmers there just as had been done in the Highlands of Scotland. Consequently two Croftmasters were shipped to Italy for experiments. Crofmasters were also shipped to Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Norway and Persia. 

From a  separate newspaper article in 1954 it is reported that a “Rollo tractor with ploughing fittings was also bought by a representative of Bechuanaland, who also supplied the names of six chiefs there and in Basutoland who would be interested in a machine of this kind.”

Ploughing with a Croftmaster

At the time of writing this in 2017 there is no remaining evidence of Croftmasters anywhere but in the UK and Ireland. Anyone know anymore?

The most interesting part of the newspaper article is the last paragraph which tells that “…complete tractors are being assembled by the crofter workers at Inverasdale, twenty a month being turned out“. Note that Croftmasters were also built elsewhere, but here we look at the Inverasdale factory.

This is where the human element comes into any story. It’s not the machine as such but the people who worked on the machines, the job they went to everyday, and any remaining information can be fascinating. Photographs exist of the Inverasdale factory. There are some images on the internet but the VHGMC have their own images from archives. 

The Inverasdale factory, images below, although just a small operation, was housed in a prefabricated asbestos building on (according to newspapers) an existing concrete base left from wartime activities. The image below from 1955 shows the inside of the factory producing tractors for the Scottish crofters with John Rollo at the front-right on a visit to the factory, this factory not only produced tractors but gave work to local people which is something John Rollo was very keen to do. A 1955 report says that a tractor demonstration (photograph at bottom of page) at Windyedge Farm, Perth, used two tractors one being 3hp and the other 5hp, both made at Inverasdale. The other workers are left to right: Jackie MacLean, Norman McIver, Unknown at back centre, Johnnie MacPherson on the right. This is a fantastic image and probably isn’t too far removed from VHGMC members repairing or restoring machines in their sheds and garages!

The factory was on a farm run by the Matheson family at Firemore near Inverasdale on the west coast of Loch Ewe in Wester Ross. The following image again from 1955 showing the outside of the factory makes it look exposed although the location is picturesque in good weather.

The factory building on the right of the last image still exists although the location with trees looks different 60 years later: It is now hard to imagine the tractors being produce here and the work that went on. 

There is also a 1955 video containing a little information about the factory and the tractors:

If anyone knows if Rollo Croftmasters exist outside the UK and Ireland then let us know and we can correct this article!

Also, is anyone entering a Croftmaster for Tractor World Scotland in Edinburgh in March 2018?

Additional: We have now found a photograph of the tractor ploughing at Windyedge Farm, Perth in 1955. The tractor has it’s name on the front bumper section so obviously it was also a publicity event with photographers and reporters.

Another addition is this BSA engine advert from June 1957. Note that there is another tractor ploughing in the field so this is more than likely a ploughing demonstration attended by several manufacturers.

Rollo with a BSA engine, June 1957