Celebrating centuries of farm machinery history

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Over 1,000 entries of vintage and heritage tractors, commercial vehicles, stationary engines and agricultural equipment competed for top honours at the Newark Vintage Tractor and Heritage Show. Celebrating its 20th year, the show also brought together a wide range of visitors and exhibitors who’ve been meeting up at every event since its inception.

The Vale of Belvoir Machinery Group created a special exhibit for the show, collating one example for each theme of the event. Representing 100 years of row crop tractors was Chairman Larry Parker’s own 1953 John Deere 40; one of only four in the UK and exhibited with the only known corn planter in the country. “When I bought the tractor there were lots of bits missing, but I restored it and it won best John Deere here two years ago, so I was chuffed with that,” he says.

A friend of Larry’s imported the 1958 corn planter in 2013, and later sold it to Larry – a pretty bit of kit that can plant maize, cotton and ground nuts, among other crops.

Representing 60 years of the new performance Fordson range was a 1964 Fordson Super Major owned by Adrian and Julie Witcomb and exhibited by their son Lewis. “It was one of the last Super Majors produced, and Lewis has been a member of our Group since he was just 12 or 13,” explains Larry.

Group secretary Linda Kemp and her husband Andrew brought along their 1952 Series I Land Rover, to celebrate the marque’s 75th anniversary, while Alan Nickols showed off his 1948 Field Marshall Series II for Marshall Sons & Co’s 175th anniversary.

“This Marshall is the same age as me – and when I left school, one of my first jobs was in a salvage yard smashing these up,” says Larry. “But if we hadn’t done that, they wouldn’t be so rare and valuable now!”

The Group has over 100 members and organises several fundraising events each year, including two tractor runs, for charity. “They’re all tractor and machinery enthusiasts, and I thought it would be nice to represent each of the show themes through different members of the club.”

Mark Weston at Westlake Plough and Agri Parts has been exhibiting at the show for 20 years, and says it always works well for his business. “We started in a little marquee in the fog. We sell all the parts to fix machines that people are using, from tractors to ploughs,” he says. “A lot of the same people exhibiting tractors have been here for 20 years as well – we’ve all been here since the first one.”

Mark is the third generation to run Westlake, and has a small farm near Peterborough. “We’re working with the farming community all the time – we do farm repairs and have a workshop so can fix machinery as well as selling parts.” However, it’s all vintage and classic equipment, which he buys at dealer and farm clearance sales or remanufactures himself. “We’ve got four large sheds full of stuff at home, and have two big auctions a year.”

Laying claim to the oldest tractor on display was John Shepherd with his 1918 Fordson F, exhibited with a 1910 Martin’s ride-on cultivator. “I brought it over from Nebraska and have owned it for 20 years,” he says. “Before I had it it had never run for more than 10 minutes because the engine had been built wrong – the pistons hadn’t been drilled.”

In the course of its restoration John has had the engine apart five times, and now it runs absolutely perfectly. “We go to all sorts of working events and always like this show,” says John, who farms at Blakesley, Northants, with his son Aubrey. “I’m restoring an Allis Chalmers crawler at the moment – an eight-litre petrol with a steering wheel – it’s quite rare. We’ve got people coming to the show from all over bringing parts for it.”

The show attracts exhibitors from far and wide – travelling the furthest was Gordon Riddell from Aberdeen, who brought a 1938 Marshall 12/20, a 1945 Marshall Model M, a 1950 Field Marshall Series 3 and a 1957 Marshall MP6.

One exhibitor who would have trounced this distance was Larry Roers, who had planned to fly over from Minnesota in the US. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it, so tractor importer Richard Keel exhibited the 1966 Ford 4,000 Rowcrop for him. “He came a couple of years ago and I said I’d buy this tractor off him,” says Richard.

“I like the American Ford row tractors – they’re similar to the British ones but different – they’re built for the owner-operator.” The American versions come with improved operator comfort, full power steering, higher clearance, and with the front axle further forward to allow for a cultivator to be mounted directly in front of the driving position.

This was one of the last tractors designed as a tricycle tractor, and came with the option of a narrow or wide front end. However, coming at a time when tractor size and power was increasing rapidly, it was almost outdated as it came off the production line, says Richad. “It’s never had to work very hard so it’s in very original condition.”

A special exhibit brought together 19 tractors which were on display at the very first show, including a 1952 David Brown Cropmaster owned by Stephen Clements from South Scarle. His father Philip always came to the event, and Stephen made sure to bring ‘Teapot’, his beloved 1894 Marshall Traction engine, to this year’s show to celebrate the manufacturer’s 175th anniversary.

“My father celebrated the 150th year at Gainsborough, and he passed away in March, so it was only right that I should celebrate the 175th,” says Stephen. Teapot was originally owned by a Mr Stamp from Market Rasen, who was a contractor running many large machines – her smaller 6hp size earned her the nickname.

“She was derelict for years and years – my dad’s cousin John Linegar owned her before my dad, but my dad restored her in about 1980. We had a 100th birthday party for her with a hog roast, band and fireworks, and my father used her at a lot of rallies and thrashing demonstrations.”

The engine is about 80% original, although it did require a new firebox and tubes, and Stephen – who farms near Newark – hopes to get her steaming again next year. “We’ve restored a lot of machinery over the years – my dad was a really good self-taught engineer,” he says. “We’ve always come to this show; I like the variety of tractors, and the people – it’s so friendly.”

For more information about the show, visit: www.newarkvintagetractorshow.com.