In one of our recent posts we focused on lawn mower maintenance, so we thought we’d investigate the history of lawn mowers. It’s interesting to revisit the origin of things that we now consider pedestrian. It’s an opportunity to appreciate the innovative quality of something we now take for granted.
The first lawn mower came along at a time when green spaces were becoming a feature of Victorian life. The industrial revolution meant that people were enjoying some leisure time and leisure spaces; there were more lawns, parks, and sports grounds. These were maintained by scything, rolling and shearing, or by grazing animals to keep the grass trim. This was labour-intensive and required wealth, which was why grassland was considered a symbol of status.
But in 1830 Edward Budding, an English engineer, studied the machinery used to trim carpets. With some reworking, he thought the same mechanics could be used to cut grass. Mounted onto a cast iron frame with a roller and a cutting cylinder, the early lawn mower could maintain large green spaces like sports grounds and private homes.
As innovative as this was, the first lawn mower wasn’t really that good, so other minds turned their attention to the problem. Within 10 years, people were rethinking (and up-sizing) the model. Soon, there were mowers that could be harnessed to animals, and within 60 years it was possible to buy a steam-powered lawnmower. The start of the 20th century saw the invention of the petrol mower and in 1922 gardeners and land managers could purchase a ride-on mower. From that time, the mechanics and main design of mowers haven’t changed much.
As lawn mowers improved and gave cleaner cuts, sports grounds improved and it was realised that turf quality had a big impact on the quality of play. So sporting groups began to codify and standardise rules about ground maintenance and game play for football, rugby, tennis and bowls. And it’s not stretch to appreciate the ways in which lawn mowers shaped trends in smaller gardens too.
Lawn mowers are vital to landscapers, gardeners, and those in the gardening trade who want to maintain their turf and keep a tidy garden. Where would we be without them?