Posts Tagged ‘engineering’

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering

December 22, 2014

We are looking, today, at an aerial photo which shows the area where Rochelle Court now stands. We think this photo dates from the mid-1960s.

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering - mid 1960s

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering – mid 1960s

Let’s try to get our bearings here – for the area was wholly different back then. It was occupied by Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering which had formerly been Wordley’s.

Down at the bottom right of the photo we are looking at The High Street.

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering - mid 1960s

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering – mid 1960s

Chimneys on this side of the road are on the Green Dragon. The white building facing us was Harry Hobb’s shop. It is now a private house.


At bottom left we have the Market Place – then as now a car park. The white house we see is The Market House (number 4 Northbrook). It still stands. The black area was hard standing for ‘Wilts Ag’.

At top right we have the building which was once the Vicarage.


That, of course still stands and is now a part of the nursing home.

Now this area has entirely vanished and is now Rochelle Court


We are looking at the offices of Wilts Ag which had once been a part of Ivydene – home of Fred Sayer, the bus company man.


Wordley’s Advertise

February 12, 2014

It is no wonder we feature the agricultural engineers quite frequently. For many years Wordley’s and their successors were big local employers and very much vital to the local economy.

Today we look at an advert that appeared in a local paper.

Wordley's of Market Lavington advertise in 1953

Wordley’s of Market Lavington advertise in 1953

This advert appeared in the Wiltshire gazette for 12th November 1953. Prices and equipment are, of course interesting. Wordley’s hoped farmers would buy new equipment for the 1954 season during the winter months.

The combines are, of course, tiny by the standards of today. But then the advert was placed more than 60 years ago. A five and a half feet combine is just tiny. Even the largest, 12 feet machine offered is singularly small.

And these machines were offered with TVO or diesel engines. TVO stood for tractor vaporising oil. It was based on paraffin which was untaxed. Petrol incurred fuel duty. But TVO had disadvantages, notably the engine had to be hot before the oil would vaporise. So TVO engines had to be started on expensive petrol and then swapped to the much cheaper fuel. TVO worked well for hard tasks, like ploughing, but light work could mean the need to switch to the petrol tank if the engine wasn’t hot enough.

Diesel engines, using compression ignition were more expensive to manufacture so the TVO versions were cheaper to buy.

TVO was discontinued in 1974. Old tractor enthusiasts have to mix their own these days.

If you got a bagging combine then you needed an extra crew member whose job was to manage the filling of sacks. That just doesn’t happen any more.

The most expensive combine listed, the 12 foot diesel at £1625, was certainly not cheap. In 1953 the average man earned £9-15-0 per week. That’s £9.75 in present currency. Today the equivalent person earns £475 per week. That’s close on 50 times as much.

A. S. Wordley and Co

September 24, 2013

A recent gift to the museum is of some photographs of our local agricultural engineers and their stand at an agricultural show.

A. S. Wordley had premises in The Market Place at Market Lavington. They were a substantial firm and well known as suppliers of equipment for agriculture.

The pictures have come via a roundabout route, but initially they were held by a person who worked for the Wordley firm in 1951, when the photos were taken.

They are large, high quality photos but have suffered some of the ravages of time. This one, which is framed and behind glass, has survived pretty well.

A S Wordley of market Lavington had a stand at the 1951 Trowbridge and Melksham Show

A S Wordley of market Lavington had a stand at the 1951 Trowbridge and Melksham Show

We can see that this photo shows a part of Wordley’s stand at the 1951 Trowbridge, Melksham and District Agricultural Show.

Let’s zoom in on the picture.


Wordley’s stand featured combine harvesters, devices still very much in their infancy

 At the left end we can see what looks to be the ‘hospitality’ tent. Under the banner we have ‘Germ Oil’ and behind what one guesses are staff cars and a Landrover with a horsebox. In the pen there are a couple of combine harvesters with a group of men discussing the pros and cons. We see an elevator which seems to be attracting attention. There is at least one tractor in there and this was just a part of their display which includes the beautifying picket fencing and plants.


It’s very unlikely that people will be recognised – but hope, as ever, springs eternal.

