This year’s brilliant Abbey Hill Steam Rally!

Posted by Chris Graham on 28th June 2024

Joseph Lewis reports on the Abbey Hill Steam Rally that took place at the Yeovil Showground, over the bank holiday weekend early in May.

Photography: Joseph Lewis

Abbey Hill Steam Rally

Abbey Hill Steam Rally: Making its debut at the show was the Sleeman family’s 1912 Garrett 4CD showman’s engine No. 30959, Cornishman.

This event is the start of the major south-west rally season and contains the full range of preservation machinery from steam, tractors, commercials to cars and stationary engines for starters. The organisers worked hard to ensure the show ran smoothly, especially after heavy rain on the build-up before the opening day.

Abbey Hill Steam Rally

This 1930 Foden No.13762 tractor, owned by Tristan Jones, was last at Abbey Hill in 2015 and has only recently seen its boiler work completed. It was purchased by Tristan’s father 52 years ago.

The kaleidoscope of entries was also fitting as this was the first Abbey Hill following the passing of two long-standing members. Starting from the second show, Cecil ‘Ces’ Turner was, as it stands, the longest serving committee member at 42 years. Cecil ran the motorcycle section after taking over from Buzz Nowell. The section is now run by his granddaughter, Mandy. Cecil was extremely proud of his restored 1933 James 500cc V-twin ‘Flying Ghost’ motorcycle.  Cecil’s greatest legacy is the Yeovil Freewheelers Blood Bike Charity, an organisation he started in 1978 and which is now the longest continuously operational group in the country.

Abbey Hill Steam Rally

The ‘Best Working Area exhibit’ went to Richard Randall and his 1920 Witte that was made in Kansas City, USA.

Alan Gordon Fry from Tintinhull, near Yeovil was a founder member and pillar of the steam preservation movement. The diligent efforts of the committee, supporters and exhibitors were a fitting reflection of Cecil and Alan’s kind natures and considerable achievements.

Abbey Hill Steam Rally

Two of the Fowlers at the show with the 8in Burrell Gold Medal of Clive Poole, who used to own the oldest Clayton & Shuttleworth roller, which he sold in 2015.

Making its debut at Abbey Hill was 1912 Garrett 4CD No. 30959, BJ 1458, owned by Terry Sleeman from Cornwall, which originally worked on timber haulage in south Wales. This was acquired from Chris Vincent and was  previously owned by the True family and had been converted to a showman’s in 1970. Terry has owned the 4CD for four years but it’s more often shown at Cornish rallies. We understand No. 30959 spent its working life with a timber merchant in South Wales.

Abbey Hill Steam Rally

The John Reeves Trophy for Best Miniature went to the 2017-2018 Burrell 4in road locomotive Macbeth, owned by Mark and Elizabeth Cassel from Dorset.

Also here was the 2017 Foster compound traction engine ‘new build’ Forever of Tom Prout, built by Mathew Sheldon. Tom also aims to increase the current two speeds to three. There was an  8in scale Burrell Gold Medal entered in the miniature section appearing at Abbey Hill for the first time with current owner Clive Poole from Bideford, Devon.

Abbey Hill Steam Rally

This International 10-20 carries a winch on the back.

The James family had booked in 270 tractors with help from former tractor stewards Tony and Valerie Hamblen. One of the vintage stars was a 1927 International 10-20, serial number KC84921, owned by Lee Curtis from Devon. This was acquired from a Cheffins Cambridge sale and features a rare PTO-driven rear winch.

The Magpie Cup went to Alan Chesterman for his original 1968 Nuffield 4/65.

Other notable highlights included a 1945 John Deere Model D which has been in the Baker family for over 40 years, along with an Allis Chalmers G, which Allis collector Dave Mason noted was assembled in France and carries a Peugeot engine, with mower, and was purchased from the Netherlands.

David and Mary Chapman, Hannah Chapman (daughter), Oliver Vauden (grandson) and Nick Powell (future son-in-law) and owner of the Lister D, 11-year-old Tommie Powell.

The Magpie Cup went to Alan Chesterman for his original 1966 Nuffield 4/60 and was chosen by Dan and Charlie Holland. The award reflects a tractor they like, in this case the Nuffield, in original condition and in regular use on their farm for topping and harrowing.

Mike Marshall’s latest purchase is this Roadless Fordson Dexta, of which fewer than 80 genuine examples were made.

Best Scammell in Show went to Noah Bacon from Bude, Cornwall and his 1961 Scammell Highwayman which has served as a showman’s lorry since the 1980s. Noah continues to use his 180 Gardner-powered Scammell in the fairground arena. Best Working Area exhibit prize went to Richard Randall from Dorset for his reciprocating wood saw powered by a 1920s Witte (from Kansas City, USA) single-cylinder engine.

The Massey Ferguson 50B loader backhoe of GA Doble, from Somerton, and the International B100 Drott 4-in-1 of Rob Fry, from Mosterton.

Over 170 stationary engines were looked after by steward Max Woodbury who had here a 1915 Sylvester 1.5hp open-crank, the only known example in the United Kingdom and stated to be one of only six ever made. Max says: “the engines were made by a gentleman who used to work for the Associated Manufacturers Co and then he started his own business making Sylvester engines for railway trolley carts in North America, of course.”

The ‘Best Scammell In Show’ award went to Noah Bacon’s Highwayman.

The stationary engine section is a fitting place to finish as I met new preservation enthusiasts like 11-year old Tommie Powell with his 1938 1.5hp Lister D HR running a Climax water pump. Tommie’s Lister D used to be owned by stationary engine enthusiast and long-time Abbey Hill supporter Phil Watson from Castle Cary. Phil passed away recently and fellow enthusiasts David and Mary Chapman were lucky enough to acquire his collection. They gave Tommie Phil’s red Lister D as a Christmas present. Tommie cleaned and fixed up the engine and Abbey Hill 2024 was his first event.

Thanks to Mike Toop, Mark Fry and Abbey Hill stewards and committee member.

This feature comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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