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© Steam Plough Club 2017

Steam Plough Club, Pant-y-Cae, Clyro, Herefordshire HR3 6JU



Membership renewal (£20)  for 2017 was due on 1st January 2017.

Please can we ask you all to check your subscription arrangements. Unfortunately a number of people still pay the wrong amount of money, or pay it into the wrong bank account, and it takes a considerable amount of time to sort these issues out.


To coincide with the clubs 50th Anniversary, the club has published a new book of photographs from the Club Archives, many of the pictures have not appeared in print before.  


£20.00 inc  p&p - see Club Sales page for order details

100 pages, mostly black and white photos, A4 landscape

He was born on 17th August 1923 to Isabel and Godfrey, both Quakers, and was head of school at Shrewsbury and went on to study at Edinburgh.  This was interrupted by the war when he served in the Lothian and Border Yeomanry initially and then was part of D-Day with the 5th Enniskillen Dragoon Guards as a troop commander of a squadron of flail tanks used to clear minefields. He was twice Mentioned in Despatches and ended the war as a substantive Major before returning to finish university reading agriculture at Trinity College Cambridge. The town had a great attraction for him and he lived in nearby Fulbourn for very many years.

Robert ran two family farms as a tenant farmer following university but he found his metier as the manager of a grassland research Institute in Devon. Several other jobs involved fertiliser sales and promoting agricultural best practice. Later he found himself selling sports field drainage and under-ground heating systems.  His continued interest in all things agricultural meant that he maintained both a family and technical connection with steam ploughing.

Robert married Jane and they stayed together for 58 years.  She brought out the best in him and for all that time they were at one.  It was a shock when she predeceased him in 2009.

Robert Pelly



President, Steam Plough Club, 1992-1998

With sadness we report the death on 24th January, in his 93rd year of Robert Hubert Pelly a notable past president of the Steam Plough Club.

Robert was associated with the club from the earliest times.  In his 1966 letter to founder Harold Bonnett he introduced himself as the great grandson of John Fowler.  There was also a second family link to Robert Fowler, John Fowler’s brother.  Subsequently he took the role of president in 1992.  In those more informal days the club had just one rule.  That was that the president served just for three years.  We broke that one rule for Robert and he served on to 1998 when the role was passed to his friend Michael Lane.

1994 Great Challenge

We in the club found ourselves privileged to have among our number a living relative of the great John Fowler family to which we owe so much.  With his tall presence, ever present humour and kindly manner nothing was too much trouble in furtherance of the club and we much appreciated his wise counsel.  I think too he considered that the Steam Plough Club represented a tangible link with his family business such was the dominance of Fowler’s in its activities and records.

Robert’s breath of skills and interests meant that he was never idle.  He was an experimental farmer, a trainer of dogs, a poet and artist, deadeye with a 20 bore and an eminent gardener of fruit and veg and immaculate lawns.

We send our condolences to Robert’s family in their loss which I know will be shared by all who knew him.

John Billard

8 June 2016

Robert Pelly with Mike Beeby at the 1994 Great Challenge

McLaren Motor Windlass & Fowler Motor Ploughing Engine

The Steam Plough Club has reached an agreement with the Leeds Museums and Galleries for the loan of two rare ploughing machines. These were pulled up the steep cobble stone drive from their shed  at  Armley Mills Museum on July 11th for transport to their new homes.

Fowler Motor Cable Ploughing Engine no. 17621 was dispatched new from the Steam Plough Works, Leeds, in May 1929 to G. F. Kitching & Sons, Sykehouse, West Riding, Yorkshire. Part of Fowler's attempt to replace the steam engine with an internal combustion engine alternative for cable cultivation, this was not a success. 17621 and its sister 17620 are the only pair with their original petrol engines.

The loan will allow the engines to be restored and reconditioned and eventually to be displayed at work.  

The McLaren Patent Motor Windlass, works number 1962, is a Class ‘H’ unit built by J. & H. McLaren at Leeds in October 1928.  It worked as one of a fleet of some 50 – 70 similar engines owned by the Sudan Plantation Syndicate used in the production of cotton. It was returned in late 1986 to the Armley Mills Museum in Leeds in a dismantled condition and was subsequently rebuilt by Museum staff.

Plough Engine & Van

Souvenir Programme

84 pages of photographs, histories and all about the club and its milestone anniversary.   

STILL AVAILABLE  see club sales page for details

Souvenir Programme

To mark the reopening of the Museum of English Rural Life a special event was held for some 300 guests on Tuesday evening, 18 October.

