From the scythe to the ride on mower: a history of lawn mowing and maintenance



For centuries the lawn and garden has been seen as a canvas for creation and a way to send a message to one’s neighbours. A large part of the creative process has to do with how lawns have been mowed and maintained over the years. From scythes and grazing sheep, to ride on mowers and now robotic mowers powered by Google and Alexa, lawn mowing and maintenance has certainly come a long way. In just a few minutes of reading, learn about the history of lawn mowing and some of the most exciting lawn mowing technology offered by us at BS Power.




The history of the lawn


Before delving into the compelling past of lawn mowing, the interesting history of the lawn itself must first be unpacked. It was during the 16th Century Renaissance that lawns were deliberately cultivated by the wealthy in both England and France. However, unlike the grassy lawns of today, these lawns were usually planted with thyme or chamomile (which both make excellent alternatives to grass even today).


Shortly shorn grass lawns first made their appearance in 17th century England surrounding the homes of wealthy landowners. Even though in many cases sheep were grazed on these lawns and therefore served as free grass-cutting devices, landowners also depended on human labourers wielding the scythe to keep the lawn looking need and closely shorn. Before the invention of mowers, it was mainly the wealthy that boasted lawns – since they were often the only ones who could afford their maintenance.


Northern European immigrants are said to have brought both the idea of grass lawns and grass seeds to North America. Many of the seeds were carried there in the most fascinating manners; rolled in bundles of bedding, stuck on coat hems as well as in crates alongside other imported goods. At first, such was the case in Europe, only the wealthiest had the time and money to cultivate and maintain a large and well-maintained lawn.


There were a number of distinct forces that, when combined together, resulted in making the lawn a popular feature. Some are rather obvious, such as industrialisation in the form of the lawnmower, or the general growing of suburbs. Regardless of the reasons, the lawn grew in renown and today remains a common feature for many homes and estates around the world.


The history of lawn mowers: how we got from scythes to the ride on mower, and beyond


In Europe, during the 1700s when well-manicured lawns became a fad for the wealthy and well-known, the methods to maintain them were incredibly inefficient and labour-intensive. Most lawn-owners made use of grazing animals or shears, sickles and scythes to trim the grass by hand. That is, the hands of employed or enslaved labour. However, even the most skilled of scythe-wielders could not help but leave swirl marks on the grass, seeing as scythes were swung in half circles.




As a result, it was nearly impossible to achieve that “perfect lawn” look that many homeowners enjoy today as a result of innovations such as the ride on mower, for example. The first lawnmower finally came to being around 100 years after the lawn first became popular for the wealthy in 1830. It was patented by an engineer by the name of Edwin Beard Budding- who hailed from Gloucestershire. Budding developed a reel-type mower that utilised several blades that had been arranged carefully around a cylinder.


These blades consisted of wrought iron and the mower features cast iron gear wheels and one handle. As a result of these materials, the mower was difficult to push around and much heavier than the mowers we enjoy today. As this invention became more popular, it became increasingly apparent that an extra handle ought to be added to assist movement.


Budding and his business partner John Ferrabee sold over 1,000 mowers in 1832 – and the pair proceeded to license several companies to build copies of their model. So popular did their invention prove, that other inventers worked to develop the idea even further. It was around 10 years after the sale of the first lawn mower took place that a model that could be hitched to animals was created.


A Scotsman by the name of Alexander Shanks created a 27-inch-pony-drawn reel mower in 1842. Shanks even wrapped soft leather shoes around the feet of ponies dragging the device so that their feet would not leave indentations in the lawn. The pony would drag along the mower that was connected to it with ropes and levers, while the mower operator would push the invention and guide it in different directions from behind.


The chain-driven mower emerges


It was a man by the name of Thomas Green who was responsible for inventing and assembling the first chain-driven mower in 1895. This was a startling revelation, since a chain drive ensured a much lighter machine that required a lot less effort to push around. Green’s first model was named the Silens Messor, and though its design did change over the years, the principle of chain on which it was design remained the foundation of Green’s thriving business until its production ended in 1935.


Across the world in the United States, the lighter and smoother machine was also a hit and a lot of developments and features were added onto the chain model. In the 1890s, steam-powered lawn mowers began to appear. However, in 1902, a company by the name of Ransomes manufactured the first mower that was powered by an internal combustion gas engine.


