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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers


In compiling this Directory the question has been what to include and what to leave out. Basically the Directory set out to include mowers of all nationalities likely to be found in the UK up to 1960, and UK-built mowers only after that date; thus avoiding the booklet being bogged down with latter-day Japanese and American products. We have taken as a yardstick machines which were primarily designed as lawn or rough grass mowers, thus excluding agricultural mowing machines and horticultural machines to which mower attachments could be fitted (eg the 1950s Landmaster “Gamecock” is excluded but the “Atcoscythe” from the same period is included).

As regards selling prices, we have left these in their original form using either pounds, shillings, and pence, or guineas. Converting them to decimals would in any case be meaningless, particularly when dealing with mowers made pre-World War 2. We have found that with most antique machinery the best way to establish comparative selling prices is to think in terms of current wages. For example £4.0.0d per week in 1939 was a good wage for the working man or woman (agricultural workers with their tied cottages often earning much less). Thus, in 1939 a high-quality motor mower such as the JP “Super 16-in” retailing at 39 gns (£40.19.0d) was the equivalent of ten week's wages or one-third the price of a small family car, taking it far outside the pocket of Mr. “Average”. A Greens “Popular Two” manual roller machine from the same year, selling at £3.7.6d, would, however, have been just affordable, especially if purchased on an instalment plan. Further back into the century wages were, of course, even less; a trained school teacher in 1900 would have been lucky to earn £2.0.0d a week and an agricultural worker 19/-d. However, for those readers who wish to make the conversion to decimal currency the table below may be of use.

“Old” shillings and pence Decimal new pence
1d (penny) 0.5p
3d (threepence) 1.25p

6d (sixpence)

1/-d (one shilling) 5p
2/-d (two shillings or florin) 10p
2/6d (two and sixpence or half a crown) 12.5p
10/-d (ten shillings) 50p
£1 (20/-d) (one pound) 100p
21/-d (one guinea) 105p

£5 (100/-d) (five pounds)


For those young enough not to remember, and old enough to have forgotten, there were 20 shillings to the pound and twelve pence to the shilling. Thus a 1901 18 inch “Swift” mower at 38/-d = £1.18.0d = 190p in decimal currency.

Nothing has been said in the text about current values, as it is very difficult to assess these. The answer to the question “what is a mower worth?” is quite simply “what someone is prepared to pay for it”, and this may vary from location to location, depending how the mower is sold and who the bidders are. Quite often a collectable mower may be had for a few pounds from someone turning out their grandfather's shed - whereas at a large farm machinery auction with a number of collectors present the same machine will fetch three figures. Neither is there a correlation between the mower’s original selling price and its current value, for example a late 19th century American sidewheel mower originally priced at a pound or two can now fetch more than many later motor mowers which originally cost their owners three month's wages. It's a funny old world.

Similarly, we have left mower cutting widths in the inches in which the majority of these machines were marketed. For those who wish to do the conversion one inch equals 2.54 centimetres. Thus a 12 inch mower has a width of 30.48 centimetres, and a 40 inch machine a width of 101.6 centimetres or 1.016 metres. Most mowers were offered in even sizes varying by 2 inches (eg 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 inches etc.). Some, however, were offered in odd sizes (eg 11, 13, 15, 17 inches etc.).