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Edwin Beard Budding

(Historical Data Provided by: Museum in the Park, Stroud)

Edwin Beard Budding (Shooting Parrots)

Edwin Beard Budding (Shooting Parrots)

Born: August 25th, 1796

Baptized: November 10th, 1796 at Eastington & Alkerton. Edwin Budding's parents were not married, so he was baptized as Edwin Beard. But he was clearly acknowledged by his father, since both parents' names are recorded in the baptismal register. Beard was thereafter retained as a family name together with Budding.

Parents: Charles Brain Budding / Mary Beard

Siblings: Brother - William Beard Budding and Half Brother - Thomas Budding. His mother may also have had as many as three further sons.

Ancestors: Edwin's ancestors on his father's side can be traced back into the 16th century in part of Gloucestershire, where they had risen to the status of yeomen. For at least eight generations, over more than 200 years, his direct Budding antecedents had lived in the parish of Eastington & Alkerton, the parish of Edwin's birth and baptism.

The Parish comprised the two adjacent settlements. These were separated by the River Frome, 5 miles due west of Stroud in the Severn Vale. Alkerton was the larger, but the Parish church was in Eastington. At the end of the 18th century their combined population was of the order of 800. The great majority of the Budding family today claiming kinship with Edwin Beard Budding are descended from six of the nine children of his older brother, William Beard Budding. Five of these nine also had the double surname of Beard Budding, which was perpetuated and proliferated in the next generation: Edwin's sixth nephew, named for his father William, also had nine children six of whom were sons.

Early life: Nothing is recorded about Edwin Beard Budding's childhood.The extent to which he had contact with his father is not known.If he and his older brother William remained with their mother, then he could have experienced domestic changes in the first years of his life. But whether Mary Beard's older two sons lived with her, if as seems possible, she then married someone other than their father, can only be guessed at. They did not have surviving Budding grand­ parents but could possibly have been taken in by other members of their ramified family in the locality of Eastington & Alkerton.

Education: There are no direct clues to Edwin's education. Opportunities for free schooling were rare at the beginning of the 1800s and education was not then compulsory. It seems unlikely that he would have been able to attend a regular school, or at most nothing more than a very modest local provision and then only for a very limited period.At Dursley, for example, five miles south of Alkerton, there was a school for as many as 40 boys; this had been founded and well­ endowed in the middle decades of the cl8. But, even if Edwin had been able to benefit from such provision, it is probable that he worked from an early age.There is, however, the rather better possibility that he could have attended a Sunday School. These gave poor children basic tuition in reading, writing and arithmetic.6 Certainly, it is hard to believe that his well-formed signature and ability to read and understand

Marriage: Edwin married Elizabeth Chew (probably May 13th, 1821) at Hempsted,just beyond the western edge of the city of Gloucester. They had three children -the two girls would have still been young at the time of the lawnmower invention; their son were born only a few weeks before the granting of Budding's patent:

Frances Ann, baptized in Chalford on March 24th, 1822 7 Caroline, baptized in Chalford in October 8th, 1824 Henry Brice Beard, born July 1830, baptized in Bisley on August 8th, 1830

By the time their two daughters were born in the 1830s, Edwin and Elizabeth were living in Chalford -just over 3 miles to the east of Stroud, on the steep northern slope of the Golden Valley. Chalford was within the parish of Bisley, where Frances Ann and Caroline were baptized

Skills: By the first years of his marriage Edwin was styled as 'carpenter'. So it may well be that he had served an apprenticeship in the fairly basic wood-working skills associated with the structural elements of building work, but also valuable for constructing and maintaining the mechanisms (such as paddles and wheels) of water-powered mills.Local industry: For many centuries this part of Gloucestershire had been a centre for the manufacture of fine quality woolen cloth. The lengths of cloth were traditionally woven in the weavers' homes, but were fulled and finished in mills which had been established in the Stroud valleys as early as c 13.12 The steep valleys provided abundant and efficient water power for the running of the fulling mills. It was the density, warmth and durability of the resulting fabrics, combined with the distinctive strong colours that it was dyed-most notably the ubiquitous bright red - which had made the cloth produced in the Stroud area famous by the mid- l 600s. During the decades from the 1700s, the cloth-producing industry in this part of Gloucestershire expanded dramatically. Although it was beginning to show signs of decline in the first quarter of c 19, it was still the major source of local employment. Stimulated by the competitiveness of the textile industry, was a burgeoning of technical developments, not only in the ways the wool yarns and the woven cloth were produced, but in the machinery being designed and manufactured locally to facilitate this output. It was in this particular, innovating aspect of the industry that Edwin Budding became involved. Techniques for improving not only the quality of the cloth, but the speed and ease (and hence lower costs) with which it could be produced, were a constant preoccupation of the mill owners. The technically-minded men they employed were under constant pressure to prototype, develop and refine any innovations. It was both a highly competitive, and therefore also secretive industry.

