Historic Vehicle Day: Sunday 13th September : 10am to 4pm

We are holding an Historic Vehicle Day on September 13th in place of the Threshing Day, we are encouraging people to bring their vehicles !

Here are a few of our August highlights …

Tony and DK are working on the Maldon Elevator  in preparation for the Historic Vehicle Day on 13 September, when it will be on display alongside our other exhibits.
The machine has been packed away and sheeted down for almost a year since the Steam Threshing Day in 2019.

James Howe called in to the Manor House in late August with Ruby his three year old Shire and waggon. He has owned Ruby since she was a foal and is training her to work on the road and get used to traffic.

Gordon Smith has been busy, first he dismantled the old compost bin and spread the compost over a low area under the trees. Then he graded and levelled the site using some additional hardcore. The container will be re- sited close to the northern boundary, a second container will be purchased and sited six metres to the south, parallel to the original one. The “container top”which arrived from Hamburg last week, will be erected to span the area between the two and provide some 36 metres of additional covered storage. The extra storage provided by the new Container and the covered area, should enable us to store the Thompson Millwright artefacts on site, and also provide shelter for other large artefacts at present stored outside. Funding for this project has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund Emergency Funding.

It is a large cover ( 250 kgs !) that we plan to stretch between two containers where it will provide 36 sq metres of additional covered storage for us. We will acquire a second container shortly and reposition the existing one.


Gentle awakening …

Friday was a lovely sunny day and we were delighted that our friends Paddy and Ande from Nettleham travelled over the Wolds In their 1928 Austin 7 to spend the day at Alford Manor House.

Robin parked his vintage Velocette motorcycle alongside the two Austins making an attractive display.

We started the Combine and moved it out of its shelter, and Tony had several of the Stationary engines running. We had a steady stream of appreciative visitors, which was most rewarding!

On Tuesday 11th Aug. at least one other vintage Austin will be journeying from near Newark to join us.


Tuesdays and Fridays will be Summer run days

We intend to try and run some of our machinery every Tuesday and Friday during opening hours, throughout the summer.

Friday was such a lovely day we moved the  Fordson tractor down to the gate, and I parked one of my Austin Sevens alongside to add extra interest. We were delighted to welcome a steady stream of interested visitors for most of the day.

Tony was kept busy trying to keep four of the Stationary Engines all running! He gets bored if they all run faultlessly…….! He did manage it briefly.

See you soon Ashley

Our first day post lockdown …

Today was the first day post lockdown that we were open at the MORL. We were delighted to receive a steady flow of visitors from late morning until early afternoon.

One of our volunteers, Austin from Louth brought in this cast iron machinery plaque that he found amongst his late father’s oddments. He had connections with South Elkington and probably found this in an old farm building. Austin remembered reading our research on the panel relating to seed drills etc and the name struck a chord. He has restored the plaque and mounted it on a polished wooden block and presented it to the Museum today. A wonderful relic of local agricultural history!

Brian has just returned a collection of heavy horse harness that he has cleaned and beautifully restored during lockdown. It was in a dreadfully neglected state when he took it home, and it now has joined other harness in the Blacksmith’s shop and harness room where it looks well cared for once again


Checks on the combine …

We will be open on Tuesdays and Fridays from

14th July, 10am to 4pm

Last week was largely devoted to cutting the long grass in the orchard with the somewhat idiosyncratic Allen Scythe, so restoration projects took a back seat!

This week we started to check over the combine so it is ready to go if we get the opportunity. The triangular shaped double chain in picture one was rather floppy and had run out of adjustment, so Tony and I removed it and shortened by a link and rejoined it. It is now just the right tension! There are several others to adjust and shorten too…..!

Pictures two and three are of the top of the “new” grain tank showing repair patches that I’ve made and shaped to strengthen damaged areas. They have been temporarily “pop” riveted in position so that Grant can weld them in properly to make a strong repair. Once the welding is completed, the painting can be completed and it will be ready for fitting.


Time to attend to the McCormick “power” binder …

This is the lower elevator camvas
The second (lower elevator) canvas alongside (left) a very frail original that is being used as a pattern.

Museum of Rural Life May 2020 news

I have turned my attention, during this lock down period, to the McCormick “power” binder, so called because it is powered solely by the towing tractor’s “power take off” (pto).  Horse drawn binders, such as our Massey Harris machine, derive their power to turn the mechanism from the large “Bull” wheel .

We acquired this machine about 18 months ago from a local collection, and it has had very little attention since! The original canvases had previously been stored in a building with a leaking roof, and were found to be completely beyond repair on arrival.

About three years ago we acquired a large collection of “new old stock” canvases, knives, needles, rollers, and other spares. A few of these canvases fitted our Massey Harris binder, but quite a lot of them didn’t. I realized that I could adapt some of these to fit the McCormick binder so that it could be used again in the future.

