For the legions of people who would rather look at lawn mowers than cut the grass. The first lawn mower was invented by Edwin Budding in 1830. He was working in a textile mill in Stroud, Gloucester, where he designed a machine originally to trim the knap off the cloth, destined for Guardsmen's uniforms. His revolutionary idea was to use it to cut grass!!. At the time people thought he was a lunatic and a madman to invent such a contraption, so he had to test the machine at night so no one could see him. Budding's mower was designed primarily to cut the grass on sports grounds and extensive gardens, as a superior alternative to the scythe, and was granted a British patent on August 31, 1830. Budding's first machine was 19 inches (480 mm) wide with a frame made of wrought iron. The mower was pushed from behind. Cast iron gear wheels transmitted power from the rear roller to the cutting cylinder, allowing the rear roller to drive the knives on the cutting cylinder; the ratio was 16:1. Another roller placed between the cutting cylinder and the main or land roller could be raised or lowered to alter the height of cut. The grass clippings were hurled forward into a tray-like box. It was soon realized, however, that an extra handle was needed in front to help pull the machine along. Overall, these machines were remarkably similar to modern mowers. Two of the earliest Budding machines sold went to Regent's Park Zoological Gardens in London and the Oxford Colleges. In an agreement between John Ferrabee and Edwin Budding dated May 18, 1830, Ferrabee paid the costs of enlarging the small blades, obtained letters of patent and acquired rights to manufacture, sell and license other manufacturers in the production of lawn mowers. Without patent, Budding and Ferrabee were shrewd enough to allow other companies to build copies of their mower under license, the most successful of these being Ransomes of Ipswich, which began making mowers as early as 1832. His machine was the catalyst for the preparation of modern-style sporting ovals, playing fields (pitches), grass courts, etc. This led to the codification of modern rules for many sports, including for football, lawn bowls, lawn tennis and others. Just think; no lawn mower, no football.
It took ten more years and further innovations to create a machine that could be drawn by animals, and sixty years before a steam-powered lawn mower was built. In the 1850s, Thomas Green & Son of Leeds introduced a mower called the Silens Messor (meaning silent cutter), which used a chain drive to transmit power from the rear roller to the cutting cylinder. These machines were lighter and quieter than the gear driven machines that preceded them, although they were slightly more expensive. The rise in popularity of lawn sports helped prompt the spread of the invention. Lawn mowers became a more efficient alternative to the scythe and domesticated grazing animals. Manufacture of lawn mowers took off in the 1860s. By 1862, Ferrabee's company was making eight models in various roller sizes. He manufactured over 5000 machines until production ceased in 1863. The first grass boxes were flat trays but took their present shape in the 1860s. James Sumner of Lancashire patented the first steam-powered lawn mower in 1893. His machine burned petrol and/or paraffin (kerosene) as fuel. These were heavy machines that took several hours to warm up to operating pressure. After numerous advances, these machines were sold by the Stott Fertilizer and Insecticide Company of Manchester and Sumner. The company they both controlled was called the Leyland Steam Motor Company. Around 1900, one of the best known English machines was the Ransomes' Automaton, available in chain- or gear-driven models. Numerous manufacturers entered the field with petrol (gasoline) engine-powered mowers after the start of the 20th century. The first was produced by Ransomes in 1902. JP Engineering of Leicester, founded after World War I, produced a range of very popular chain driven mowers. About this time, an operator could ride behind animals that pulled the large machines. These were the first riding mowers.
The Museum has now become one of the Worlds leading authorities on vintage lawnmowers and are now specialists in antique garden machinery, supplying parts, archive conservation of manuscript materials and valuing machines from all over the world. Included in this Unique National collection are manufacturers not normally associated with the garden industry, names such as Rolls Royce, Royal Enfield, Vincent, Dennis, Hawker Sidley, Perkins Diesel, British Leyland, Fraser Nash and many more. Most of the exhibit's technical and industrial artefacts are from the Victorian and Edwardian era. The restored exhibits are devoted to keeping a small part of British engineering Heritage alive. BRITISH AT ITS BEST over the last 200 years. Admission includes free audio tour. The museum includes the lawnmower of Prince Charles and Princess Diana (although I suspect they rarely used it themselves). This is wheel chair accessible.
Location : 106-114 Shakespeare Street, Southport, Merseyside PR8 5AJ
Transport: Birkdale (MerseyRail). Bus routes 43 and 46 stop outside.
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 09:00 to 17:30
Tickets: Adults £3.00. Children £1.00