garden

by alan

12 Christmas Questions 2020

December 18, 2020 in Articles, Club News

It is once again December and here are twelve horticultural questions we have gathered together to pass a few minutes.  The answers are at the bottom of the page. 

Last year’s questions can be found here: 2019 Christmas Questions.


Questions:

Q1: Jonsered make a range of machines, but nationality was the founder?

1. Jonsered are famous for chainsaws, but also make a huge range of mowers, tillers, cultivators and powered equipment. Jonsered is based in the Swedish town of Jonsered. It was founded in 1832, but what nationality was the gentleman that founded the company?

A: Scottish
B: American
C: Australian

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Q2: What does the Husqvarna logo represent?

2. We are all familiar with Husqvarna. Their current logo is a development of their original logo but what does it represent?

A: Cross section of their first engine crankcase
B: Gun sight viewed from the end of the barrel
C: Their family emblem from Huskvarna, Sweden. 


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Q3: What was the distinguishing feature of the Wheel Horse B145 tractor?

3. In 1975 in the UK Wheel Horse launched the model B145 tractor which was aimed at warehouse and factory use for moving goods about. But what was the distinguishing feature of this machine that meant it required more than one battery?

A: It had electric power steering 
B: It was powered by electric
C: It had an electric fork-lift as standard


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Q4: AYP in Orangeburg produced products carrying which brand name?

4. American Yard Products, better known as AYP (and associated with Electrolux), is based in Orangeburg, South Carolina. They produce a huge range of badge-engineered machines. But which of the following names did they make branded products for which were sold in the UK? 

A: Victa
B: Black & Decker 
C: Flymo

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Q5: Allen sold the Gutbrod HB46B mower with what feature?

5.  In the mid 1980’s, Allen Power Equipment were advertising the Gutbod HB46B lawn mower. This was a really basic pedestrian pushed mower with a pressed steel shell, 47cm width of cut, 3.5hp Briggs and Stratton engine with recoil start and a maximum 4″ cut height. It cost £199.50 ex vat in the 1980’s. But what outstanding feature was it advertised as having? 

A: It had telescopic handles to suit all users across Europe
B: It had the largest grass collecting box in Europe
C: It had a flexible yet reinforced nylon cutting blade to withstand damage, an industry first in Europe. 

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Q6: The Gilson YT11E had an unusual feature, but what?

6. Also in the 1980’s, Ensign Distribution Ltd of Sedgefield were advertising the Gilson YT11E garden tractor, available with an 11hp Briggs and Stratton engine and either a five speed manual transmission (£1675+vat) or hydrostatic drive (£2083+vat). They were able to take mower decks, dozer blade, snow blower and a rear tiller. But what unusual feature did the tractors have that needed to be done in order to start the engine? 

A: A pin code needed to be typed in on a keypad
B: A button on the steering wheel needed to be held in for five seconds
C: The gear/hydro shift selector had to be in a specific position labelled ‘Stop and Start’

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Q7: Was it the Merry Tiller?

7. In the 1975 budget VAT was added to domestic use horticultural machines at the rate of 25%. The rate for commercial machines was 8%. At the time the definition of a commercial machine was (and I quote) “entirely subjective according to the manufacturers own estimation of his product” although there were guidelines. Regardless of it’s capabilities, which of these cultivators was classed as domestic in 1975? 

A: Howard Gem cultivators
B: Merry Tiller cultivators
C: Honda F80K cultivator

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Q8: Do you remember the Guiness Book of World Records?

8. How many of us can remember getting the Guinness Book of World Records at Christmas? In 1989 a diesel  Iseki SG15 ride-on mower was in the Guinness Book of World Records because it had been driven between Harlow and Southend Pier, it’s a 40 mile distance between the two, but why did this feat enable it to be a record breaker? 

A: It was driven backwards the entire 40 mile distance in 5 hours and 51 minutes breaking the previous record by 34 minutes for a ride-on-mower in reverse covering that distance
B: It was driven back and forth between the two places until it had racked up 3034 miles
C: It achieved 34 mpg over an uninterupted 40 mile distance making it the most economical ride-on-mower on sale in the UK.

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Q9: Who was based in Sheffield and originally started in 1730?

9. Garden centres sell a range of hand tools from companies such as Wilkinson Sword, Draper and Fiskars, with some other names just used for branding tools and marketing purposes. But which name, that can be found on hand tools, was originally started in 1730 and based in Sheffield? Was it: 

A: Ceka (CK) Tools 
B: Spearwell 
C: Burgon & Ball

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Q10: Which company is associated with the Waterolla?

10. The 1970’s ‘Waterolla’ garden roller that could be filled with water or sand and now a much copied design was originally a product of which company? 

A: Poly-Gard Products
B: Kirk-Dyson
C: Gardena




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Q11: What AL-KO product from the three would be easiest to get into an Austin Metro car?

11. An easy question: In the 1980’s which of these bright yellow painted machines sold by AL-KO Britain LTD would be easiest to fold up and without scratching the paintwork get into the back of a desirable Austin Metro car of the time? 

A: AL-KO Alkotrac 
B: AL-KO Corvet City 
C: AL-KO Farmer scythe



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Q12: Who made the M3, M30, Super and Monarch models?

12. A range of machines, produced from the 1960’s and later, with the advertised model numbers and names of M3, M30, Super and Monarch, were by which manufacturer

A: Mountfield – retailed under the Mountfield name
B: Morrison – retailed under the Flymo name
C: Murray – retailed under the Hayter name

————


Answers:


1: A: Scottish. Jonsered was founded in 1832 by Scotsman William Gibson. The company moved into making chainsaws in the mid 20th century. Jonsered was sold to Electrolux in 1978.

2: B: The Husqvarna logo is based on the image of a gun sight. The company was originally founded as the Jonkoping Rifle Factory in the 1600’s producing about 1500 musket pipes per year. Later, the company name changed to the Husqvarna Rifle Factory.

3: B: The Wheel Horse B145 was a battery powered tractor sold in the UK as a warehouse tug. It was based on an equivalent battery-powered garden tractor model by Elec-Trak, a company which Wheel Horse had purchased from General Electric. 

4: C: Flymo. American Yard Products (AYP) of Orangeburg, South Carolina, produced silver painted ride-on-mowers badge engineered as Flymo from the 1980’s. AYP had company associations with Electrolux and as such produced machines under many of the Electrolux brand names including Flymo, Poulan, Bernard and Sovereign to name a few. 

5: B: The Gutbrod HB46B had the largest grassbox in Europe at the time. How well-balanced and easy to push the machine was as the grassbox filled up, particularly with wet UK grass, was perhaps open to scrutiny.  

6: A: Pin code on a keypad. The Gilson YT11E  tractor in the 1980’s featured the ECAM 2000 Computer Monitoring and Testing setup. This required the user to type in a pin number on a keypad to start the tractor rather than using a key. ECAM 2000 also told the user when to change the oil, check the tractor or battery, alerted the driver when they were in reverse gear and whenever an implement such as mower or tiller was engaged.

7: B: Merry Tiller cultivators were classed as domestic machines and subject to 25% VAT from 1975. Surprisingly, most cultivators were classed as domestic although this did change over time. Initially in 1975 only the Howard Gems, Wolseley Twin-Six cultivator, Iseki K1000 30 and Honda F80K were deemed to be commercial machines and had 8% VAT. 

