W2643a — Harper & Stedman; Machines, 1918

Box 5


Image 2: H9284 — Davis Ploughing Demonstration, Front View - 1917
Image 3: H9285 — Davis Ploughing Demonstration, Back View - 1917


‘New tractor demonstrated in Lewes High Street’ – Mick Symes local historian

Audio transcript at bottom of page


Harper & Stedman sold farm machinery from their showroom at 44 Cliffe High Street. Shown here is the wharf area between Harvey’s Brewery and Jireh Chapel. (The barges are now buried under the car park.) Farming had to adapt after 170,000 farmers went to fight and half a million horses were requisitioned for the front line. 98,000 women from the Women’s Land Army were recruited to work on the farms, and tractors began to do the heavy work of many hands.


“One hundred years ago in 1917, Lewes High Street was thronged with people looking at a new “Caterpillar” tractor 75HP with a couple of 4 row ploughs attached, standing outside the [Fitzroy] Library. It was under the control of JCH Martin Ltd, engineers of Cliffe Bridge. Food production was controlled by the food production branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and more food was desperately needed. This tractor was part of a promotion scheme. On Saturday afternoon at 4.30pm it was reported that it started off under the watchful and slightly worried eye of the Borough surveyor as it trundled up School Hill on its way to Plumpton to be set to work.


All the Lewes agricultural dealers reported numerous orders for new tractors, partly because all able bodied men had gone from the farms for military service. Horses had also gone to war. Culverwells had orders for 11 Bates steel mules (pictured) capable of 6 furrows per pass. Harper & Stedman in the Cliffe had under their control, on behalf of the Board of Agriculture, a different type of mechanised tractor the 13 HP Mogul with a 3 row plough which was capable of an acre every 2 hours. No pictures seem to exist of the tractor outside the library, nor do contemporary reports name the make but almost certainly it was a Holt, the only 75HP tractor at the time.”