British Anzani lawn mower -award wining restoration-IMG 2972

An award winning restoration of a British Anzani lawn mower at Peterborough Vintage Tractor show 2008

A lawn mower or lawnmower is a machine that has one or more revolving blades to cut a lawn at an even length.

Lawn mowers employing a blade that rotates about a vertical axis are known as rotary mowers, while those employing a blade assembly that rotates about a horizontal axis are known as cylinder or reel mowers.

Many different designs have been made, each suited to a particular purpose. The smallest types, pushed by a human, are suitable for small residential lawns and gardens, while larger, self-contained engine powered, ride-on mowers are suitable for large lawns, and the largest, multi-gang mowers pulled behind a tractor, are designed for large expanses of grass such as golf courses and municipal parks.


Ransomes Sims and Jefferies Anglia 10 -Astwood-DSC01277

Pair of early (manual) lawn mowers in the Horticultural machinery and collectables section of a Steam and Vintage rally

Ransomes Sims and Jefferies Certes 14 DSC01280

An Early hand powered mower

The first lawn mower was invented by English engineer Edwin Beard Budding in 1827. Budding's mower was designed primarily to cut the lawn on sports grounds and expensive gardens as a superior alternative to the scythe. His patent of 25 October, 1830 described "a new combination and application of machinery for the purpose of cropping or shearing the vegetable surfaces of lawns, grass-plats and pleasure grounds." The patent went on to state, "country gentlemen may find in using my machine themselves an amusing, useful and healthy exercise." It took ten more years and further innovations to create a machine that could be worked by donkey or horse power, and sixty years before a steam-powered lawn mower was built. In an agreement between John Ferrabee and Edwin Budding dated May 18 1830, Ferrabee paid the costs of development, obtained letters of patent and acquired rights to manufacture, sell and license other manufacturers in the production of lawn mowers. (The agreement is housed in the Museum at Stroud, in Gloucestershire). One of the first Budding and Ferrabee machines was used in Regent's Park Zoological Gardens in London, in 1831.

Manufacture of lawn mowers began in the 1860s. By 1862, Farrabee's company was making eight models in various roller sizes up to 36 inches (900 mm). He manufactured over five thousand machines until production ceased in 1863. Thomas Green produced the first chain driven mower in 1859, named the Silens Messor. In 1870, Elwood McGuire of Richmond, Indiana designed a human-pushed lawn mower, which was very lightweight and a commercial success. On May 9, 1899, an improved cylinder mower was patented in U.S. Patent 624,749, with the wheel placement altered for better performance. Amariah M. Hills went on to found the Archimedean Lawn Mower Co. in 1871. Around 1900, one of the best known English machines was the Ransomes' Automaton, available in chain- or gear-driven models. 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 rise in popularity of sports such as lawn tennis, croquet, cricket, football and rugby helped prompt the spread of the invention. Lawn mowers became a more efficient alternative to simply relying on gardeners wielding the scythe (which, when placed in incompetent hands, left unsightly scars on and in the ground) or bare spaces caused by domesticated grazing animals. James Sumner of Lancashire patented the first steam-powered lawn mower in 1893. His machine burned petrol and/or paraffin oil (kerosene) as a fuel. After numerous advances, the machines were sold by the Stott Fertilizer and Insecticide Company of Manchester and later, the Sumner's took over sales. The company they controlled was called the Leyland Steam Motor Company. Numerous manufacturers entered the field with gasoline-driven mowers after the turn of the century. The first grass boxes were flat trays but took their present shape in the 1860s. The roller-drive lawn mower has changed very little since around 1930. Gang mowers, those with multiple sets of blades, were built in the United States in 1919 by a Mister Worthington. His company was taken over by the Jacobsen Corporation but his name is still cast on the frames of their gang units.

Types of MowerEdit


Dennis Bros Lawn Mower sn 7399 at Stoke Goldington 09 - IMG 9736

A Dennis Bros Lawn mower On show at the Stoke Goldington Steam Rally 2009

The cylindrical drum type built by early manufacturers, such as;


A more modern type with a flat pressed horizontal blade. Made in both light weight electric and medioum duty Internal combustion engine powered, usually a Two-stroke petrol engine in the UK, more recent ones using Four-Stroke engines running on Unleaded fuel.



Originally used for commercial operations, now more common with private owners with larger gardens. Based on a compact Garden tractor, with a mid mounted Rotary mower unit with 1, 2 or 3 heads on a platform that can be raised up by a mechanical linkage, and driven by a belt drive.



Mounted on the Three point linkage of a Garden tractor or a Compact tractor used for larger areas like sports fields and parks or golf courses (tractor usually fitted with wide grassland tyres in place of the normal lugged tyres to reduce damaging ruts).


Lawn mower collectingEdit

In the UK some of the tractor and vintage machinery classes have sections with garden tractors and lawn mowers in as well as other horticultural machinery.

See alsoEdit


Part extract from Wikipedia article

  • Halford, David G. Old Lawn Mowers - Shire publications LTD. 1999.

External linksEdit


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