8: B: The Iseki SG15 with hydrostatic drive was driven back and forth for a total of 3034 miles between Harlow and Southend Pier in 1989. This made it the longest lawnmower drive at that date and why it entered the record books. 

9: C: Burgon & Ball which still exists in Sheffield has it’s company origins starting in 1730, their name can be found on garden tools being sold in garden centres and online today. By the mid-1800’s Charles Burgon and James Ball are listed as sheep shear manufacturers in Sheffield. Later they are listed as manufacturers of sheep shears, sickles, scythes, knives and garden shears. They registered their invention for “Improvement in the manufacture of sheep shears” in 1869, selling their patent sheep shears worldwide and exhibiting at the Sydney Exhibition in 1880. By 1900 it was an international company, but by the 1920’s the production of garden equipment had outstripped that of sheep shears.

10: B: Kirk-Dyson. In the 1970’s, the Waterolla garden roller which could be filled with water was being sold by Kirk-Dyson. One partner better known as James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame. There was also the plastic bodied Ballbarrow which has a round football-type wheel and was a design by James Dyson.

11. B: In the early 1980’s the advertised AL-KO Corvet City was a small foldable electric lawnmower that took up little space. The Alkotrac was a lawn tractor and the Farmer scythe was a reasonably sized, pedestrian machine, petrol powered with an out-front scythe attachment. It’s a reasonable assumption that more AL-KO machines have survived than Austin Metros.

12: A: Mountfield made the M3 (mower), M30 (rider mower) and the Super and Monarch cultivators. The Australian company Morrison had associated with Flymo, and also Hayter with Murray. 

Did you get them all correct? 

by alan

1951 Exhibitions

July 21, 2020 in Articles, Machinery

Pickfords transporting a locomotive to the Festival of Britain

On the 4th May 1951 the Festival of Britain opened to the public. Newspaper reports say that the idea first began to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The main 1951 Festival was located on a 27 acre site on the South Bank, London, and promoted industry, arts and science and inspired a vision of Britain in the future. Other locations included Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Canterbury etc. and events took place in numerous cities, towns and villages bringing the country together.

A vast array of exhibitors, events, crafts and craftsmen took part. The picture shows Pickfords negotiating the streets of St. Albans as they transported a locomotive from Lancashire to London as an exhibit for the Festival. 

Find out more about the Festival on Wikipedia: Wikipedia Link

The Council of Industrial Design compiled a list of items for display at the Festival of Britain, these included furniture with a preoccupation of plywood and brightly coloured fabrics. Household items, artwork, science, agriculture, industry and machinery right up to locomotives as we have seen. But I cannot find if any of the well known manufacturers of horticultural, grounds or garden machinery took part. Does anyone know? 

Allen Scythe Saw Bench

However I have report from the same year of 1951 for the National Association of Groundsmans Exhibition in October 1951. This was held at the Hurlingham Club, London; on, it would seem, perfectly manicured lawns. Fifty-two companies took part showing their products.

We can see that in 1951 a large number of interesting items were being displayed. These included the latest attachment for the Allen Scythe. It was a saw bench with a 16″ diameter blade capable of cutting to 6″, it has an adjustable guard. Other equipment were a power sprayer, electric generator and a front-mounted rotary brush which can be seen in the image behind the saw bench. 

Ransomes-Sisis Aero Main

Items from Sisis also appear. The advertised “Ransomes-Sisis Aero Main” with attached turf aerator could work at a claimed 4mph and put 250,000 holes into two acres per hour. Rakes, rollers and brushes were available as attachments. Available from Hargreaves Ltd, Sisis Works, Cheadle, and Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies Ltd, Ipswich. 

1hp Dorman Sprayer

The Dorman Sprayer Co. from Cambridge had a power-driven sprayer suitable for fields, orchards or gardens. It had a 15 gallons tank, treated against corrosion and a 1hp engine. Are there any of these sprayers still in existence? 

Gravely Estate Power Unit

Another machine that looks mighty interesting was the Estate Power Unit from Gravely Overseas Ltd, Buckfastleigh, Devon. This two-wheeled unit had a 2.5hp four stroke engine with forward and reverse gears and a speed of up to 3mph. It could be fitted with a 42″ cutter bar mower, a 24″ cylinder mower, hedge trimmer, pump, generator, compressor, 8″ plough, cultivating tool frame and a cart. Is this Estate Power Unit another machine that has vanished or has someone got an example in their shed? 

Two intriguing photographs to finish. The first is the plant protection stand at the Groundsmans Exhibition. It was housed in a caravan which was described as ‘gleaming in chromium plate and perspex’ which sums up the modern and bright future that may lay ahead. The second photograph is a general view, showing the stands of T. Parker & Sons and John Allen & Sons. I wonder what all the machinery on display was? Can you name the tractor on the right-hand side? 

If anyone knows any machinery that was at the Festival of Britain in 1951 then we’d be pleased to hear. 

The Plant Protection stand at the Groundsmans Exhibition. A caravan in chromium plate and perspex.

T. Parker & Sons and John Allen & Sons stands, 1951.


Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable. 

by alan

Build a DIY Tractor

May 17, 2020 in Articles

There are plans for many machines, including this petrol-powered shredder in 1966

I’ve found many references in various online archives referring to home made garden machinery. Interestingly there’s many plans for garden tractors including both the two and four wheel variety. I suppose this should be no surprise as with a bit of inginuity, some workshop skills and a pile of parts, namely an engine, gearbox, wheels, and some means of steering or control, then anything is possible. 

I’ve also found a book from 1951 which looks like it could be of use….

….But before getting excited about sticking mechanical parts together in some sort of over sized Meccano kit experiment, lets  scrutinize carefully the advice given decades ago about concocting a tractor from bits…

1: The 1951 book advises that  the parts required may actually be a greater cost than buying a second hand machine, it quotes that a home made four wheel machine should cost no more than £25.0.0 and a two wheel machine about £5.0.0. Considering that at the time a new two wheel Farmers Boy started around £58 and a Gunsmith about £178, a considerable saving could be made. 

2: Spare parts may not be available in the future for the parts that the home made machine is compiled from. It was advised that it would be prudent to keep a stash of spares for when (not if) the home made machine breaks down. A spare engine and gearbox was suggested.

3: The home made machine may not (probably not) have the equipment and devices to keep the operator safe, like guards and easily accessible controls. This is referred to nowadays as an accident waiting to happen. 

Having satisfied ourselves that the project may be possible, we next need to have a suitable workshop. I’m reminded of a family story where a young person in the 60’s decided to overhaul his motorbike. Having nowhere suitable he decided the spare bedroom would be a solution. Revving the engine and attempting to drive upstairs was not a happy outcome when, in cartoon fashion, the stair carpet was ripped from it’s mountings whilst the motorbike remained at the foot of the stairs. The calamities did not end there as the eventually bedroom’ed motorbike was treated to a through clean, the result being spilled oil and petrol seeping through to the ceiling below. Outdoor space is therefore advised, plenty of room being a must for the intended project, unlike a long ago neighbour who had to remove the end of his garage in order to extract the trailer he had made.

Just like a cookery book, the 1951 book gives a list of ingredients but in mechanical form, yet doesn’t divulge any way of attaching one to another.

