MP015: Follows & Bate Speedwell

Speedwell advertisement, The Ironmonger, 20 March 1897

Follows & Bate of Gorton, Manchester, England is one of the most famous lawn mower manufacturers. The company was started in 1868 by Frederick William Follows who saw the potential for a small, mass produced lawn mower for the domestic market. The Climax model that was introduced by the company the year after its foundation was the first side wheel mower.

A number of other successful models followed and in the early 1890s Follows & Bate introduced the Speedwell range of side wheel mowers that were, according to the company, "fitted with the latest improvements". The company had by this time a formidable reputation for producing high quality machines that could be sold at an affordable price.

The Speedwell was like many similar sidewheel models of the period: cast iron side frames and wheels connected by a bar and the cutting plate. The cutting cylinder (or reel) was driven by ratchets inside the wheels. The mower was available in sizes ranging from 7in cut to 17in cut in 2in increments. A grass box could be supplied for an additional charge.

Follows & Bate was clearly proud of its successful mower and proclaimed in its advertisements that the Speedwell was "The cheapest serviceable machine on the market" and "much superior to the many worthless imitations from abroad that are thrown on the market for sales".

Speedwell advertisement, Implement & Machinery Review, 1 May 1930

The mower was still being promoted as late as the 1930s, albeit as an improved version. Despite this longevity, examples of the Speedwell are relatively unusual today and they are prized among collectors.

Follows & Bate continued to manufacture a wide range of machines until it was taken over by Qualcast in 1938. Inexpensive mowers with the 'Folbate' name were produced by Qualcast until 1966.