This was to celebrate the major redevelopment and the beginning of a new and exciting new era for the Museum of English Rural Life. With nine new galleries and additional learning and activity spaces, the Museum aims to revitalise connections for its visitors with the rural past and with debates about the future of food and the countryside.

The Museum of English Rural Life was founded by the University of Reading in 1951. It houses nationally and internationally important designated collections that record the changing face of farming and the countryside. Today, it provides a focus for an extraordinary variety of both University teaching and research, and public engagement.

The evening was an opportunity for the University to introduce the new displays, enjoy a taste of their new activities and learning experiences and express their appreciation and thanks to those who had made this transformation possible. This included the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, the Wolfson Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the Headley Trust and the Earley Charity.

The Secretary, Dick Eastwood, attended and met with Caroline Gould, Deputy University Archivist, who shared the following “As part of our new displays we will be able to screen archival footage in the galleries. We have made our initial selection of 10 films.  One of the films will be an edited version of the John Fowler films: Steam and Motor Cultivating Machinery, The Fowler gyrotiller at work near Leeds and combination steam harrow and crosskill roller. We are very excited to show these films in the galleries and we are aware that the public will be amazed at the footage. We will, of course, acknowledge the Steam Plough Club on the title prior to the screening. We intend to change the films periodically so visitors see different films when they revisit”.

The Museum is well worth a visit, not only to see the changes made to the galleries and exhibits but to use the research facilities and examine some of the valuable material they hold.

Dick Eastwood, Secretary                                           18 October 2016



A bequest  for the club

At the anniversary lunch on 3rd December the club received a very generous bequest of £3000 from the late Robert Pelly a past president. In announcing the bequest his son Richard referred to his fathers strong family link to Fowler’s and his fondness for the Steam Plough Club.


We are pleased to announce a Hands On Event for 2017. Participants will be given expert tuition, in a relaxed atmosphere, on the handling of steam ploughing engines and ploughs. This will be held on August 19-20 at a site near Uppingham in the East Midlands, between Leicester and Peterborough.

Commencing at 9 am on the Saturday participants will be given a safety briefing followed by an explanation of the working of the engines and implements.  They will then be given an opportunity to raise steam and then set to work!

Numbers will be limited to give those present a maximum chance to work the tackle. Camping/caravanning is available on site and B&B addresses can be forwarded.


The cost includes an instructional DVD that provides detailed information in preparation for the weekend.  An evening dinner will be arranged for the Saturday night and the weekend concludes at 5pm on Sunday.

Club Chairman Mark Jones said, “This weekend is one of the most important things we do.  It gives members an opportunity to take a full part in driving engines and working the plough.  It is essential that we pass on what skills we have for the future”.

The cost of the weekend for SPC members is £150. Please apply as soon as possible to John Billard, Old Station House, Twyford, Reading RG10 9NA    0118 934 0381           Click here to email

Click here for booking form (word Version)

Click here for booking form (pdf Version)



Now that nearly all of those who worked cultivating engines for a living are lost to us it may be difficult for the novice to pick up vital advice on how to go about working the tackle.  This professionally made 100-minute film takes the viewer through all the stages.  

This includes what tools and equipment to carry on board, care of the rope or cable, lubrication of the engines and implements, setting it all up for work and then undertaking the job.  Importantly it covers the vital system of signals to be used between implement and engine, as advised by Fowler’s themselves. Throughout the emphasis is on safe working particularly in the public domain.

The assumption is that the viewer comes with a basic understanding of traction engine management and is introduced into the different operation of the ploughing engine at work.

While the film is made for the beginner in mind perhaps the more knowledgeable and experienced will much to find of interest and to learn.

Don’t miss it!

A special price of £10 including p&p for SPC MEMBERS ONLY.

Apply to Richard Playdon, 22 Whitethorn Drive, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 7UT

01926 741176                                  Click Here to email

Updating of the Engine & Implement List

Dick Eastwood is preparing entries for a reprint of the Steam Plough Club engine and Implement List last published in 2012. If anyone knows of steam ploughs, cultivators, water carts, living vans, mole drainers, etc that may not previously have been recorded he would be pleased to include details. This includes tractor/crawler conversions of steam ploughing tackle. Description, location, owner and photo (works number is a bonus) would be much appreciated. If in doubt provide details that can be checked against the existing records. A list of overseas implements is also being prepared so your holiday snaps and exchanges with friends outside the UK might provide results.