But if we want to jump in at the deep end and proceed with our 1951 book and muddle a machine together in an ad-hoc manner then it recommends the following parts for a four-wheel tractor, but no instructions:

An engine (7hp), gearbox, clutch, radiator, steering (modified), front axle (inverted), and a shortened chassis (4′ 8″) all from an Austin 7. A rear axle and differential from a Wolseley Hornet, 19″ rear wheels from a Trojan, and two 8″ wheel barrow wheels for the front. This would create a 6′ 5″ long tractor. 

A two-wheel tractor would again require scavenging parts from an Austin 7, these would be the engine, gearbox and clutch. The chassis would be home-made from angle-iron. The wheels would be 19″. This would give an 8′ long by 3′ wide machine. 

Without plans this may turn out to be a big challenge, but help is at hand to help us achieve a home-made machine, at least in the USA anyway….

1944 Shaw tractor advert

….Through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond In the USA many adverts appear ( try Popular Mechanics magazines) providing plans and diagrams to build a garden tractor, these would be a great idea as, presumably, many others have followed the plans with great success. 

The Shaw MFG. Co. of Kansas (image on the right) were offering plans for their tractors at $1 in 1944. This was due to the war limiting production of their own machines and therefore you could follow their plans and build your own using old car parts, and powered by a 3hp Briggs and Stratton engine. A two wheel garden tractor that was powered by a 1/2hp to 3hp engine could also be made. Apparently a machine could be constructed in a few hours, that is if the parts were readily available. 

Build your own battery lawnmower in 1947

Or how about creating something futuristic from 1947 and building a battery powered lawnmower? Advertised as an ultra-modern rotary mower it could be made from inexpensive parts and an old motor, it looks interesting, and at just 35c I may enquire. 

We could also make something even more amazing like  the tracked Mini-Dozer or Mini-Beep lawn tractor in the style of a Jeep from Struck in the USA in the 1960’s. I know I’ve caught several peoples attention with the Mini-Beep pictured in the advert, below!

The Mini-Beep was a 4/5 scale, DIY kit of a WWII Willy’s Jeep. It was made out of plywood and had a mechanical 2wd or 4wd system. More impressive is that the Mini-Beep plans are still available to buy from the company today and the Mini-Dozer is available in kit form, too. The Mini-Beep would be a great project to undertake, especially as it can be fitted with a dozer blade or have a trailed mower for cutting the paddocks. Without a doubt, for me, I’d end up with a superior result rather than hacking an old Austin 7 to pieces!


Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.  

by alan

1967 Book Review

February 10, 2020 in Articles

The Terrex spade, still available today as the Autospade

It’s not often, if ever, that a book review for horticultural machinery and tools for the garden appears. But here it is, a very short review, albeit fifty three years late, because this particular gem of a book I hold within my hands was published in 1967. It’s a small hardback book of just 80 pages and is a guide to buying and using machines, tools and an array of equipment for the garden. A recent purchase for 10p from a second-hand book shop, it’s price already reduced from 70p, but it’s got a few dozen photos of machinery from the time upon it’s pages and on the back pages is an extensive list of manufacturers and their addresses, for 10p it was a bit of a steal. 

Would such a book be published today? A helpful guide to the homeowner wishing to buy and use tools and machinery in a most efficient manner? I’ve had a look on Amazon and nothing in book form appears to exist. This format is generally now superceded by blogs, websites and some consumer magazines testing and comparing machines and giving (hopefully) unbiased views on what to buy. Sadly numerous adverts for modern domestic machines are selling their wares on low price points and as long as the advertised machine does the job then little else matters, it’s perceived as a bargain!

Lay your decorative driveway and garden paths the easy way with the Temple Pavex in the 1970’s. I’d swear that’s Tom & Barbara from ‘The Good Life’.

Also, times and fashion change with smaller and more suburban gardens tending to have also gone through a transition of being more decorative and reflecting the inside of a home than being horticultural, the result being that they just don’t need as many tools, or indeed the people to recommend what they should be buying. Social media showing a growing trend for the removal of herbaceous borders, shrubberies and the veg patch at the bottom of the garden, to be replaced in some places by short-term items such as decking, artificial turf and unnecessary lighting. The modern plastic throwaway garden, with plastic tools, anyone?

Anyway, back to the book, a publication that was ahead of it’s time and was the equivalent of a blog but in book form. The sad fact is this book, which was published just once, is that it was rapidly out of date regarding the lists of manufacturers and machines it contains. It needed constant updating. But the extensive list of those manufacturers, all existing in 1967 at the same time, is a fascinating snapshot of what was about.

The list of manufacturers on the back pages of this book along with their 1967 addresses are listed at the bottom of this article. It would be interesting to see if these addresses and premises exist today. Have a look through the list and see if any are local to you. 

The book begins: ..Dreary weekends spent digging, weeding, and lawn maintenance are often regarded as the inescapable cost of a presentable garden”, and this is why folk today consider opting for the (perceived) easy artificial turf and minimal planting schemes. “The battle to trim fast growing hedges, keeping the lawns in order, or fighting with perennial weeds. These are jobs bad enough when one is young and fit…”…Ok, where’s the phone number for the astro-turf and decking people? I’m only on the first page and it’s already putting me off gardening. It does redeem itself with “The purpose of this book is to suggest how the use of modern machines, chemicals and other aids can reduce this hard labour”. I hear the thoughts of a young generation in 1967, sat in their gardens and flicking through the pages of this book, marvelling at how chemicals and modern machinery can make their lives easier, whilst tucking into a bowl of newly introduced pink ‘Angel Delight’. The future had arrived.

The book is full of useful advice and ‘Getting The Best From Your Machines’ is a useful chapter. It details that six months storage in a damp shed can cause greater depreciation than many hours spent cultivating or working. It’s very true. How many of us have prized machines (restored or otherwise) which after a few months winter storage have shown slight corrosion or fading of once shiny parts! Making sure that machines are in good, clean condition before being put away is always time well spent.

A Mountfield rotary mower with rear roller for that stripey lawn

On lawnmowers it says that caked on mowings are the chief menace, it’s true they rot steel decks, perhaps labels should be attached to mowers in the DIY chains? This reminds me of one place I worked which asked TV viewers to send in their gardening tips, the best ever received was a gentleman who said that a plastic kitchen spatula was ideal for scraping grass clippings from a mower deck – a second-hand brilliant tip from the VHGMC there! Again with cultivator blades they should be kept clean after use and hedge trimmer blades should be clean, dry and lubricated before storage, these are all standard pieces of advice and I’m thinking a book on garden tools such as this one from 1967 would actually be a good idea once again. 

The chapter on ‘Hoes & Hand Cultivators’ tells us that ‘conventional gardening tools, evolved over many years, are not easily bettered but many modern tools contribute towards saving time and effort’. Two items mentioned are the Wilkinson Swoe (a long handled hoe) of which millions of that design must be in use today, and also the Wolf range of garden tools which from experience have been fantastic. I notice that many vintage Wolf tools are appearing upon online auctions, still capable of a good days work and built to last too. 

