Picture of Edwin Budding's 1839 lawnmower

Ransomes Jacobsen marks 185 years of mower history

Published:  31 January, 2017

This year, it will be 185 years since Ransomes produced the first model of Edwin Budding’s patented lawnmower design at a factory in Ipswich and the rest is history. 

Budding’s had patented his deign in 1830 and JR & A Ransome was the first company to obtain a licence to manufacture the invention.

The machine, designed for domestic use, signalled the start of commercial mower production in the UK. Although Ransomes Jacobsen, as the company is now called, no longer produces domestic lawnmowers it remains a leading commercial mower manufacturer, supplying equipment to local authorities, golf courses, landscape contractors, sports clubs and stadia around the world.

Alan Prickett, managing director of Ransomes Jacobsen, said the Ransomes name had become a by-word for quality British engineering.

‘The company has had its ups and downs but today it is a vibrant company with a modern manufacturing plant providing employment and career opportunities to the people of Ipswich,’ he said.

‘If you look at the grounds care manufacturing industry today, you’ll find a huge number of people who either began their careers in Ipswich or have worked for the company and this has been the case for decades.’

Ransomes Jacobsen milestones

  • Production of the Ransomes Budding begins in Ipswich in 1832.
  • Innovations quickly follow, and by 1852 1,500 improved versions of the 21-inch mower had been produced. 
  • In 1870 the range was extended with the introduction of horse drawn mowers.
  • In 1902 Ransomes produced the world’s first petrol driven lawn mower which change the way grass was cut for ever.
  • By the end of the 1920s, the Ransomes catalogue featured quintuple and septuple gang mowers, using cutting cylinders from horse-drawn triple mowers grouped into combinations of five and seven units.
  • The new White City works in West London opened in 1937 to meet the growing demand for Ransomes mowers.
  • In the late 1930s greenkeepers began to overcome their reluctance to use petrol-driven machines after the introduction of the Overgreen with large pneumatic tyres that pulled three cutting units and enabled one greenkeeper to cut 18 greens in a day.
  • After World War II, the Auto Certes was introduced. It developed a worldwide reputation for its exceptionally fine cut. 
  • 1964 saw the introduction of the Ransomes Quint, the world’s first tractor-mounted, power-driven five-unit gang mower. In the same year, the Motor Triple was launched- a highly-manoeuvrable, high-output mower which put Ransomes at the forefront of the European professional turf care market.
  • In 1978 Ransomes acquired an interest in an American rotary mower manufacturer, which subsequently became a wholly owned subsidiary, Ransomes Inc. The result of this fruitful union was the Motor 180, with power units manufactured in the USA and cutting units built in Ipswich.
  • The Motor 213, a hydraulically-driven, triple-reel, ride-on mower for the local authority market, was launched in 1982. It heralded the change from large-scale pedestrian-operated mowing practices to more productive and cost-effective maintenance of roadside verges and housing areas.
  • In 1988, Ransomes acquired US manufacturer Cushman Ryan which provided access to the Cushman Turf Truckster and its wide range of accessories for topdressing, spraying, aeration and other maintenance duties on sports turf areas.
  • The world’s first electric ride-on triplex greens mower – the E-Plex – was introduced in 1994, providing noise and pollution-free mowing of fine turf for suburban golf greens. 
  • In 1998 Textron Inc, the multi-industry US company operating in 33 countries with approximately 37,000 employees, acquired Ransomes plc and established Textron Turf Care & Specialty Products group.
  • The company re-branded in 2001 as Ransomes Jacobsen Ltd, focusing on core brands: Ransomes for local authority and municipal mowers and Jacobsen for the golf sector.
  • 2003 sees the launch of dedicated environmental programme under the ‘Driving Environmental Performance’ strapline.
  • Ransomes Jacobsen produces the first hybrid walking greens mower in 2007 and the first hybrid riding greens mower in 2009.
  • In 2016, Jacobsen signs a contract to become the official machinery supplier of the Ryder Cup 2018.

More facts – the final cut

  • A catalogue from 1851, published for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, included a 16-inch Budding grass mower priced at £6 5s. Today, the Ransomes MP653 wide area rotary mower, retails at around £60,000.
  • In 1904, two years after the introduction of the first motor mower, King Edward VII requested a demonstration of the 30-inch version and two were purchased for the Buckingham Palace gardens.
  • Ransomes introduced Britain's first battery-powered electric truck in 1920 and in 1926 produced the first mains electric operated lawnmower.
  • During World War II, the Ransomes factories at White City and Ipswich produced bomb trolleys, trailers for 25-pounder guns and parts for Bren gun carriers, Crusader tanks, Rolls-Royce aero engines and Mosquito aircraft.
  • An extract from the 1954 accounts records sales of 42,500 hand mowers, 1,100 gang mowers and 9,500 motor mowers.

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