Monday 15 October 2018

Old Ways Of Working

A few more photographs from the Working Steam Weekend at Stotfold Mill last Saturday:

A threshing machine in operation, separating the grain from the chaff and straw. The earliest of these machines were powered by a horse-gin - a horse was harnessed to a wheel and walked in circles to turn the thresher. Later steam-power was employed, making the process even more efficient. It was these early forms of mechanisation that were smashed by the farm workers during what were known as the Swing Riots - not because the men were inordinately fond of threshing by hand but because their livelihoods were threatened by the new innovations.


Steam was also used to power saw-mills. Lining up this apparatus correctly seemed to take a long time, but once in action sawed through huge logs with ease.

This magnificently rusty contraption is what's known as a "portable engine" of the kind used to power all kinds of equipment. It would however require a team of horses to move it any distance.

The machine above was being used for splitting firewood. It looked highly dangerous but as far as I could see the operator had a full compliment of fingers!

The owners of the various machines camp on site for the weekend in all manner of carts and caravans.

Apple pressing taking place prior to making cider.

This huge steamroller was formerly used on the roads of Cambridge. I think I might have seen this one in operation when I was a child; steamrollers were certainly used into the 1960s by many local authorities, their huge weight being an obvious advantage for road building. It seems to have a very little buddy alongside!

There were many tractors in all sorts of condition, some awaiting their turn to go ploughing.

Tractors in a wide variety of colours too.

The watermill was also open and making flour. A mill has stood here in one form or another for over a thousand years, but in 1992 there was a huge fire which destroyed most of the mill. However local volunteers decided that it could, and should, be rebuilt. It was reopened in 2006. Though it lacks some of the antique atmosphere of older mills it shows what these buildings must have been like in their heyday. 

Take care.


  1. That cider press made my mouth water. There's nothing like tart, freshly made cider! It's wonderful that people keep these old machines going. I have an old photo of my grandpa and great grandpa working on a threshing crew in northern Minnesota and South Dakota. The thresher was horse-powered and they traveled from farm to farm, threshing wheat.

  2. Seeing those old machines makes one appreciate our modern conveniences!

  3. A wonderful event, John. Thanks for taking us along with your photos.

  4. Love the old equipment! Great post, John.

  5. Lovely photographs John. I am old enough to remember threshing days and used to help as a child. All I can tell you is that chaff got absolutely everywhere and you itched from head to foot for days even after numerous baths.

  6. Even with all the old equipment, the work was incredibly hard. What a fantastic event to attend. Thank you for sharing with us.

  7. Love that little wooden caravan - it reminds me of those that night watchmen lived in whilst protecting holes in the road during maintenance work. I had forgotten all about them until I saw this photo, and then the memory flooded back.

  8. Wonderful, I love steam engines and my day used to help out on a thrashing machine when he was young. I'm lucky there is a steam enthusiast near me and quite offten I see them around the village

  9. It's so nice to see these old beauties John, but oh I bet they were hard work.. although they probably didn't think so at the time..

  10. Hi John - fun to see ... we had a local one here on Vancouver Island - as they're passionate about maintaining their history ... as I know England is ... wonderful to have specialists available to learn the old trades and ways of working. Cheers Hilary

  11. Always interesting to see old machinery. That log splitter looks like quite the contraption.

  12. How wonderful that they rebuilt the mill! I loved seeing all this old machinery. We happened upon Skinner Farm Museum 3 or 4 years ago and you would not believe all the old tractors and some steam engines this one man had. I have wanted to go back, but due to Roger's health and then my foot, just haven't attempted it. And it was just by chance that we got in.


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