Mention of the Dennis Swift in the ‘Flexible Drive Systems’ chapter. I have never heard of this, I may need to do further research but appears to be a trolley mounted engine unit. It was detachable for use with a flexible drive in places where it was not convenient to push the engine. Much like the Tarpen system it could be used for jobs such as hedge trimming and log sawing.
 
Lets move on from the text and to the important bit of having a look at a few items recommended for the domestic garden at this time, these machines seem quite common now, but were probably prized machines on some very tidy gardens. What is great is that examples are still around today and working too! 

 

The Jalo Gardener, a useful time-saving tools which can be equipped with many attachments.

The brilliant British Anzani Lawnrider, and the Tarpen Raser rotary electric lawnmower.

Three machines for looking after the vegetable garden: The Howard 300, Merry Tiller Major, Landmaster 100.


hhhh

Spraygen made the Wunda Spray for keeping the garden bug free. Everain made a clever adjustable garden sprinkler.


Sheen made a lawn and driveway sweeper. Centre is the 34cc lawn edge trimmer from Andrews. Right is the Tudor Newington push lawn aerator.


Do you know if any of these 1960’s premises and factories still exist where you live?

Advon Engineering Ltd, St. John’s Road, Hampton Wick, Surrey
Andrews Lawn-Edgers Ltd, Sunningdale, Berks.
John Allen & Sons (Oxford) Ltd, Cowley Oxford
Associated Sprayers Ltd, Elliot St, Birmingham 7
Auto-Culto International Ltd, Reading Bridge House, Reading.
Autogrow Ltd, 9 Station Road, Cullercoats, North Shields, Northumberland.
E.P.Barrus (Concessionaires) Ltd, 12-16 Brunel Road, Acton, London, W3.
Bayliss Chemicals Ltd, 37 Bedford Row, London, WC1. Berk (Retail) Ltd, 8 Baker Street London, W1.
Bering Engineering Ltd, Doman Road, Camberley, Surrey.
Black and Decker Ltd, Cannon Lane, Maidenhead, Berks.
British Anzani Eng. Co. Ltd. Upper Halliford, Shepperton, Middlesex.
Broadbent and Co. (Rochdale) Ltd. Grove Spring Works, Lincoln Street, Rochdale, Lancs.
Joseph Bryant Ltd, PO Box 111, Bristol 2.
Butlymade Ltd, Haywards Yard, Brockley Rd, Crofton Park, London, SE4. 
Calidec Ltd, Station Approach, Solihull, Warwickshire.
Cooper,Peglar and Co, Ltd, Burgess Hill, Sussex.
Thomas Cowley and Sons Ltd, Quadrant Works, Leamington Road, Gravelly Hill, Birmingham.
Cultivex Ltd, 2-3 Norfolk Street, London, WC2.
Delfa Associates Ltd, Westminster Works, Victoria Road, London.Dennis Bros.Ltd. Guildford, Surrey
Dorman Sprayer Co. Ltd. Ditton Walk, Cambridge
Doxams Ltd, Kates Bridge, Thurlby, Bourne, Lincs
Drivall Ltd, 207 Crescent Road, New Barnet, Herts
P. J. Edmonds Ltd, Itchen Abbas, Winchester, Hants
Eclipse Sprayers Ltd, Rawlings Road, Smethwick, 41, Staffs. 
Donald Edwards (B’ham) Ltd, 22 Grove Road, Harpenden, herts
Edward Elwell Ltd, Wednesbury, Staff.
Farmfitters Ltd, Gerrards Cross, Bucks.
Findlay, Irvine Ltd, Bog Rd, Penicuik, Midlothian
Richmond Gibson Ltd, Bishops Stortford, herts
J.D.Gillet & sons, Old Market, Wisbech, Cambs.
Gilliam & Co. Ltd, Purley way, Purley, Surrey.
Thomas Green & Sons Ltd., P.O.Box 45, North Street, Leeds. 
Hayters (Sales) Ltd., Spellbrook, Bishops Stortford, Herts
Heli-Strand Tools Ltd, Winchelsea Road, Rye.
Highlands water Gardens, Rickmansworth, Herts.
Honda (UK) Ltd, Power Road, Chiswick, London, W4
Howard Rotavator Co, Ltd, west Horndon, Essex
Hozelock Ltd, 5 High Road, Byfleet, weybridge, Surrey
Industrial & Agricultural Improvements Ltd, 5 St.Andrews Rd, Malvern, Worcs.
Jalo Products Ltd, Longham, Wimborne, Dorset
J.P.Engineering Co. Ltd, Meynell Road, Leicester
Ladybird Appliances Ltd, Molly Millars Lane, Wokingham, Berks
Landmaster Ltd, Hucknall, Notts
Lloyds & Co, Letchworth, Herts
Loheat Ltd, Everlands Road, Hungerford, Berks
G.D. Mountfield Ltd, East Street, Maidenhead, Berks.
Mow-Rite Engineering Co. Ltd. 8-12 Queens Road, Reading , Berks.
Murphy Chemical Co, Ltd, Wheathampstead, St.Albans, Herts
Mytaz Flame Co, Bridge works, Alfreton Road, Derby.
H.R.Nash Ltd, Nash’s Corner, Ashstead, Surrey.
Nutt Engineering Co .Ltd, Stapleford, Cambridge
Charles H. Pugh Ltd, Atco Works, Tilton Road, Birmingham 9. 
Qualcast Ltd, Sunnyhill Avenue, derby.
Ransomes, Simms and Jefferies Ltd, Orwell Works, Ipswich, Suffolk
B.A.Rolfe and Sons Ltd, Mile Hill, Romsey, Hants
Ryland Works Ltd, Chesterfield, Derbyshire.
Sheen (Nottingham) Ltd, Greasley Street, Bulwell, Nottingham
Simplex of Cambridge, Sawston, Cambridge
Sisis equipment (Macclesfield) Ltd, Hurdsfield Industrial Estate, Macclesfield, Cheshire.
Smith & Davis Ltd, Beacon Works, Friar Park Road, Wednesbury, Staffs. 
Solo Sprayers Ltd, Solo Works, Progress Road, Southend-on-Sea, essex
Spear & Jackson Ltd, Aetna Works, Savile Street, Sheffield
Spicers Ltd, Langston Rd, Loughton, Essex
Spraygen Sprayers Ltd, 10-12 Carver St, Birmingham
Stanley-Bridges Ltd, York Road, London, SW11
Suffolk iron Foundry (1920) Ltd, Sunnyhill Avenue, Derby
Tarpen engineering Co. Ltd. Coronation Road, Park Royal, London, NW10
Temple Pavex, Temple Mill, Passfield, Liphook, Hants
Tudor Accessories Ltd, Beaconsfield Road, Hayes, Middlesex
Victa (UK) Ltd, Victa House, 16 North Pallant, Chichester
Philip B Waldron Co. Kings Road, Tyseley, Birmingham
H.C.Webb & Co. Tame Road, Witton, Birmingham
Wolf Electric Tools LTD, Pioneer Works, Hanger Lane, London W3
Wolf Tools for Garden and Lawn Co, Ross-on-Wye, Hereforshire
Wolseley Engineering Ltd, Wolseley Works, Electric Avenue, Witton, Birmingham 6

Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.  


by alan

Fifty Years Ago…..

January 9, 2020 in Articles, Machinery

The mower of the future, but from the past.