‘Wilts Ag’

January 19, 2013

People who were in Market Lavington in the 1970s and 80s will certainly remember ‘Wilts Ag’ or, to give it more like its full name, Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering. The company had a substantial business set right in the heart of the village as seen in this aerial view.

'Wilts Ag', Market Lavington from the air - about 1980

‘Wilts Ag’, Market Lavington from the air – about 1980

The bungalow we see at the bottom right of the picture faces onto The Market Place which is off shot to the right. Northbrook makes its way downhill, from right to left past the gable end of that bungalow. On the left hand side, the white house is on the sloping footpath that runs alongside Northbrook and the red brick cottages are those on The Terrace.

At the top left we have the former vicarage with its near circular approach drive. This, of course, is now the nursing home. The old Parish Room can just be made out at the top right of the photo. This fronts onto High Street, and was more or less opposite the Workmens’ Hall.

Most of the area in between is occupied by the premises of ‘Wilts Ag’ although we can also see the well-tended gardens of houses on High Street.

The largely red colour of the equipment in the various yards around the main buildings is explained by the fact that the company were dealers for the Massey Company, whose trademark colour was red.

By 1990 all of the buildings had gone and the Rochelle Court area was being developed.

Remember triangular pens?

April 27, 2012

At Market Lavington Museum, We remember those slightly uncomfortable three sided ball point pens. They were all the rage some thirty to forty years ago, particularly as company advertising pens.

They had their advantages. Being triangular in section, they were not round so they stayed put. They didn’t easily roll. Then, with just three surfaces along the length, there was enough space to write a message – the name of a company or maybe the phone number. However the pen was put down, two of the surfaces faced upwards. They served their purpose as adverts, quite admirably.

What a shame they were a bit uncomfortable in use.

Here we have two examples that were made for The Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering Co. This was the large company which grew out of Wordley’s business. Their premises were by The Market Place in the area now occupied by Rochelle Court. They also used Woodland Yard. The company took any opportunity to advertise – hence the pens.

Pens used as adverts for The Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering Co. of Market Lavington

According to our museum records, the red and white pen dates from the 1970s and the red and black version is from the 80s. It clearly dates from the time before the Lavington phone exchange was closed and our phone numbers became based on Devizes with 81 added before the former four digit number.

Four more tractors

June 6, 2011

Yesterday we saw four tractors sold by Wordley’s, the agricultural engineers in Market Lavington way back in 1951.

Today we bring the story forward almost thirty years and find that the Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering Company posing another photo of four tractors to use as a publicity poster. ‘Wilts Ag’ as all the locals called them were the successors to the Wordley business and the tractors, Massey Fergusson 590s were the successors to the Massey Harris models of 1951.

Massey Fergusson 590 tractors as sold by Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering in 1980

The differences are striking. The photo, by Peter Francis, is, of course,  in colour. The tractors have gained size and have comfortable cabs for the operator. However, tractors like these are now a part of the ‘old tractor’ scene and they are collected by enthusiasts. Only the tractor on the left was a 4 wheel drive machine and by 2011 standards these look rather like mere toys.

Wordley’s tractors

June 5, 2011

Wordley’s were the forerunners of the Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering Company. They had premises in The Market Place – a site which had formerly been Fred Sayer’s bus depot. This area can be seen well by clicking here.

Wordley’s were a successful company and they took opportunities to create good poster style adverts like the one shown below.

Wordley sold tractors at work in 1951. This large photo used for publicity, is at Market Lavington Museum

This one dates from 1951 and we believe the location was near Urchfont. Four identical tractors are at work ploughing the field. Again, we are not 100% certain but we believe these may be Massey Harris built tractors, possibly model 744.

Wordley’s were once major employers in Market Lavington, as were their successors, Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering. Back in 1986, students at St Barnabas school did various surveys for the BBC Domesday project, now reloaded at

In it the youngsters said,

The Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering Company in Market Lavington sells and services machinery like Land Rovers, Tractors and Combine Harvesters. It supplies farmers and other companies.

Twenty six people work there for eight and a half hours a day. It is very hard work but they like their jobs. The most expensive thing they sell is a Combine Harvester. The cheapest item is a split pin which is sold for one penny.