Cross-cutting MachineA major development was the cross-cutting machine for shaving the nap of the shrunk, roughened lengths of'fulled' woven woollen cloth. This task had previously been carried out by skilled men using large scissor-like shears. There were protests that the introduction of such machines would deprive the shear-men of their livelihood. In 1815, John Lewis of Brimscombe was the first to put together a number of innovative features in a cast-iron machine for this purpose. The critical element in Lewis's design was the introduction of a set of helical blades attached to a rotating cylinder which passed across the surface of the cloth. Thereafter, many further patented refinements followed. Techniques for achieving a close, smooth pile became increasingly sophisticated. The example of a cross-cutting machine on display in the Museum in the Park in Stroud, has in the casting of its frame the information:

'Lewis patent 1757'

Neighbours: Brimscombe lies in the Golden Valley, half-way between Chalford and Stroud. It is hard to believe that, living in such close proximity with Lewis's premises, and in the light of Edwin Budding's later imaginative technical achievements, that he was not in some way involved and employed in the industry that was casting the components for these fast-developing machines, assembling, putting them into use, maintaining and refining them. In 1827 John Ferrabee took over Phoenix Mill, also at Brimscombe, and established Phoenix Iron Works for the casting and assembly of machine components for use in his neighboring textile mills. 16

Genius?Edwin Budding's working circumstances are not clear, though it is generally believed that he did work for John Lewis, and certainly had a close association with John Ferrabee. Whether in either case it was initially as an employee, or as someone contracted to undertake specific tasks, while running his own business, is not known. Certainly he must have had access to facilities for working and casting metals. He may have also had workshop premises of his own. There must have been not only a working, but also a strong personal bond of trust between Budding and John Ferrabee. In the will the latter signed in 1831, he named Edwin Budding as the sole trustee of his estate (including Phoenix Iron Works), with responsibility for it until Ferrabee's youngest son was 21. But Budding never had to carry out this role. Following John Ferrabee's death, his heirs had to apply to the courts to be able to appoint another trustee, since Edwin Budding had already died.Exactly when and how it happened is not known, but at some stage in his working experience while living and working in the Golden Valley, Budding made an extraordinary, imaginative and creative intellectual leap. He saw that the principle by which helical blades could shave the excess nap from lengths of woven and fulled cloth, could be adapted to provide a means of cutting grass. By the time of the drawing-up during 1830 of the documents associated with the establishment of the patent on the first lawnmower, Edwin Budding described himself as a 'machinist' and 'of Thrupp'.

Edwin Budding Mower

Edwin Budding Mower

Patenting the first lawnmower On May 18th, 1830, Edwin Budding and John Ferrabee signed an agreement relating to the patenting and manufacture of Budding's invention of a new machine for: ' the purpose of cropping or shearing the vegetable surface of Lawns, Grass plats and Pleasure Grounds.' Under the agreement, Ferrabee provided the finance for this enterprise and retained rights in the licensing, production and selling of the machine. Budding was enabled to prepare his submission to the Patent Office and was entitled to an equal share in the profits once Ferrabee had recovered his initial outlay. There was a £2,000 penalty should either party default on this agreement. The original manuscript, on two sides of foolscap paper, was written out and witnessed by 'W.Merrick'. Budding received Letters Patent for his invention on August 31st, 1830, but with the proviso that, within two calendar months, he must submit a description of the nature of his invention and the way in which it worked, or forfeit all his rights granted by those Letters Patent. They demonstrate a high order of draughtsmanship and technical competence. It would be nice to believe that they were done by Budding himself - and he must certainly have made input to them and understood them. However, the hand-writing looks very similar to that of the agreement between Ferrabee and Budding produced in May 1839, the scribe may therefore have been Mr W. Merrick. The style and phrasing of the written description suggests a legal training.

Schedule: An accompanying detailed schedule, written in the first person on a large single sheet of parchment was also prepared. This describes all the carefully lettered components, how they are assembled and how they interact when the machine is operating. Included is an explanation of the gearing system, and how the rotating blades cut against a fixed blade. The text is in a sloping, consistent and clear hand-which appears to be the same as that of the drawing and earlier agreement described above.The document was signed by Budding on 25 October 1830. Receipt of the drawings and schedule was dated the same day by a master extraordinary in Chancery. On 30 October 1830 the submission was 'enrolled in the petty Bag Office in his Majesty's High Council of Chancery'.