The year is Two Thousand and Twenty. Sounds futuristic, doesn’t it? It resonates as one of those dates plucked out of thin air by black and white sci-fi movies from the 1950’s and 60’s trying to convince us that we’d have ditched the humble motor car and all have personal flying machines by now. Little did they foresee that in 2020 the average motorist wouldn’t be zipping about the skies but instead would be stuck in traffic on the M25, cursing the roadworks on the M6 or negotiating average speed cameras countrywide (other traffic issues are available). 

Horticultural machinery hasn’t, on the whole, faired much better; mowers, tillers and rotavators etc are much the same as they’ve always been, with just minor tweaks and amendments to make them better to operate. But where could we have been if madcap designers had pushed through their ideas and the general public had clambered aboard? Take the 1960’s prototype mowing machine as pictured above. This glass-domed futuristic machine encased the operator in an air-conditioned capsule from where they could mow the lawn, apply fertilizer, or according to adverts even go to the shops. In our health-conscious era the ideal solution for mowing the lawn is to use a pedestrian mower and get some exercise and fresh air rather than ride around getting sunstroke in a goldfish bowl – but a push mower wouldn’t be as much fun as that 1960’s Jetson inspired machine would it? 

Remploy Mowmaster, a very clever and advanced version of the ‘mower tied to stick’ principle. The beginning of the robot lawnmower, perhaps?

Progress, though, has been made with autonomous mowing, with professional stuff gaining ground all the time. Labour saving ideas and devices have always been of interest to inventors. In the 1960’s and 70’s there were many rather bumbling attempts documented (mostly amateur) to get unattended mowers to cut the grass by Heath Robinson type contraptions. These were mostly where a tethered mower would work in ever increasing circles by unwrapping itself from around a central post. All these early attempts have now been superseded in domestic gardens with robot mowers. Apart from a couple of exceptions and some golf course mowers, the domestic robots still haven’t mastered mowing in nice stripey lines for Mr & Mrs Suburbia, instead these robot mowers spend their hours haphazardly crossing lawns in random directions as if looking for an exit to escape through; they remind me of someone trapped in a revolving door and constantly failing to find their way out. 

If you’d like to see how far robot mowers have progressed, and witness their potential for the domestic garden, have a look at this Cub Cadet mower on Youtube, it is brilliant. https://youtu.be/kPibtLfYEWQ?t=48

For now though, lets head back in time 50 years and see what the clever people designing horticultural equipment were busying themselves with. More importantly what has happened to these machines introduced in 1970? For some of them there is no trace left. 

Sisis Auto-Cutter and Turfman

The first machine under scrutiny is the 1970 Sisis Auto-Cutter and Turfman. An ingenious and interesting machine, it is a combined turf cutter and ground management machine. Useful for sports grounds as when not used as a turf cutter it could be used for other duties by using the standard range of Sisis Turfman implements such as the lawn spiker. Powered by a 5hp Briggs and Stratton engine the transmission was by v-belt and roller chains. Using the turf cutter with it’s fitted and driven horizontal cutting blade it could muster an impressive cut speed of 90ft (approx 27m) per minute. The cost was £285 with the implements to expand the unit being extra cost. 

John Allen & Sons 5-26 ride-on mower

Next is the John Allen & Sons 5-26 ride on mower, an elusive machine. Looking at the design I’m guessing that once the mower deck rotted through then there’d be a rather large void left in the machine, by which time the whole machine was perhaps showing fatigue. It did have some good features including a differential on the rear axle and a suspension system that enabled the mower to closely follow the ground contours. The power department was 5hp and a top speed of three and a half miles per hour. Claimed mowing potential was 3/4 acre per hour which is easily achievable. Price to you: £185. 

In 1970 John Allen also introduced three models of 19″ push rotary mowers called the ‘Export’ (2.5hp Aspera 2-stroke engine), ‘Special’ (4-stroke, 3hp engine) and ‘Professional’ (2-stroke Aspera Longlife 4hp engine). The Professional model had four “Inox” swinging steel blades for mowing the grass and all models had optional side-mounted grass collection kits available for £3. I have yet to come across these three mowers.

During the 1960’s and 70’s several horticultural machinery manufacturers had their technical boffins in deep thought and serious contemplation, probably over cups of tea and newly introduced Mr Kipling’s cakes; they were designing, creating and producing battery powered machinery. As we hit the 1980’s most gave up on battery-powered stuff and the items that remained being produced were mostly novelties such as shrub trimmers and low-powered items. 1970 was when the brilliantly named Ladybird Appliances LTD of Reading, Berkshire, introduced a new dual purpose lawn edger called the Mowtrim. It was powered by two 6 volt Lucas long life batteries providing power to a 12 volt D.C. SIBA motor. It’s main use was as a lawn edger where it’d do a splendid job, or clutching at straws it was a “rotary mower with a 7 inch width of cut” for those with small lawns or immense patience. Price: £18 17s. 

Toro Teesmaster which was distributed by Flymo Ltd

The next machine is the Toro Teesmaster. It was disributed by Flymo Ltd and was a modified version of the Toro 70 inch Professional machine. These Toro machines do appear occasionally. 

The machine pictured was newly on sale for 1970. It’s claim to fame being that it was believed to be the first power-driven gang mower that could also collect grass with it’s attached grassboxes. The grassboxes are fitted at the front of the front two cutter reels and the back grassbox is fitted to the rear of that cutter. Price: £640.

Masport 18″ Premier mower with Johnson Iron Horse engine

I’m currently mulling over the mention of a ‘Johnson Iron Horse 3.5hp, 2 stroke engine’, it could be different and interesting. This was fitted to a Masport 18″ Premier mower made by Mason & Porter, New Zealand and distributed by Stemport Marketing Co, Aylesbury. The mower had a novel design of ‘one-piece cutter blade where only the cutting edges touched the grass‘ – guess it was bent at both ends – this reduced friction. It also featured a counter-balanced adjuster on the height selector, actually a good idea after some of the mowers I’ve had. Price: £55. 

Other items of interest in 1970 include a new version of the 18″ Hayterette mower by Hayter Ltd, Bishop’s Stortford. It had a new deck design incorporating a wide rear flap to give even distribution of grass clippings. Marketing says it was available with a 4-stroke Briggs and Stratton with 147cc (£41), or the Professional models with J.L.O 2-stroke engine or a 205cc Briggs and Stratton (both £52). 

One item that I cannot find at present is the Wolf Car Mower. This was a new machine introduced by Wolf Tools for Garden and Lawn Ltd of Ross-on-Wye, Hertfordshire. It is a ride-on, 26″ rotary grass cutter and could have basic attachments like a grass collector, sweeper, roller, and interestingly could be fitted with trailed cylinder gang mowers, This 5hp Briggs and Stratton machine had two forward and one reverse gears. The Wolf Car Mower was of a flexible design which helped it’s ability on uneven ground. I thought this might have had something to do with the Wolf Garden Kart which is like a go-cart, but this was much later than the Wolf Car Mower and had a smaller cut of 22″. 

The question nowadays is how will the future designers develop machines in the coming decade? Will we have a multitude of powerful, efficient and long lasting battery machines by 2030.

