Bud­ding a hero to gar­den­ers with in­ven­tion

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA -

THINK of a typ­i­cal Bri­tish gar­den and your men­tal im­age prob­a­bly in­cludes a well-man­i­cured sward of lawn with stripes as straight as those down the trousers of a bank man­ager’s suit.

The per­son re­spon­si­ble for those stripes is Ed­win Beard Bud­ding, in­ven­tor of the lawn­mower and a man born and bred in Stroud, Glouces­ter­shire.

Be­fore his ma­chine or­di­nary do­mes­tic homes did not have lawns.

Stately homes did and the up­keep re­quired a vast amount of man power.

At Blen­heim Palace, for ex­am­ple, in around 1800 a work­force of 200 peo­ple looked af­ter the es­tate and in the sum­mer months a quar­ter of them were per­ma­nently oc­cu­pied by keep­ing the grass cut with scythes and hand shears, then gath­er­ing up the clip­pings af­ter­wards.

The word lawn re­ferred to land grazed by animals and it crops up in lo­cal place names, such as Corse Lawn.

So it was a bit of a blow to job op­por­tu­ni­ties for labour­ers when in 1830 Mr Bud­ding de­signed and pa­tented the world’s first lawn­mower.

Born in 1795 the son of a farmer, Ed­win trained as a car­pen­ter be­fore chang­ing tack to be­come a pat­tern maker in an iron foundry where his in­ven­tive abil­ity soon came to the fore.

His en­gi­neer­ing in­no­va­tions in­cluded a hand pis­tol, a ma­chine for cut­ting up veg­eta­bles, a lathe and the first adjustable span­ner.

Then in 1830 he de­signed the lawna

mower, which was said to be in­spired by mech­a­nised cut­ting shears he’d seen used in Stroud cloth mills. To put his lawn­mow­ers into pro­duc­tion, Bud­ding set up a part­ner­ship with John Ferrabee who owned the Phoenix Iron Works at Thrupp.

The ear­li­est ma­chine had a 19 inch cut­ting width and was pushed from be­hind. It had a box on the front to catch the clip­pings and roller to make the stripes on the lawn and when you see one you re­alise that lawn mow­ers haven’t re­ally changed much over the years. The orig­i­nal model did, how­ever, prove to be heavy go­ing for one op­er­a­tor, so a sec­ond han­dle at the front was added al­low­ing the ma­chine to be pushed and pulled by two peo­ple, or some­times a horse.

Among the list of cus­tomers for Mr Bud­ding’s in­no­va­tion were Lon­don Zoo in Re­gent’s Park the Ox­ford Col­leges. Lawn­mow­ers proved to be a great suc­cess.

range of mod­els with dif­fer­ent cut­ting widths was in­tro­duced and a li­cence was granted for the ma­chines to be made by a Ran­somes of Ip­swich, a firm that made agri­cul­tural equip­ment.

In the 10 years af­ter pro­duc­tion first be­gan 1,000 Bud­ding lawn­mow­ers had been sold.

Steam pow­ered ver­sions of the lawn­mower be­came pop­u­lar in the lat­ter years of Queen Vic­to­ria’s reign, then Ran­somes in­tro­duced a model with a petrol en­gine and that sold nicely too.

“So Ed­win Bud­ding must have be­come wealthy and en­joyed a long re­tire­ment liv­ing in the lap of lux­ury” you may be think­ing.

Sadly, no. At the age of just 50 our hero suf­fered a stroke and died.

You can see an ex­am­ple of an early Bud­ding lawn­mower in Stroud’s Mu­seum in the Park and the Sci­ence Mu­seum in Lon­don has one on dis­play as well.

Ed­win Bud­ding hasn’t achieved as prom­i­nent an en­try in the Who’s Who of in­ven­tors as, say Ge­orge Stephen­son who was re­spon­si­ble for the Rocket lo­co­mo­tive.

That’s odd in a way, be­cause you hardly ever see a steam en­gine on the rail­way these days, while you see plenty of lawn­mow­ers in peo­ple’s gar­dens.

But he had an hon­our be­stowed upon him just a few years ago when Greg Pil­ley, pro­pri­etor of the Stroud Brew­ery, named one of his ex­cel­lent or­ganic beers Bud­ding and it’s been pop­u­lar in the lo­cal­ity ever since.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, Stroud Brew­ery stands on the site in Thrupp where the Phoenix Iron­works stood and in April 2015 a blue plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing Stroud’s al­most fa­mous in­ven­tor was un­veiled by David Withers, pres­i­dent of Ran­somes.

Ed­win Bud­ding

A horse drawn mower

Bud­ding’s pa­tented lawn­mower

Plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing Ed­win Bud­ding

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