chapter  9
24 Pages

The diffusion of steam technology in England: ploughing engines, 1859–1930


Purchase price Very high Modest: horses reproduce themselves

Maintenance Requires regular oiling and preventative maintenance on worn parts

Liable to illness

Labour Skilled labour for driving and maintenance

Experienced unskilled labour

Economics Covers a large area of land quickly and therefore requires a large estate to be utilised effectively. The alternative is use by an independent contractor with several customers

Covers land slowly and can be kept fully occupied on a small farm

of technology. New estimates for the regional variations in the timing, pace and extent of early usage of steam engines in Britain during the eighteenth century have been suggested by Nuvolari et al. (2011) using an updated version of the list of engines originally compiled by Kanefsky and Robey (1980). Power availability and agricultural productivity in England and Wales between 1840 and 1939 are discussed by Collins (1996); the evolution and economic impact of steam mechanisation are described in Brown (2008) and Dewey (2008). Steam power was widely used on the farm, as well as for land reclamation and drainage schemes, and various types of stationary, portable and traction engines were developed, as summarised in Table 9.2. The key data on steam ploughing engines used in this study are derived from the unpublished business records of John Fowler & Co., which are held at Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), University of Reading, together with records of other agricultural engineers. The research was made possible by Robert Oliver of the Steam Plough Club (SPC), who painstakingly, over a period of seven years, teased individual ploughing engine records from the Fowler archive, and made them available for academic research.