I decided to tackle the “conveyor” canvas first, which fits behind the knife and conveys the cut cereal crop toward the elevators and on to the binding mechanism. This machine takes an 8 foot cut compared to the Massey Harris which is a 6 foot cut machine. The conveyor canvas is thus very long and so I decided to join together two of the new identical short canvases to get the length. The width also needed to be reduced by about 2 inches.

I sought the advice of Graham Kirk who founded his company, Farm & Rural Past, in Norfolk nearly 30 years ago to make binder canvases and supply spare parts. He was extremely helpful and supplied me with rivets and other materials for the conversion work.

I have been able to do this work at home over the past few weeks and have now finished the conveyor canvas and the lower elevator canvas, apart from a little fine tuning.

Tony Hogg and the binder with a trial fit of the first (conveyor) canvas.

Tony Hogg has come out of lock down now so at the beginning of June we uncovered the binder, cleaned it down, greased the bearings and lubricated the chains. It now turns quite freely, and we were able to try the “new” conveyor canvas for size. I’m pleased to say that it fits and moves as it should, needing just one minor adjustment.

I now have the upper conveyor canvas to make by adapting another spare in our stock!

Ashley Vincent :  June 2020

Ploughing for Victory

This decal was applied to the fuel tanks of tractors from 1941 to try and persuade farmers to be frugal!

V E Day at the Museum of Rural Life 2020

One of our most important artefacts is our Standard Fordson N which was manufactured at Dagenham in Essex in the summer of 1943. Our tractor spent all its working life in the Friskney area before we acquired it three years ago. It is in full working order and has since been involved in our harvest on several occasions towing the Massey Harris binder. This is typical of just one of the tasks that thousands of Fordsons would have performed throughout the country in WW2.

It is often said that this is the tractor that helped win the Second World War. Agriculture suffered a deep depression throughout the 1930s when it was cheaper to import food than grow it. Consequently, much of the arable land was not farmed, became derelict and had to be urgently brought back into production at the outbreak of war.

This was the Fordson tractor’s Finest Hour when it proved its capability in the “Ploughing for Victory” campaign. Land was thus brought back into production with the Fordson cultivating and drilling cereal crops and ultimately towing the binders to bring in the crops at harvest time.

The Fordson N was first introduced in 1929 and was developed from the model F originally designed and manufactured by Henry Ford in America in 1917. The Ministry of Munitions  imported 3000 of these  to help with food production in UK in WW1.

Initially the Fordson N was manufactured in Cork, Ireland, but production was later transferred to the new factory at Dagenham in 1932.

The Fordson was very popular with farmers being rugged, reliable, simple to operate and very good value for money at around £150.  Throughout the War a total of 137,483 were produced by May 8 1945.

Besides their extensive use in agriculture, Fordsons were widely used by the RAF on airfields to tow fuel bowsers and bomb trolleys for refueling and arming aircraft. There was even a version produced by Roadless which was fitted with tracks and a winch for aircraft recovery following flying accidents.

The ubiquitous Fordson was also used in the construction industry being converted into dump trucks by Muir Hill and loading shovels, and would have performed an important role in the construction of airfields and other war time building work.


Our Fordson is silent at this time, but will roar back into action once restrictions are lifted.

This country owes the Fordson tractor and all those who operated them, both men and the thousands of Land Girls, a great debt.

Ashley Vincent 8/5/2020

My motto is never throw anything away, it may come in handy …

25th April: Combine Seat 
I thought I would improve the Combine seat pad , working at home, which had obviously been exposed to the elements over the last 60 years!
I thought “just replace the rotten plywood base and make a new cover….”
When I started to take it apart, all the internal springs were rusty and everything fell to bits!
I have sourced some new springs on the internet and made some new metal clips (cut from an old combine guard) to hold them all together within the original square frames and started to recreate the seat to resemble the original!
I have plenty of hessian and felt padding left over from upholstering my vintage car seats a few years ago! ( my motto is never throw anything away, it may come in handy). We’ll see how it all turns out!
1st May: Combine seat update …
We have just finished it !
The last three stages when it has changed from looking like a Christmas cake to a seat.
Catherine helped with some of the sewing machine work
Tried it this morning and had a Cinderella moment !
Next job- adapting some “new old stock” binder canvases we bought on eBay about 3 years ago to fit the “new ” McCormick binder …..!
best wishes

Fenton Townsend Ltd : humble beginnings …

Although we have had to close our doors at the moment I have been amusing myself with  few jobs on the combine for the last week or so, in isolation naturally !

I link my daily exercise with a visit to the Manor House, first job, cleaning and painting the driver’s platform and controls …


I have been cleaning and removing rust from under the driver’s platform on the combine which is quite mucky with poor accessibility. The top surface was easy underneath is a nightmare of angle iron, pipes and levers and very little room because of the wheel! I will then treat with suitable undercoat followed by red paint. It is the last area left to do and then I can  finish applying the decals to the rest of the machine.