Or… perhaps decades from now the petrol machines of yesterday may be sought after, and considered as well built machines capable of a days work with ease? We may already be living in the future by using machines of the past…but just not aware of it!

by alan

10 Vintage Equipment Questions

December 4, 2019 in Articles

Since it’s December and the nights are long and dark, a short quiz on vintage horticultural stuff might pass 5 minutes. Here are ten general questions, the answers and explanations are at the bottom of the page. Each question & answer is like a mini-piece of interesting information. 

Questions:

Q1: What is this machine based on?

1. From the 1990s onwards Karcher (of power-washer fame) was selling the Briggs and Stratton powered KMR1000 ride-on sweeper and vacuum which was like a mini road sweeper. Which small, green & yellow ride-on-mower aimed at the domestic market was this Karcher machine based on?  

A: MTD Yardman DX70
B: Al-Ko 620 rider
C: John Deere R70

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Q2: Was it the Rotoscythe that should be free of purchase tax?

2. Which grass cutting machine caused a debate in Parliament in 1959 because it couldn’t be decided if it should not be classed as a proper lawnmower and therefore be free of purchase tax at 25% ?

A: Tarpen Grassmaster
B: Shay Rotoscythe (as illustrated, right)
C: Barford Atom mower attachments



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Q3: A million satisfied users by 1938, but how many did Qualcst have by 1951?

3. In 1951 the Qualcast Panther ball-bearing mower was advertised at £7.2.6 complete with grass box and 10 years guarantee. Considering that Qualcast had one million customers by 1938, how many satisfied customers did they claim to have 12 years later in 1951?

A: More than 1,500,000
B: More than 3,000,000
C: More than 4,500,000


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Q4: How much was the Nash tractor in 1950?

4. In 1950 the Nash Roller Tractor, by H. R. Nash Ltd, Dorking, was being exhibited at the Dairy Show, Olympia and advertised as a ‘Remarkable Machine’. It was exhibited as a general purpose 3-wheeled tractor designed to cover all types of business and available as a chassis only model or could be had with a flat truck body or tipper body both being £5 extra, but how much was the basic chassis price for this ‘Remarkable Machine’ in 1950?

A: £97
B: £170
C: £227

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Q5: What was a lot less bovver than a hover in the 1980’s?

5. Flymo used the catchphrase ‘It’s a lot less bovver with a hover’ to sell their air-cushioned range of mowers. But which of their wealthy and popular rivals counteracted this by using the similar phrase ‘It’s a lot less bovver than a hover’, image on the right,  in their own TV advert?

A: Black & Decker – advertising the RM1 rotary electric mower
B: Spear & Jackson – advertising the Dino 18 rotary electric mower
C: Qualcast – advertising the Concorde cylinder electric mower

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Q6: How many minutes to get the Sumners Patent Steam Lawn mower up to steam?

6. Steam was a popular method of powering machinery in the 1800’s and attempts were made to harness the power for all sorts of factory applications, propulsion and machinery. The Lancashire Steam Motor Co introduced the pedestrian controlled 1.5 ton ‘Sumners Patent Steam Lawn Mower’ in 1893. Time is a valuable resource and the quicker the better, so according to their adverts, approximately how long would it take to raise steam from cold water and get the machine moving?

A: 10 minutes
B: 30 minutes
C: 45 minutes

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Q7: Which cultivator did Danarm import?

7. Danarm of Stroud, Gloucestershire are well known and respected for their chainsaws. They also had interests in other machines and from the 1970’s Danarm started importing and selling a make of brightly-coloured garden cultivators starting with a 3hp engine model. But what was the cultivator and country of origin?

A: The green and white painted Ferrari cultivators made in Spain
B: The yellow painted Texas cultivators made in Denmark
C: The orange painted Kubota cultivators made in Japan

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Q8: Did they sell the Tudor lawn aerator?

8. Bob Andrews of Sunningdale, Berkshire, manufactured, retailed and distributed a large range of horticultural equipment through the 1970’s, 80’s and onwards. Some of the popular equipment included the Billy Goat vacuum, Andrew’s portable generator, Cyclone spreader and the Minispike hand-push lawn aerator. But which of the following popular machines, painted blue, did they also sell?

A: Bluebird lawn scarifier
B: Tudor aerator (illustrated, right)
C: Mowrite Auto-Spike attachment for power mowers

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Q9: What mower was driven from Edinburgh to London in 1951?

9. In 1959, five students from De Havilland College in Hatfield rode a lawnmower from Edinburgh Castle to Hyde Park in London, a distance of more than 400 miles. It took over 4 ½ days travelling down the whole of the A1 day and night at 4mph.  But which British cylinder mower, as in the pictured example, did they use?

A: Ransomes Matador
B: Royal Enfield Motor Mower
C: Atco Royale

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Q10: What model name did Rolcut give to secateurs?

10. Over the years there have been many makers of secateurs. These include such names as Wilkinson Sword, Felco, Greensleeves, and C.K. There was also a large range of secateurs by Rolcut LTD, based in Horsham, West Sussex. They exhibited anvil secateurs which were the first of their kind at the 1927 Chelsea Flower Show. By 1968 there was a vast range of Rolcut secateurs each with a reference number and name including: No.2 Major, No.7 Superlight, and No.18 Ambassador. But which of the following was also a Rolcut secateur name?

A: Snagger
B: Snick
C: Toggle Lopper

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Answers:

The MTD DX70 is the basis for the Karcher mini road sweeper

1: A: MTD Yardman DX70. Karcher designed their mini road sweeper around the green and yellow beetle-shaped DX70 and apart from the sweeper attachments it looks 95% the same. For clarity, the same DX70 was also sold in an identical shape but clad in a red plastic body shell in some markets.




Tarpen Grassmaster

2: A: Tarpen Grassmaster as in the image, right. The debate in Parliament was if the Grassmaster could cut the grass short enough to warrant it being able to cut a lawn. The Grassmaster was subject to purchase tax in 1957, exempt in 1958 and subject to the tax again in 1959 when it was finally decided it was a lawn-mowing machine. This information was sourced from the UK Parliament Hansard archives. 

3: B: Qualcast claimed more than than 3,000,000 users in 1951. This was an increase from 1,000,000 ball-bearing mowers in 1938. Therefore approximately 2m ball-bearing mowers were produced in the intervening 12 years – that’s 450 mowers per day.

4: B: The chassis price for the Nash Roller Tractor was £170 in 1950. A 4-wheel version of the tractor was introduced a few years later in 1954. According to reports, the company was sold, with patent rights, to Landmaster Ltd in 1956 who had already been selling the Nash tractor for a couple of years.

5: C: Qualcast used the phrase ‘It’s a lot less bovver than a hover’ in adverts for the Concorde cylinder electric mower. There is a video on Youtube showing their brilliant TV advert with the slogan. https://youtu.be/4IARuRMLIAU which features Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey).

6: A: It would take an amazingly short 10 minutes to raise steam on the Sumners Patent Steam Lawn Mower made by The Lancashire Steam motor Co. The Sumner name on the mower comes from James Sumner, a blacksmith, who was one of the company founders. Later, The Lancashire Steam Motor Co became Leyland Motors.

Danarm TV3 Texas Cultivator Advert

7: B: Texas cultivators as in the image and  painted yellow, were sold by Danarm in the 1970’s onwards. They were similar to the Merry Tiller design idea and the De-Luxe model was powered by a Briggs and Stratton 3hp engine, later, Kawasaki engines were introduced into the range. Attachments included steel bladed wheels and pneumatic wheels, tool frame with harrows, and end-discs to protect plants at the sides when cultivating.

