Edwin Budding and the Grass Shearing Machine

Edwin Budding was born in Eastington late in 1795, the illegitimate son of a farmer. He began to work for a carpenter, but moved into the iron foundries, and became a freelance engineer because he was good at solving engineering problems.

Between 1825 and 1830 he developed a pistol that was allegedly better than Sam Colt’s revolver of 1835. In 1843 he improved the carding machine, with the help of George Lister. He also designed new types of spanner and lathe.
But his great triumph was the mowing machine, which he invented in 1830. According to legend, he was working at the time in Brimscombe Mill where a rotary cutter was used to trim the nap from woollen cloth.

His patent describes the invention as ‘a new combination and application of machinery for the purpose of cropping and shearing the vegetable surface of lawns’ . The patent also says: ‘Country gentlemen may find in using my machine themselves an amusing, useful and healthy exercise.’ In one sense that was the power of Budding’s idea, for it enabled ordinary people to cut their own grass; they did not have to pay men with scythes.

That’s why so many people have lawns today.

More that a thousand were sold in the 1830’s but alas Mr Budding died of a stroke in 1846, so he probably didn’t reap the reward from his sharp idea.

His business partner, John Ferrabee, owned the Phoenix Iron Works just outside Stroud, and that is where the first machines were made.

A plaque marking his achievement has been put on a wall of the Stroud Brewery in Thrupp, which stands on the original workshop site.