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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

Patent Chain & Gear Automatons

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A brief timeline of the Patent Chain & Gear Automatons




Both models introduced with additional improvements and cutting widths of 8 to 24in.

The major improvements being a double angle cutting cylinder designed to deliver the cut grass to the centre of the box, together with a ribbed drive roller to prevent the machine slipping on sloping ground and skidding on dry or wet grass.

The single screw adjustment for the cutting cylinder and the recently introduced front roller hand adjuster were retained.

A new design of grass box appeared with the cup handle incorporated in the bracket, together with a more decorative scraper plate displaying the name and cutting width.




In 1901  Ransomes appear to have changed their advertising images for push mowers to include the word 'England' after ipswich on the mower handles, so whilst it could be assumed that the castings on actual mowers changed then, some other sources state that this did not take place until 1905.



Solid driving wheels for the chain/gear are seen on some later models although little evidence of this in the catalogues, although the Automaton Minor is shown with a solid drive wheel from 1913.

Garfitts Ltd who supplied spares for many makes of mower were still advertising the open spoked version in their 1931 catalogue.


Whilst he patent chain still appeared in catalogues, it was now described along with the Automaton Minor as 'Old Favourites'

With new models arriving, the Anglia, Marquis, Countess & Certes, the Automatons were indeed showing their age, some records indicate that the they finally ceased being sold in 1938.


hdtrust Wed, 13/05/2020

Dear Clive

I really do not know where you are researching your information from,but your time line is wrong,start to finish and abit in the middle!!!!

These are the correct dates taken from Ransomes Journals,which we The Hall & Duck Trust own.

Patent Gear Automaton production started 1898,production finished 1928

Patent Chain Automaton production started 1898 production finished 1931

As for England being cast into the handles,that was on all hand models post 1905,but does not apply with Motor Mowers

Also when talking about how many machines were sold in one year,the numbers cannot be taken from catalogues because by there nature,the numbers are ambiguous. 

Andrew Hall


The Hall & Duck Trust


Clive1997 Thu, 14/05/2020

Hello Andrew

When I research I try to avoid relying on the first piece of reference information seen & like to dig deeper and establish secondary cross referencing material where ever possible.

Whilst you may own the Ransomes Journals, I too have received copies of various reference material direct from Ransomes & MERL in Reading with their information stating that the Patent Gear & Patent Chain were first manufactured in 1898 and last 'sold' in 1938. I can only assume some of the dates they quote are inaccurate!          These documents also indicate that the New Automaton was first manufactured in 1888, again incorrect.

As mentioned above I dig deeper & do not rely on one source. I have spent many hours trawling through The British Library archives and have established that Ransomes Sims & Jefferies Ltd were advertising the New Patent Chain & Gear with 'Double Angle Cutters, Ribbed Driving Rollers together with an image of the new machine with ornate scraper & new style box, from March 1897.

As to the adding of 'England' on the handles, Ransomes appear to have changed their advertising images/printing block from 1901 to include England so I am assuming that may well be when the change took place?

With regard to sales figures, is it really that important? surely the figures a manufacturer is quoting in catalogues and advertisements is sufficient for our needs.

I hope that is of interest and answers the points you raise.





hdtrust Fri, 15/05/2020

Well Clive that is a first for me,and probably any other collector worth his salt.So basically what you are saying that journals passed by Directors of Ltd Companies are not accurate,but astonishing your information is!!!.

For the last 40 years I've been involved with digging up the information on the history of lawn mower development.Been to more places that you can wave a stick at,and remember I was visiting those places before the present copying rules came in..

Yes time and effort.cross searching just like you,and just remember many years before you,when information was easier to get.Our library is extensive.

A final note,I believe basically what you are saying the information you have researched is more accurate,than ours,and yet the origins of The Hall & Duck Trust was brought about by the Senior management of Ransomes PLC in 1982.

Well if I ever want a new version of the history and development of the Lawn mower to include myths and mistakes I certainly know who to turn too

Yours Sincerely

Andrew Hall

The Hall & Duck Trust

Clive1997 Sun, 17/05/2020

Thanks to all those who have been in touch with positive comments regarding the Automaton timelines, I have now added one of the earliest advertisements for the Patent Chain & Gear from 3rd April 1897. I have now located the Ransomes 1897 catalogue & will post details from that when received.

It may be an idea that when we take down this Virtual Rally forum the timelines can be attached to the mower profiles for future reference by members, what do you think?


RansomesRob Sun, 17/05/2020

Sounds a great idea Clive. I have enjoyed seeing the wonderful old documents along with their histories that you have shared with us on the site featuring the lawnmowers from the past.  Keep up the good work!! Cheers. Rob


stonethemows Tue, 19/05/2020

I must admit to being a little bemused by these apparent dating discrepancies, though not surprised. Some of it I'm sure is proliferated by errors on websites and subsequently re-quoted as fact.A while back, when researching a piece for Grassbox related to Shanks, I came across a glaring fundamental error in Graces Guide. The Editor had the good grace to  agree and correct it.

In this particular case, well known technical author Brian Bell, in his history of Ransomes, states that the Patent Chain and Patent Gear Automatons replaced the New Automaton in 1894. Perhaps twenty odd years ago the research had not advanced sufficiently.

Ransomes own publication, the comprehensively researched Bicentennial Celebration ( 1989 ) has a photo captioned '' Ransomes Patent Gear Automaton at work, 1897 ''. It does also seem a little unlikely that Ransomes would advertise a machine that was not in production and readily available for sale. The April 1897 advert mentions Important Improvements for 1897 which might be taken to imply that there was an earlier version of the Patent Chain and Patent Gear, though they may, with literary licence, be referring to the New Automaton of course.

Chris G Tue, 19/05/2020

I have found this thread, all the replies and all the whole Automaton section very interesting and informative. Well worth saving somewhere and not being discarded post the virtual event  just my humble.

olcadmin Wed, 20/05/2020

Not sure where or why the idea that these threads, or the annual rally posts in general, will be deleted has arisen. Certainly not the intention.

hdtrust Sat, 23/05/2020

Just managed a little time off away from my day job! As working flat out in Horticulture.

Interesting to read Colin Stones problem with Graces Lists when researching,but not suprising.It is a unfortunate fact that when you take information from a source that is not from original documents,then errors can occur.Equally reading other histories of lawn mowers which have been published,will invariably take on the views of the author,which again after a period of time could end up with another researcher getting miss guided.

The obvious mistake in the time line with the Patent Gears and Chains.Again I will say England does not appear on the cast handles of any of Ransomes Hand machines to post 1905,not 1901,The only time you will find England on a cast handle before 1905 is on a Ransomes Motor Mower.

If you wish to see other proof look in the Ransomes Record book which was collated and written by the Late Dr David Phillips of Reading Rural Life Museum, a well respected historian and was a personnel friend.

Also Clive on the subject of kind messages to which you have received,again you have excelled into plural,as I can only find one written comment,which in English is single! 

Research is not about getting pats on the back its about getting it right.

Yours Sincerely

Andrew Hall

The Hall & Duck Trust


Clive1997 Sun, 24/05/2020

Hello Andrew

I have updated the timeline to reflect your views re 'England' 1905.

Perhaps a shame over the years we haven't kept a log of dates found on Ransomes cutting cylinders together with an image of the actual mower for future reference, certainly wish I had done this in the past, although appreciating this probably only dates the cylinder not necessarily the mower.

A challenge perhaps for one of the younger members?