The piece of garden equipment they sell most is a lawn mower. Customers come from up to forty miles away but they do not always buy something. The busiest day is Monday and the busiest time between eight and half past nine in the morning.

Railway engineering works at Lavington in 1957

April 21, 2011

Some people think that railway line closures on Sundays and replacement bus services is a modern phenomenon. It probably is more prevalent today than it once was because railway closures in the 1960s mean there are fewer alternative routes available for trains.

Back in the autumn of 1957, when engineering works at Lavington meant the railway was closed for three successive Sundays, the effects on what we now call inter=city travel were delays. Journeys were rerouted and took a little longer. One imagines that local traffic, at Lavington, was badly affected.

Market Lavington Museum has recently been given a British Railways notice about the temporary changes caused by engineering works.

Front cover of leaflet about altered train services because of engineering work at Lavington in 1957. The leaflet is at Market Lavington Museum

So just what were the effects? We must look inside the leaflet to see.

An inside page of the British Railways leaflet

Surprisingly, perhaps, the diversionary route used via Swindon and Melksham is still available and of course the route via Bristol is very much a mainline so only the Devizes route has closed.

The 10 30 am (no 24 hour clock back in 1957) from Paddington, diverted via Bristol, was able to get passengers to Torquay a mere 20 minutes late. Passengers for the end of the line at Penzance had to cope with over 8 hours on the train. These days, the same journey takes about 5 hours.

Looking further through the leaflet we can see that other services were affected by the engineering works, in quite far flung places. Liverpool to Plymouth trains don’t normally go near Lavington, but they were rescheduled. So, too, were trains on the branch from Newton Abbot to Kingswear in Devon. Even local services to Liskeard in Cornwall were amended to cope with the situation.

We guess delayed passengers were just as grumpy then as they are today.

Whites of Market Lavington

March 29, 2011

The market place area of Market Lavington was used for many years by agricultural engineers. Today we feature a photo which dates from the 1890s and it shows White’s Yard.

White’s bought the premises in 1893. Previously it had been the works of James  House.

Whites only stayed in Market Lavington for a few years. They moved to Devizes and became the well known firm of T. H. White.

Mowers at White's Yard, Market Lavington in the 1890s - a photo at Market Lavington Museum

The photo shows a wonderful collection of mowers. For agricultural use these were horse drawn, of course, and with no power take off, they had to use the rotation of the wheels to drive the blades. Wheels were made to ensure they didn’t slip during field work.

The more domestic looking mower has been left with a lad and is not hugely different from hand lawnmowers which could be bought today.

As a bonus, we know that the three men were Mr Parsons, Mr Collins and Mr Cooper

The Parsons family had come from Somerset, moving to Wiltshire  in the 1880s.  Francis Parsons was a foreman agricultural machinist at the time of the 1901 census.

Mr Collins may have been Imber born Simeon who lived in Market Lavington and was described as an engine driver (agricultural)

Mr Cooper may have been John Cooper who was described as an agricultural blacksmith on the 1901 census.

Any further information about these people would be very welcome.

An old stapler

February 5, 2011

These days there are items of office equipment which are just about universal. We are all familiar with paper fasteners including the staple. We expect our staples to come in lengths of about 50 with a machine that is able to do the whole job with one press of the handle.

But it wasn’t always so. Early staplers used single staples, which had to be carefully placed on the machine before use. We have one of these machines at Market Lavington Museum.

McGill's stapler at Market Lavington Museum

As we can see this says McGills patent single stroke staple press with a patent number of 756.

We are indebted to the Early Office Museum at for the following information.

This machine was produced with a number of superficial variations.  The basic information is as follows:

McGill’s Single-Stroke Staple Press No. 1
Patented 1879 ~ Advertised 1880-1913
Made by Holmes, Booth & Haydens
New York, NY

The inventor was George W McGill, who patented many types of paper fasteners during the 1860s through to the1890s.

You can see the range of patents by putting the following in the address bar of your browser and hitting “enter”:

This stapler had been used by a Market Lavington building firm. Some of us think it is an item of great beauty.