Budding's claims: In describing the attributes of his machine, Budding also made some engaging claims for his invention: 'Grass growing in the shade too weak to stand against a scythe to be cut, may be cut by my machine as closely as required' with the further advantage: 'and the eye will never be offended by those circular scars, inequalities and bare places so commonly made by the best mowers with a scythe and which continue for several days.' Finally, he clearly had notions of the potential market: 'Country Gentlemen may find in using my machine themselves an amusing useful and healthy exercise.'

Lawnmower's popularity There are attractive stories - for which there is, nevertheless, no hard evidence - about the way Budding worked while developing his machine. It is said that he only tested his prototype at nights (presumably to maintain secrecy), but that neighbours in Thrupp complained about the noise it made. This would have been hardly surprising, given its comparatively basic gearing system, and the fact that all the interacting moving components parts were made of cast iron. There has been speculation about which areas of grass the prototype was tested on -the lawn of the Ferrabee home, Phoenix House, Thrupp, has been suggested, as have some adjacent meadows.

ProductionThe very first few Budding lawnmowers were produced at Phoenix Ironworks, and it was claimed in advertisements that over the next near-30 years more than 5,000 were made there. However, very quickly, Ferrabee capitalised on his and Budding's acquiring of the patent, and a license to produce machines to Budding's design was granted (no doubt for a good fee, though the sum is not recorded) to Messrs Ransomes Sims & Jefferies of Norfolk. This company began production almost immediately. Ransomes went on to became one of the world's major lawnmower manufacturers. Subsequently one or two other less significant licenses were also granted. Reports of the merits of the mower in use and its impact on garden design and maintenance were reaching a wide public within the first two years of its patenting. The most notable of these was because an early customer was the Zoological Society in Regent's Park, London.

Commentators The horticultural writer and garden designer, John Claudius Loudon, whose numerous publications included An Encyclopedia of Gardening (1822), also edited and largely wrote The Gardeners Magazine between 1826-43. Loudon was very interested in technical developments and, in October 1831, he commented enthusiastically in The Gardeners Magazine on Budding's machine which had been in use at the Zoological Gardens over the previous four months. He reported that the foreman there, Mr Curtis, was 'entirely satisfied with it'. Loudon emphasized the advantages for workmen who had to maintain the grass areas: , because the mower had to be used when the grass was dry, they were now able to cut the lawns in the more normal working hours of the day. Previously, when scythes had to be used, the cutting had to be done when the grass was damp, thus men had to set to work either early in the morning or late in the evening. Loudon wrote again in the same magazine in February 1832, detailing how the mower worked, the collection of grass cuttings direct into a wooden tray-like box fixed on the front of the machine, and how the blades were kept sharp. There were three illustrations. A few months later, in October 1832, Loudon lamented the poor condition of lawns in Scotland, and expressed the hope that the 'recently invented mowing machine' would soon be in general use there too.

Theme and variations: These early Budding mowers - especially the larger ones, required two people to move them. There was thus a pair of handles for pushing from behind the machine, but also another handle was added that could be swung forwards so that a second man or a boy could be pulling it at the same time. The original mower was made in just two sizes, identified by the measurement of the width of the cut- 22 inches and 16 inches. The Gardener's Magazine suggested that the wider machine was best for workmen with large areas to cut, the narrow machine was 'best for a gentleman who wishes to use it himself.' Thus, the merits of the machine included the potential for less well-off men to operate it and maintain their lawns themselves.

Women's work? Women, however, were not left out of the picture for long! Loudon's wife, Jane Webb Loudon, wrote 18 books on gardening. In her Instructions for Gardening for Ladies (1840) she stated that a lawn must be cut regularly, but that this was not something a lady could do herself: 'unless indeed she have strength enough to use one of Budding's mowing machines.' The next year, she gave Budding's invention a more widely appealing commendation: 'it is particularly adapted for amateurs, offering an excellent exercise to the arms and every part of the body'. Soon, a much greater range of mowers was being produced and promoted, with many more choices of cutting width being available, from as narrow as 8 inches. They were described as suitable for different people - from boys, to two men. The largest ones were designed to be horse-drawn. Prices varied with size, from £4 - 5 shillings to £16.

Mower refinements Edwin Budding continued to be involved in further developments and refinements to mowing machines. In the 1840s he had new sponsors and collaborators. A Patent was granted in 1840 to the Earl ofDucie,25 Richard Clyburn 26 and Edwin Budding for 'machinery for cutting vegetable substances'. The Earl of Ducie set up an ironworks said to have been flourishing in 1840, at Uley, a village in the hills 2 miles east of Dursley.

Dursley By 1841, Edwin Beard Budding, his wife and three children, had moved to the Woodmancote area to the south of Dursley town centre. 27 Budding was still recorded as a 'Machinist' in the census of that year. It is not clear whether this move was prompted by better employment prospects, or the freedom to explore and develop more of his own ideas. In 1820, a young man, George Lister, had moved from Yorkshire to Dursley. There he set up a business for the manufacture of components associated with the textile industry. He became well­ established and his business expanded and flourished.28 In the following generations of Listers it became a major producer of heavy machinery and engines for agricultural uses and a wide range of other industries.