Years later, Ransomes created the first ride on mower with the same engine. Interestingly, one of their first models was sold to Cadbury to be used to maintain their sports grounds. The ride on mower weighed over a ton and was 8-feet long. This creation signalled the beginning of commercial lawn mower production in the United Kingdom.


The ride on mower worked in relatively the same way as it does today, sans a few influential updates and body work. The ride on mower was, and is, powered by a gas engine that provides power to the blades beneath the mower and the wheels the propel the ride on mower forward. The lucky driver sits atop the ride on mower and controls the entire operation with a few levers as well as pedals similar to a tractor.




Lightweight mowers in every garage


By the time 1948 rolled around, easy-to-use and affordable mowers suitable for home owners began to flood the market. The fact that they were considerably compact made them perfect to store in garages and sheds. These mowers had enclosed deck designs and comfortable handles for pushing. In 1953, Briggs & Stratton revolutionised the garden and lawn industry with their development of the first compact aluminium engine.


Present day


Fast forward to today, and robotic mowers are the new craze. It was during 1969 that the first self-propelled mower was invented by Mowbot Inc. It featured remote or automated control operation and was powered by a battery. This was revolutionary at the time and sparked much interest as well as controversy.


These first models worked by following a border wire around one’s lawn using specialised sensors. They were also able to mow around and avoid obstacles and return to their docking stations when the weather turned sour. 25 years later, Husqvarna launched the Solar Mower – the world’s firs completely robotic mower. It was powered by solar energy alone, and had enough power to support both the cutting system as well as propel the wheels. In 1998, Husqvarna brought out AutoMower – which was capable of mowing at any time of the day, or night, regardless of weather conditions. Its battery was rechargeable.


2012 saw the exciting introduction of lawn mapping – a system that caused automatic mowers to mow in a more systematic method instead of random patterns. Today, robotic mowers without perimeter wires are available in most parts of the world – equipped with cameras that allow them to roam autonomously around a property. Night-vision allows the mower to function during the nigh time hours as we.


Lawn mowers stocked by BS Power


Now that you know more about the fascinating history of lawn and lawn mowers, you may be curious as to which types of mowers we stock at BS Power. So, without further ado, check out some of our favourite lawn mowing devices:


The Husqvarna LB 1461 battery powered lawnmower




Easily our most lightweight model, this battery operated mower is affordable and efficient. It features a durable composite deck designed with optimum mulching performance in mind. This push mower can be operated without hassle, with an ergonomically designed handlebar that makes it a dream to manoeuvre. It is powered by Husqvarna BLi-batteries and is the perfect entry-level option for the discerned homeowner looking to keep their lawn in great shape.


The Husqvarna LB 553S


A sturdy and dedicated BioClip® mower is best suited for intense, professional use. Designed with ergonomics in mind, the LB 553S produces phenomenal cutting results no matter the weather. With a cutting width of 53 centimetres, this mower features a spring loaded central cutting height adjustment in order to make the adjusting process as easy as possible. This mower also features a front-wheel drive for the most comfortable handing, as well as light-weight wheels made of aluminium, with double ball bearings and rubber tyres.


This mower is easy to start and equipped with an effective anti-vibration system to prevent injuries and complications from frequent use.




The Husqvarna MZ54 zero turn ride on mower


If you combine extraordinary performance, optimum comfort and phenomenal performance, you may start to get an idea of what the Husqvarna MZ54 zero turn ride on mower is all about. This ride on mower features a heavy-duty steel frame as well as a top-rated hydraulic system that work to create a fantastic mowing experience. The MZ ride on mower is the perfect solution for any and all property maintenance needs, and the armrests and high back seat – as well as the adjustable steering levers make for a truly comfortable journey around the lawn.


Although this ride on mower is rather expensive, it is a powerhouse that will ensure brilliant and top-quality results when all is said and done.




Meet the future with the Husqvarna Automower 520


This robotic mower has been designed with professional fleet use in mind. It offers a revolutionary theft tracking system that can be accessed through the Husqvarna Fleet Service through a computer or tablet. Users are also able to control and configure the mower with their smartphones. Equipped with a weather-timer as well as GPS assisted navigation, you can be sure that the Automower will provide high-quality results every time.


Amazingly, the device makes note of the rate of lawn growth and adjusts mowing frequency accordingly. It manages well with lawns and steep slopes up to 24 degrees even in the rainiest of conditions. This trustworthy mower of the future is robust in design to ensure durability and reliability through and through.