The True Value of Collecting Old Farm Implements

Farm implements and tools provide great collecting alternative to old tractors.

| September 2014

  • Paul Jones of North Wales has inadvertently become something of a seed drill addict. (Be warned, it can happen to any one of us!) Paul is shown here with a drill made by Turner Bros., Newtown.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • A veritable fleet of New Era seed drills.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • A 1890's horse-drawn seed drill by Thomas Hopper Ellacott, North Petherwin.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • This drill was built by John Williams & Son, Rhuddlan
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • This drill hails from the time when Corbett joined Williams.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • A sheep-shearing machine made by the Chicago Flexible Shaft Co.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • This plough's axle pivots, so that once you flip the board over you can plough either way.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • A horse-drawn Bentall Kent Gapper used to thin turnips.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The wood on this plough was replaced at some point.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Name plate from the Bentall Kent Gapper. The implement was named for H.C. Kent, the Irish farmer who designed it.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Proof that old implements can tell a story — Paul's grandfather, then a farm labourer, recalls being sent by his boss in 1926 to ask a neighbouring farmer in Betws yn Rhos if they could borrow his stone roller. On the lane back from the farm a piece of the roller broke, and it was taken to Hugh Jones, the local blacksmith, for repair. From then on, the horse-drawn roller always had these two steel bands on it. When Paul began collecting implements, his grandfather remembered the old roller and what had happened to it, as well as the field it eventually ended up being left in once tractors took over from horses. They found it just as his grandfather remembered it and the landowner kindly let them take it. It is not of any great monetary value, but it is priceless as a remnant from this village's past, and a reminder of time when anything broken was repaired and used again.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Photo by Josephine Roberts
    Paul's 1949 Ferguson TEA 20 and plough.
  • A very tidy 2-furrow horse-drawn drill made by John Williams, Rhuddlan. Paul also has the shafts for this drill.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Detail of Paul's Ellacott seed drill.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • This is one apple that hasn't fallen far from the tree. Built in Llanefydd, North Wales, this wheel-less plough now resides with Paul, who lives but a short distance from the smithy where it was made.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • This reversible Syracuse plough, made in New York, is a long way from home. Paul found this plough on his wife's cousin's farm near Dyffryn Ardudwy.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts

  • Photo by Josephine Roberts

Here in the U.K., vintage tractors are big business. Whilst it’s great that our old tractors have value, it also means some collectors are priced out of the market. Other rural artifacts, often older and more rare, are frequently overlooked.

No one in their right mind would scrap a working tractor from the 1950s, but plenty of people would scrap an old piece of barn machinery from the 1850s. One day we might well look around and realise that there aren’t many old swede (root) choppers or chaff cutters left and wonder why.

In the U.K. I don’t think we value these implements and tools as much as we should. Welshman Paul Jones knows that the real value of these barn machines, farm implements and tools is in the stories that they tell, not the sum they sell for at auction. This makes for a refreshing change, as one could argue that the vintage tractor scene has become rather, er, how do I put it, commercial, these days.

Paul’s collection begins with wooden horse-drawn ploughs and works its way forward, through the age of cast iron horse-drawn implements, and ends with a Grey Fergie. Interestingly, Paul chooses to end his collection right at the point where mechanization truly became widely available.



These horse-drawn implements and hand-powered barn machines hark back to a simpler, quieter time. They are also beautiful items in their own right. These often ornately crafted implements remind us of a time when Britain was a hive of ironworking activity, producing frameworks for landmark buildings and bridges worldwide. On a more local level, blacksmiths and small foundries were busy feeding our nation’s need for sturdy tools and early machines. The Industrial Revolution couldn’t have happened without iron and coal, and the arrival of cast and wrought iron implements on farms marked the beginning of agriculture’s own revolution.

The early seed drill

If there’s one type of implement that really fascinates Paul, it’s the seed drill. He admits that his collection of seven drills (each slightly different) made by Welsh companies such as John Williams of Rhuddlan, Corbett Williams and Corbett & Son make him something of a seed drill addict. Perhaps so, but they also serve as solid reminders of the history and development of these closely linked, long gone Welsh companies.