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Part 5: 1900s - 1910s

In 1901 Shanks had produced a new side wheel model to their range, the Talisman. This machine was basically a copy of the Lloyds Pennsylvania (as mentioned earlier) and the idea was to break into the Lloyds' share of the market. Meanwhile, Follows & Bate had made improvements to their Climax and added new models, the Runaway and Speedwell for the home market and the Anglo American for the export market although these were also sold in this country.

 

At this period machines imported from America tended to be a little cheaper and in many cases the castings were of a better quality iron. This meant that less metal was used but still retained the same strength. From 1890 some American manufacturers had been fitting ball bearing races which gave greater accuracy of the cutting cylinder. Follows & Bate counteracted by discounting their machines to ironmongers (who were generally classed as the wholesale trade) - they even went in for sale or return incentives!

 

At the lower end of the trade the greatest competitors to Follows & Bate were Hoods of Birmingham who imported machines from America. One of their most popular models was the Premier which they sold for more than 40 years - 1885 to 1925. As a catalogue machine Hoods sold the same machine under many guises.

In 1902 Barford and Perkins added the Wansbrough Patent mechanism to their Godiva range of lawn mowers. This simple but clever device altered the height of cut. A rod, attached to a cam, was placed on the side of the front roller the other end of the rod being attached through an elongated slot by the handle and held in place by a threaded hand grip. To adjust the height of cut the operator simply moved the rod along the slot. Ransomes gained a licence to use Hillman's Patent on their Ideal mower, intended for cutting the undulating fairways on golf courses etc and consisted the of a cylinder mowing unit slung in a frame with a pair of large land wheels. The cutting unit was raised or lowered by chains. The mower was pulled by a horse while the operator sat above, the cut grass being deflected out behind the machine. This machine became a useful asset in the Ransomes range of mowers, so much so that Shanks were soon to offer a similar version known as the Triumph. Greens also followed suit, in 1912, with the Silens Messor High Wheel. Ransomes took up the Orrs Patent which they sold as an extra for their Patent Gear and Chain range of hand mowers. The Orrs patent consisted of spring loaded hooks attached to the forward side of the cutting cylinder blades. As the cylinder turned the hooks lifted the bent grass, so giving a keener cut on fine lawns. By 1913 they had developed a special bents cutter with a cutting cylinder 15in in diameter, the idea being to cut the long stalks the normal cylinder mower left behind. This machine, however, was only sold for a few years.

 

Burgess of Brentwood were well-known as agricultural implement manufacturers for more than a century when, in 1910, they produced a small water-cooled motor mower. Built in 24in and 30in widths, these had a ribbed land wheel to give better grip on slopes. The main reason for this machine's success was its price of just £60 compared to the Ransome’s range which started at £75. Ransome’s, however, were not deterred as they were the market leaders in mower design, Greens the bulk producer and Shanks the major exporter. 1913 was a record year for Lloyd Lawrence with their Pennsylvania mower having sold upwards of 1¼ million machines since its introduction in 1878.

 

In 1914 Europe was at war. Advertisements for lawn mowers were still to be found during the first two years of the war, although these were reduced in numbers. In the main, they came from Greens and Shanks. By 1915 most companies were involved with production of munitions for the war effort. That year a patent was granted to Rendle for a motor attachment to be added to a conventional push mower. This was not, however, put into production until the early 1920s. By June 1916 the Board of Trade had prohibited all imports of lawn mowers into this country, a ban that was not lifted until late 1919. This ban had a profound effect on the lawn mower sales after the war. Our country lost many young lives and, like every war before, this affected the whole of society. On one hand, many of the country's gardeners did not return while, on the other side, companies involved with the war effort had learnt better engineering principles and the art of mechanisation.

 

In 1919 new companies were starting to show an interest in lawn mower production. One in particular was Jerram & Pearson, who patented their idea of a push mower based on the latest material available. The sides were made from cast aluminium with chain drive running in an oil bath within one side of the casting.

 

The cutting cylinder could be removed very easily by removing the centre spline. This mower was soon to become known as J.P. Mowers, the Rolls-Royce of Lawn Mowers (and they were almost as expensive).