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!
Early Lawnmower

I did had an image that purported to be of Edward Beard Budding, this week’s subject, but I am told by the Budding Foundation that it is definitely not him. Apologies all round and I have removed the image, although I leave a link to it here so that others avoid the same web search mistake.

Edwin Beard Budding’s 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.

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’. And through the Budding Foundation, a charity for young people,.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

8 comments… Add yours
  • Roger Green 24th July 2013

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

  • Leslie 24th July 2013

    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

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

    • Mr Parrot 24th July 2013

      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

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

  • Clive Gravett 14th February 2016

    The portrait is NOT Edwin Beard Budding and has absolutely no connection with him, its unfortunately how the internet tries to distort history when one person makes a mistake & it snowballs. i have already had the image removed from 3 other sites including that of Ransomes PLC!!

    • Mr Parrot 15th February 2016

      I have removed the image and noted the mistake above. I’ve also left a link to the image so that others don’t make the same mistake. I wonder who it was?

  • Clive Gravett 19th February 2016

    Thanks much appreciated, the image was taken from a portrait of James Cockerill.
    Took us a while to track it down, but still not sure how the original error was made or by whom.


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