8: A: Bob Andrews sold the blue-painted power-driven Bluebird lawn scarifier, it retailed for £292 in 1977, But not only did they sell the Bluebird scarifier they apparently also manufactured them too. Bob Andrews also sold the similar Lawn Doctor scarifier. Many of these very well made scarifier machines are still being used today, they can sometimes be found for sale and make a good second-hand purchase. 

9: A: Ransomes Matador was rode from Edinburgh to London in 1959. The mower still exists today in preservation and has the original number plate JDX150. There are many photos of the feat on the internet including a recent reunion. 

10: All three fantastic names are actually correct, A:Snagger, B: Snick and C: Toggle Lopper being three real names Rolcut gave to models of secateurs. Incidentally Rolcut stopped production of their secateurs to undertake work for the war effort, but by 1949 they were reported to be back to near full production.

by alan

Webb Mowers

October 12, 2019 in Articles, Machinery

I’ve been reading a Webb lawnmower brochure from 1973, the first page headline is “How to choose the right mower for you and your lawn” which is quite fortuitous as someone recently asked that very statement via email. There are so many variables regarding buying a mower that an answer would run into many pages, however Webb have the answer and to put it bluntly they simply advise that one should buy a Webb, no ifs or buts just buy a Webb, even if one doesn’t need a mower still buy a Webb. I think their answers might be a little biased and besides their brochure is 46 years ago but do you think I could give the same advice today? Buy a Webb, you know you want to! There’s hundreds on auction sites so many have obviously lasted the test of time and bumped their way across lawns which might actually not have been suitable for a Webb cylinder mower after all – regardless of how amazingly convincing the brochure was at the time.

Marketing garden machinery has come a long way over the years and the Webb brochure is a great example of utter brilliant marketing. Let’s have a browse through the brochure which is a snap-shot of 1970’s suburbia par excellence.



Webb make a very good point that, even in the 1970’s, we were already entering the ‘throwaway’ age and that with proper care and maintenance a Webb mower (indeed any mower) should give years of service. Webb make such a fuss over their excellent construction that there’s a photo of the parts that make up a mower, an excellent piece of marketing, just look at the image, right, and be convinced it’s a great way to explain their mowers. They also say that the mowers have quality engineering and that they buy their engines from the specialists – it’s only a basic Briggs and Stratton but boy can they talk it up.

It’s easy to convince you, the buyer, that a Webb is what’s required to get a perfect lawn even if it’s currently a rough patch that’s being grazed by a donkey and two goats, but one needs to convince the entire household that a Webb mower is THE purchase to be made and will outshine anything next doors can buy….

….The reason is that Webb make several subliminal references to expense which may not go down too well with the person who controls the purse strings. Webbs advice is to “Go for the best you can afford” and “Webb recommended prices allow your dealer to provide….guidance, instruction, preparation and service requirements” i.e this ain’t gonna be cheap. In the picture on the right we see the Webb mower being invited to afternoon tea and admired by it’s new owners – it’s not just a new mower but a piece of one-upmanship over the entire neighbourhood and their new-fangled Flymos. The Webb is something to aspire to. 

The range of mowers in this 1973 brochure were all cylinder and ranged from push models through electric, cordless, petrol and ride-on petrol versions all with superb build quality. Webb also sold a few other garden items in this 1973 catalogue, what could they tempt you to buy? 

Let us visit some old technology which is now new technology that hasn’t progressed much from the old technology and get ourselves a battery mower to cut down on the use of petrol. The largest 18″ deluxe model which is the left mower in the picture was £132.00 in 1973, approx 30% more than the petrol version. The smallest model was a 12″ cut and priced £54.95 (prices inc tax).

All the battery mowers were 12 volt with two-speed motors and varied in usage from 1 hour 10 minutes to 2 hours depending on the chosen model. Charging could take between 24 and 30 long hours which works out between 3 and 4 minutes mowing for each hour of charging depending on the model. These battery mowers would no doubt always be destined for the smaller domestic gardens, in which case why not buy the plug in mains powered model which was a similar price? Webb sold an extra 100′ extension lead for only £10.74 so that’s plenty for most gardens.

The first Webb battery mower I ever saw was being used in a garden in Kirkby Lonsdale (Cumbia/Yorkshire border) in the early 1990’s, it would have had a few years age by then. It was mowing a small, perfectly shaped, weed free lawn outside a perfectly formed retirement bungalow by a perfectly presented retired gentleman. I wonder if any battery mowers are still in use today? I have one but it’s no longer used. 

The next models are the petrol powered stuff, this is where one can be accused of wanting a mower purely because it has an engine. As can be seen in the image the gentleman has been accompanied to the dealership to ensure money isn’t squandered on unnecessary and frivolous purchases, honestly, as if anyone would buy stuff on a whim to hoard in the shed. Besides, there’s a really scary receptionist lurking in the background to keep things in order. 

The run-of-the-mill shed filling mowers that are most popular will be the 14″ and 18″  Briggs powered machines as pictured below. The main difference I can see between the basic and deluxe models is that one has 82 cuts per yard and the other 102 cuts and both with the six bladed cylinder. There’s only eleven pounds in price between the two.



For utter devilment our gentleman in the dealership image could be forced by his female companion to have a hand-push mower, that’d teach him to look out of the kitchen window and daydream for a petrol powered machine instead of getting on with doing the washing-up at home. The push mower range consisted of the 10″ Whippet, 12″ Wasp and 12″ Witch. Respectively priced at £17.54, £18.64 and £25.24 inc tax. 

These mowers would be the staple of the small domestic lawn and had been made and sold for decades, no wonder they appear regularly for sale as thousands must have been sold. The 10″ Whippet was the lightweight mower, they then describe the Wasp model as ‘Robust’ (as if the Whippet was somehow inferior) for the extra £1 plus tax the better Wasp would be the more savvy purchase as both give the same 45 cuts per yard. The third model, the Witch, gives a ‘superfine finish’ with 60 cuts per yard. 

Of course the one item that would look great on the lawn or out-front on the driveway in full view of the neighbours would be the 24″ Webb ride-on mower as shown in the tea-party image earlier in this article. This mower is described as being a ‘lawn-cruiser’ and had an impressive 80 cuts per yard. The trailed seat attachment could be unhitched in 10 seconds and then the mower used as a standard walk-behind cylinder machine. It’s a machine not to just give a good cut of the lawn but also a machine to impress – the Range Rover of the domestic lawn mowing world of the time perhaps. I once scrapped one of these mowers, it’s mowing capabilities beyond repair. It’s engine found it’s way onto another mower where it still works and the foot rests fitted perfectly onto a Mowett Mustang ride-on mower. Ironically the foot rests from this scrap machine were of a staggeringly better quality than the tin-plate Mowett ever was! 

Once the lawn is cut then it’s time to do the edges and Webb come to the rescue with a battery-operated lawn edger. This talented machine has a 6 volt battery that can trim for about 45 minutes – about 1200 yards of lawn edges. It has a 7″ blade that revolves at 5000 rpm giving about 10,000 cuts per minute. Apparently it can trim lawn edges better than they have ever been trimmed before – I think some professionally trained groundsman might have disagreed with that statement but they probably agree that it was a lot easier than using long-handled shears. 