There is a very indistinct transfer still on the combine but it is scarcely legible. It has the name Fenton Townsend Ltd , and what appears to be “agricultural engineers” on it along with the remains of something else that I can’t read but possibly a phone number.


The machine dates from 1957 Fenton Townsend Ltd were the dealers who supplied the combine to its first owner in Billinghay.

Fenton Townsend : a brief history 
A little digging has enabled us to discover that the roots of the company go back to the early 1860s and a young blacksmith called Joseph Bentley Fenton, the son of a master blacksmith. Joseph diversified into agricultural machine hire alongside the implement making, he built his business during the “golden years” of British Agriculture.
Born in 1839 , by his early twenties Joseph had a good business, his adverts provide an insight into the continued growth of his company .

Screenshot 2020-04-10 06.36.17

1868 Stamford Mercury : Joseph Fenton operates fom Heckington


Screenshot 2020-04-10 07.14.51
1872 Stamford Mercury                                               source britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

1882 JB Fenton

1882 Stamford Mercury                                                      source: britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Newspaper advertisements refer to newly patented “jointed chisel harrows” ( 1877) which he would be happy to send, on approval, to any railway station in England.

JB Fenton died July 1925
Joseph Bentley Fenton of Millfield House, North Road, Sleaford. Lincolnshire Standard & Boston Guardian. August 1925 Source: britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

In 1861 young Joseph B Fenton , Master Blacksmith, was living in Skellingthorpe with his wife Caroline, the couple went on to have 16 children. 

By 1871 the family were living in Great Hale, Joseph was listed as a Blacksmith and owner of a steam threshing machine, his younger brother David is also present,  an engine fitter and owner ( presumably co-owners) of a steam threshing machine.

In August of that year the London Gazette records the dissolution of the partnership  between the brothers, machinists and machine owners at Great Hale. All debts due to and from the Company would be paid and received by Joseph Hale.

Joseph Fenton traded as JB Fenton (& Son)  in Sleaford for a further 30 years,  attending many shows as an implement maker and dealer.

Following his retirement in 1922 his third son, Frederick, continued the business. Joseph’s elder sons also continued in the family trade. William B Bentley ran his own implement making business in Eagle, his brother Joseph worked an an iron founder. 
Joseph Bentley Fenton died in July 1925, aged 85,  his company continued.

F Townsend died March 1944
Lincolnshire Echo: March 1944 source:britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Frederick Townsend was born in Leeds in 1869, at the age of  aged 15 years he became apprenticed to his uncle, Alfred Cooling,  in Metheringham. Alfred was an ironmonger, china and glass, and general dealer he died in 1895 at the age of 44. His wife Lucy Ann died the following September leaving Fred to continue the business. In 1901 his records his trade as an agricultural machine dealer and ironmonger.

F Townsend ( and Son ) became large machinery dealers, well known in the agricultural sector County wide. There must have been many occasions between 1900 and 1922 ( the date of Joseph’s retirement) when JB Fenton and F Townsend & Son exhibited at the same shows.
On March 6th 1930 the creation of a new company Fenton Townsend Ltd was announced.
The objects  of the new company were:
To acquire the business of an agricultural implement manufacturer and motor dealer and agent,  carried on by F Fenton at North Road Works, Sleaford as “JB Fenton and sons”
There were three Directors being:
F.Fenton of Millfield House, North Rd Sleaford, Agricultural Engineer.
F. Townsend, Lindum House, Metheringham, Agricultural implement agent.
F.C. Townsend, Princes Street, Metheringham, Agricultural implement agent.
F Townsend and Son had acquired their much sought after manufacturer.

1931 Fenton Townsend
Lincolnshire Echo :  June 1931:                          source britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

F Townsend died in 1944 at the age of 75, his obituary notes that he was the Director of F Townsend and Son Ltd and Fenton Townsend Ltd.
Joseph Fenton’s “little wonder” plough was one of his most successful implements, Fenton ploughs sit among the likes of Ransomes, Edlington and Hornsby in museum collections across the County.
Upon his loss in 1925 local newspapers reported Joseph Bentley Fenton as being one of Sleaford’s “oldest and most esteemed residents” .  Frederick Townsend died in 1944 at the age of 75, he was praised for his public works having “served the village for 40 years”.
Fenton Townsend Ltd survived as a company into the mid eighties.

Quick update from MORL …

Friday 13th March 2020
Today the team initially unpacked and set up the garden furniture which had spent the winter in the Wedding Shelter. We then helped the garden volunteers replace the netting on the fruit cage. Then it was time to have some fun……..!
thumbnailWe unpacked our newly restored “Cook’s” elevator and started the slightly reluctant engine. Tony Hogg is seen oiling the sliding surfaces that the slats run on.
thumbnail (1)
We awoke the combine from its slumbers but did not drive it out. It started very quickly and ran well. You may have noticed that I have started applying the “Massey Harris” decals, one of which is visible in the attached picture. I am painting the last section of it now which is the driver’s platform and control levers etc.
Best wishes,