B is for Edwin Beard Budding

This is my contribution to Round Thirteen of ABC Wednesday. I am focusing on people for the fourth time, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten, although I am worried that I may have exhausted some letters of the alphabet, but I’ll see how it goes!
Edwin Beard Budding

Edwin Beard Budding

Apologies for the poor quality of this portrait, but it was the only one I could find that purports to be of Edwin Beard Budding whose claim to fame is that he created the notion of respectable suburbia, or at least the exterior ideal of the well-manicured lawn.

Born in Stroud, Gloucestershire, in 1795, Beard Budding was the inventor who in 1830 set about solving the problem of achieving an evenly mown lawn that didn’t involve either a flock of sheep or a man skilled enough to use a scythe without amputating his own leg.

Beard Budding based his idea on a machine he saw in a local cloth mill. This used a cutting cylinder (or bladed reel) mounted on a bench to trim the irregular nap from the surface of woollen cloth and give a smooth finish.


Beard Budding Mower

Beard Budding Mower

He patented his design on 25th October, describing it as ‘a new combination and application of machinery for the purpose of cropping or shearing the vegetable surfaces of lawns, grass-plats and pleasure grounds…. country gentlemen may find in using my machine themselves an amusing, useful and healthy exercise’.

Not exactly my idea of fun, but the exercise was because Beard Budding’s mower depended on muscle power as you can see from the photo on the right. This original Beard Budding mower was a two-man machine – one pulling and one pushing – and can be found at the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport.

Although the lawnmower is pretty much an essential tool in any garden shed, it wasn’t so in Beard Budding’s time. Indeed, local people thought he was bonkers for trying to invent one and he tested his prototype at night so as not to be thought a buffoon.

Early Lawnmower

An Early Lawnmower

Two of his earliest mowers were sold to Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens in London and Oxford University and Beard Budding teamed up with a local engineer to set-up a lawnmower factory near Stroud.

I looked for some facts and figures and discovered that lawns make up the largest ‘agricultural’ land in America with 40 million acres consuming 270 billion gallons of water a week and $40 billion a year in seed, sod and chemicals.

Beard Budding died in 1846 (after also inventing the adjustable spanner) but his name lives on in the Edward Budding Award that ‘recognises those who have made significant contributions to the golf course equipment industry and who have dedicated themselves to improving the industry and their facilities’.

5 comments… add one
  • Roger Green 24th July 2013, 3:14 am

    One of your worst villains yet! The ‘burbs maker!

  • Leslie 24th July 2013, 3:24 am

    Well, I never ever even thought about how the lawn mower came about, but this is fascinating reading! I do like a manicured lawn as long as I don’t have to do it. lol

    abcw team

  • Keep Off the Grass Pudding 24th July 2013, 10:42 am

    Did Beard Budding also invent the Flymo strimmer? The bastard!

    • Mr Parrot 24th July 2013, 11:50 am

      I believe the strimmer was invented by David Cameron, so there’s something else to thank him for.

      (Actually it was Texan George Ballas in the early 70s, a design he based on the automatic car wash)

  • Joy 24th July 2013, 8:40 pm

    The Budding machine certainly looks robust. I was in Southport a few months ago, now I see what I missed.