MP077: Follows & Bate Speedwell

Follows & Bate Speedwell with five-bladed cutting cylinder.

The Speedwell was a side mower produced by Follows & Bate of Gorton, Manchester at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

The company had introduced the first practical sidewheel mower with its Climax model in 1869. The Speedwell was more conventional than the Climax and adhered to the layout that had been established in the intervening years. In may ways its appearance is very similar to contemporary machines produced by Shanks (The Britisher), Ransomes (The Lion) and many other companies.

The mower was introduced in 1896 and remained in production for many years. Like many contemporary sidewheel machines the Speedwell was offered for sale through mail order. Follows & Bate was very successful at selling its machines this way and also offered substantial discounts for retailers such as ironmongers if they bought in bulk. It was listed in catalogues for retailers such as "The Army & Navy" well into the 1930s although it had by then been superseded by more up-to-date designs.

Follows & Bate Speedwell with canvas grass catcher.

The Speedwell was initially available in sizes ranging from 7in to 17in cutting width in two inch increments. Around 1900 the 7 inch model was priced 28 shillings and the 17 inch at 40 shillings with "trade discount" available for ironmongers and other retailers.

Unusually for British machines of this period the Speedwell was supplied with a canvas grass catcher. This style of grass collection device was much more common on American mowers and never really caught on with British manufacturers or customers although a few mowers - including the Ransomes Conquest - had them as late as the 1950s. A conventional grass box was available in later years.

The original Speedwell had a cutting cylinder with four blades. The improved version was introduced in 1930 and had five blades. By this time the price had risen to 37 shillings and sixpence for the 9 inch model and 52 shillings and sixpence for the 17 inch model. It would appear that the smaller 7 inch model was no longer available. The grass box - as always with this sort of mower during this period - was available at extra cost of between 10 shillings and 12 shillings and sixpence depending on the cutting width of the mower.

Follows & Bate Speedwell advertisement, 1900.

The Speedwell is surprisingly hard to find today considering how successful and popular it was in its time. They are therefore sought-after by collectors.