Other Inventions A descendent of George Lister's recalled that Edwin Budding was associated with Listers over the making of a card setting machine to insert the wires into cards automatically. But the local wool trade was not flourishing; this was a time of great poverty in the Dursley area. Clothing operatives -mainly women and children - feared that this new machine would deprive them of their livelihood, and Budding had to be given police protection. Nevertheless, Budding prospered sufficiently to be remembered as having given help to the poor during that difficult period. Budding's name is indeed associated with a patent dated 15 June 1843, for a device for: 'covering the cylinders of carding and scribbling engines; condensing the rovings delivered from such engines; apparatus for grinding the points of the cards, which apparatus may also be employed for grinding other articles.' Budding's creative relationship with Ducie and Clyburn also included a fly-wheel which they patented jointly and which was made at Uley. The Museum in the Park's collection includes one of these fly­ wheels - a large 4-spoked wheel, with a wrought iron secondary wheel. This particular example was used in conjunction with a lathe that had belonged to one of George Lister's sons, Sir Ashton Lister. Later, it sold to a local blacksmith, who used it until 1958 for sharpening mowers.

Worldwide Impact The cylinder lawnmower clearly had a major impact on the lives of millions of people worldwide and across all sectors of society over the following 150 years. Garden history has been significantly influenced, and the dramatic development and expansion of many widely popular sports including tennis, cricket and golf, would have been entirely different without it.

Adjustable Spanner In the light of the fame of Budding's concept for a lawnmower, another of his significant inventions has been largely overlooked. And yet its basic principle has been used in millions of examples worldwide, and continues to be so. In the early decades of c19, the bolts securing assembled machinery parts were made of wrought iron, with the heads individually forged. [There are excellent examples of this type of hand-forged square­ headed bolt on the Lewis cross-cutting machine in the 'Industry and Invention' display.] Every time a bolt had to be loosened or tightened, awkward adjustments had to be made to the traditional wedge wrenches that were used to grip either the bolt heads or washers. The latter were cast and could be quite consistent in size. But the dimensions of the bolt heads would vary considerably. Budding's imaginative intelligence perceived a way of facilitating frequent adjustments to fit different bolt heads. On the back claw of the spanner he introduced a screw that worked along a rack on the main shaft of the tool. This allowed extremely fine adjustments to the bite of the wrench head. The exact date of the first development of this idea is not clear, but it must have been during Budding's close association with John Ferrabee, while Budding was still living at Thrupp - thus probably in the later 1820s or early 1830s. The idea was taken up by the Ferrabees at Phoenix Iron Works, Thrupp. For decades thereafter, the company routinely marketed a range of'FERRABEE'S ADillSTABLE SPANNERS OR SCREW WRENCHES'. Refinements were patented by the company over the years, but the original 'Ferrabee's 'Budding' Spanner' was still being produced and promoted at the head of the range in their sales catalogs of the 1860s.

Circular Notions Budding's special kind of genius seems always to have been linked with mechanisms that rotated and/or spiraled - revealing a keen appreciation of helical movements and their potential. Another of Budding's projects, which he seems to have been working on at much the same time as his lawnmower ideas, towards the end of the 1820s, was the production of a gun - a pepper-box revolver. An expert's assessment of one of the rare surviving examples of a Budding gun considered that technically it was more like: 'the work of a skilled metal worker or engineer, rather than a gun-maker'. Nevertheless, Budding's gun was remarkable in that the principles deployed were innovative, though seemingly never patented by him. There were three models, all with five chambers: all known models have barrels of brass and were signed: 'Budding, Maker'. Directions for use and maintenance were given inside the box lid. They were produced in very small quantities - probably less than 50 in all. Today Budding's guns have considerable rarity value.

Death and Burial Edwin Budding died on September 25th, 1846, when he had just turned 50, He was buried in the churchyard of the newly built second Anglican church in Dursley, St Mark's in Woodmancote. His death certificate attributed the cause to 'paralysis' (which may in fact of course, have been a severe stroke). The person who signed as in attendance at the time of Budding's relatively early death was his younger half-brother, Thomas. His widow, Elizabeth, outlived him by nearly 28 years; both his daughters were similarly long-lived, as was his son. Elizabeth and the two daughters are commemorated below their father on the same grave slab.


  • November 22, 2014 6:56 pmPosted 6 months ago
    david budding

    i think im related to edwin budding,my family on my fathers side lived in stroud and around glost! interesting man!

  • May 2, 2015 12:55 amPosted 20 days ago

    This has helped me in my school work thank u :)


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