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Mr Monkey at the British Lawnmower Museum

Trip date : 6th September, 2012
"I never knew there were this many lawnmowers"
Mr Monkey outside the Lawnmower Museum Mr Monkey looking at massed ranks of lawnmowers Mr Monkey scampered through the streets of Southport until he found Shakespeare Street.

He trotted along the street until he arrived at The British Lawnmower Museum. He knew he'd arrived because there was a sign on the wall, a sign on the street, and a Tourist Information sign on the nearest lamp post.

Mr Monkey scurried into Lawnmower World, paid his entry fee, and trotted up the stairs.

On the first floor he found himself confronted by more lawnmowers than he ever imagined could exist in one place. An audio guide made a valiant attempt to explain the history of lawnmowers, but Mr Monkey was in the wrong room when it started so became slightly confused.

Anyway, in 1830, Edwin Beard Budding decided to convert a machine designed to trim the knap off cloth in a textile mill into something that would shorten grass. He had to work by night, as everyone thought he was mad. This was probably because very few people had lawns to mow before the lawnmower was invented, as Mr Monkey learnt at the Georgian garden in Bath.

Mr Monkey examining a Greens 6 inch Multum in Parvo
Mr Monkey was fascinated to find out that the earliest lawnmowers, such as the Greens Multum in Parvo (Much in Little), had to use big cog wheels to turn the blades. The 1860 model on the left had a 6 inch blade and was designed for mowing around gravestones.
Mr Monkey looking at a 10 inch Greens Silens Messor

When someone invented the right sort of chain, cutting-edge lawnmower design changed. One of the earliest chain worked lawnmowers was the Greens Silens Messor (Silent Running) which got its name because it was quieter than the gear driven lawnmowers. Manufactured from 1859 to 1939, its mechanical design remained fundamentally unchanged over eighty years of production.

The museum has a number of lawnmowers and garden tools previously owned by famous people, such as Brian May, Alan Titchmarsh, Jean Alexander and Vanessa Feltz. Mr Monkey thought the most interesting of these was a 10" JP 1960 model owned by Albert Pierrepoint, Britain's chief hangman from 1941 to 1956. At £15, the JP cost the same as Pierrepoint was paid for a hanging. Mr Monkey was also impressed by Paul O'Grady's pink plush mower, though he couldn't quite believe it had ever been used.

Mr Monkey marvelling at a Frazer-Nash Boadicia lawnmower
Mr Monkey ducking beneath an ATCO trainer
Mr Monkey was surprised to see the names of some the manufacturers.

Hawker-Siddley, the aircraft firm that Mr Rik's dad worked for once, made the first riding lawnmower. Mr Monkey saw lawnmowers made by Vincent, the motorcycle company, and Dennis, more famous for their fire engines, and marvelled at the Frazer-Nash Boadicia, designed by the same firm that designed Mr Monkey's own car.

Mr Monkey was also surprised to find what appeared to be a pedal car in a Lawnmower Museum, but it turned out that it was an example of the very rare ATCO Training Car.

The training car had a 1½hp lawnmower engine, and was developed in 1939 as a way to introduce children to the basics of driving a car without letting them loose on father's Bentley. The market for them crashed with the outbreak of war, but some people used them for urban driving when petrol was rationed.

Mr Monkey studying a lawnmower advert One room taught Mr Monkey about lawnmower racing. This doesn't involve people trying to mow lawns really fast, as Mr Monkey had hoped, but is proper racing around a track, either sitting on a chair towed by a lawnmower, pushing a lawnmower, or riding a sit-on mower. Mr Monkey admired a pair of racing lawnmowers and a cabinet full of racing trophies and medals won by Brian Radam, the owner of the museum.

As well as all the lawnmowers, the Museum also has cabinets of badges, accessories and miniature mowers and the walls are decorated with a range of lawnmower adverts from various periods.

Mr Monkey was glad to find out that at least one manufacturer had a firm grasp on the importance of being able to combine mowing the lawn with smoking a pipe.

You can read about the museum at the British Lawnmower Museum website.

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