Two other items that Webb were selling at the time were from the Little Wonder tools range as pictured below. The Little Wonder edger and trimmer which was an electric strimmer and available as either 12 volt battery powered or 240 mains. The Little Wonder hedge cutters were 240 volt mains or 110 volt from a generator, 12 volt battery, or 1 hp, 2 stroke petrol. 

A couple of other brochures at the time were for the Webb Wizard mowers, advertised as ‘Low cost mowing for the small lawn’ although from experience the Wizard range were not a patch on the items discussed in this article. At the other end of the scale was the ‘Power for the professionals’ a range of mowers specially suited to the professional and owners of large gardens, that’d certainly impress the neighbours!

Little Wonder hedge trimmer and strimmer


Note: Prices include tax at the specified rate in 1973.

by alan

Ford garden machines in the UK

May 11, 2019 in Articles, Machinery

Advert for the Ford LGT 14D diesel ride on mower. Available in the UK 1987-1991

Ford is a global manufacturer and has a wide range of products under its belt with a vast array of associated advertising, one would be inclined to think that it’d be easy then, a doddle even, to find out about their mowers, tillers, chainsaws and garden and lawn tractors in the UK? This, I have found, is not the case, probably because I now know there isn’t much to find over here! For comparison I’ve spent months researching International Harvester garden tractors in the UK, their information proving sketchy, but that was surprisingly easier than Ford!

I have been looking for the Ford models actually sold in the UK rather than cataloguing the vast range they made, this has meant looking through UK specific brochures and data. However, this article may still have rather a lot of loose ends and more questions than answers but it’s a start and will perhaps inspire others to add to the knowledge base.

Having delved about with research I find that some of the first engine-powered Ford ride-on mowers seem to be of the home-made variety and date from the early 1900’s. This will come as no surprise when we learn that they were Model T Fords pulling along originally horse-powered gang mowers. Not exactly a ‘ride-on’ but the thought was there.

Ford 80 garden tractor as seen at Newark Tractor Show in 2015

The earliest purpose built Ford garden tractors that we are aware of in the UK is the model 80, manufactured for a few years from 1966. A couple have come to light in recent years, the image, right, is an example shown at Newark Tractor Show in 2015. The model 80 and 100 were manufactured by Jacobsen of Racine, Wisconsin and were essentially rebadged and Ford liveried Jacobsen Chief 100 tractors (see image for comparison). A little later the 80 and 100 were joined by the Ford 120 hydrostatic (based on the Jacobsen Chief 1200). However, of the first Ford garden tractors produced in the late 1960’s only the model 80 with the 8hp engine has appeared in the UK as far as we are aware.

Ford R8 rider mower in the US. From 1973 in the UK this could be bought as the original Ransomes-Hahn 500 in yellow paintwork.

It’s always interesting seeing which manufacturer makes what for whom, Ransomes-Hahn for instance manufactured for Ford in the US, as in the image of the rider on the right, but it appears none of these Ford badged machines made it over here. In the UK  from 1973 this machine is the yellow painted Ransomes-Hahn 500 rider model (see image for comparison) and available with 5hp or 7hp Briggs and Stratton engine. In the US these same machines were badged as the Ford R8 and R11 as in the image, right, did either of these Ford badged machines make it to the UK?

In 1973 to compliment the yellow Ransomes-Hahn 500 rider model in the UK there is mention of the larger and more tractor-like Ransomes-Hahn GT700 (see UK image) with 8 or 12hp Tecumseh engine and hydrostatic drive – since the Ransomes-Hahn 500 was painted blue and badged Ford in the US (as in the image above) I’m surprised the larger GT700 never appeared in any country as a Ford. Note: I have seen a blue Ford-esque GT700 but I think it was something that’d been bodged up from a yellow Hahn as a lookalike Ford.

Slight deviation from Ford: Whilst mentioning Hahn and the things that came off their production line in many colours, there was the 12hp Kohler powered Ransomes-Hahn Tournament Triplex mower available in yellow paintwork and with same machine being available later in the standard Ransomes green and badged as the Triplex 171 – both machines were available in the UK and were aimed at the golf course and fine lawn market. Amazing how manufacturers make, market and sell their machines under or for different brands – something which Ford was no stranger to, but for research it can be a real tangled web when one starts looking!

Ford YT16, available in a geared or hydrostatic version in the UK

Back to Ford and onto another manufacturer, this time Gilson of Wisconsin, USA. Gilson (and others) manufactured the most common small Ford machine we see in the UK that is the YT16 as in the image on the right, complimented by the hydrostatic YT16H model. This yard tractor (hence the YT prefix) with 42” mower deck was available with a 16hp Briggs and Stratton engine to start with and later a 16hp Kohler engine. It was manufactured by Gilson from approx. 1983 to 1988 followed by being manufactured by Lawnboy until 1993.  Lawnboy purchased Gilson in 1988 before all being bought by Toro in 1989 – so several hands in manufacturing the YT16 range. During 1985-91 Gilson/Lawnboy also made the bigger brother Ford LGT-18H which was available to us. Powered by a petrol 18hp Kohler engine with hydrostatic drive and optional rear PTO, this was available with a 48” mid-mounted mower deck with hydraulic lift for those that didn’t want to wrestle with a mechanical lever and spill their coffee – unlike Husqvarnas that have a cup holder to mitigate such scenarios. 

Hooray! for the frugal diesel for there is one small Ford diesel garden tractor that features in the UK, it is shown in the advert at the top of this article. In production from approximately 1987-1991 this is the LGT-14D and had 40% higher fuel efficiency than the equivalent petrol. Specification from the brochure states it has a Shibaura, 14hp, 3 cylinder diesel engine; hydrostatic drive and a 48” mid-mounted mower deck. Rear PTO was optional.  This tractor is the diesel version of the LGT-14 which was powered by a 14hp Kohler, 512cc petrol engine which no doubt gobbled petrol. Manufacture of the petrol LGT-14 was by Gilson between 1986 and 1987, and unlike the diesel Shibaura version, appears not to have been introduced to the UK – we just got the diesel one, unless you know otherwise?

Ford lawnmower. Did any make it over to the UK?

The next step up is to the larger, but still compact, Ford 1100 (2 wheel drive) and 1200 (4 wheel drive) machines. Data suggests that these were manufactured from around 1979 for about three or four years by Shibaura and featured 2-cylinder diesel engines coupled to a 12-speed gearbox. Prices were about £2500 for the 1100, and £3000 for the 1200 (see image). In the VHGMC gallery there is an image of a Ford 1220 (see image), this is from the Twenty Compact Series from the 80s/90s which comprised of the 1220, 1520, 1720,1920 and 2120 models. There was also the Ten series tractors (1983-1986) consisting of the 1120, 1210, 1310, 1510, 1710 and 1910. I know the 1120 and 1210 existed in the UK but not of the others. 

What else did Ford manufacture? My brochures say they made push lawnmowers as in the image, right. Also snow blowers, tillers and chainsaws including the super lightweight saws from the 1970’s. Do any of these Ford garden items exist in the UK? And as importantly who made them for Ford, were they also re-badged machines?

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.