Rare 1930s sheep shearing set spotted at car show!

Posted by Chris Graham on 20th October 2022

Mark Tewkesbury reports on an unusual, 1930s sheep shearing set made in Birmingham, that he spotted at the recent Cranleigh Car Show.

1930s sheep shearing set

1930s sheep shearing set: The complete set, seen driving a small Lister H1 pump as well.

While at the recent Cranleigh Car Show (August 13th -14th) I came across quite an unusual sheep shearing set. Manufactured by the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co Ltd of Witton, in Birmingham, it unusually, had a Fowler engine installed to drive the two shears.

An advert for Wolseley shearing sets showing the previous power plant, namely a Wolseley ‘Mighty Atom’ made from a Ruston-Hornsby Class PT engine.

Wolseley was, of course, well known for its shearing equipment, and was making these sorts of sets right from the company’s entry into the stationary engine market, back in 1909. What’s lesser known, however, is that in the mid-1930s Wolseley’s then-current engine, the Cub or pre-WD to some, hadn’t enjoyed great sales success, and production was duly stopped. The company started relying on bought-in engines instead, and these came initially from Ruston & Hornsby, in the form of the Class PT engines built to Wolseley specification. But when this arrangement dried-up – no doubt due to war work commitments – another engine had to be sourced.

Another advert, this time showing that Wolseleys were agents for Fowler engines.

One engine that seemed to have had favour with the WarAg committee was the Fowler PA series, and so these were supplied in a form adapted to Wolseley spec, namely two flywheels being the most important factor for driving a pair of shearing heads. By 1943, Wolseley had managed to gain permission to build its own engines based on the Ruston & Hornsby PT design, and started supplying them to the home market under the designation ‘WD1’.

1930s sheep shearing set

Seen from the shearing end, you can see the skinny, three-slot flywheels and just how close the belts run to the fuel tank.

The set in question is powered by a Fowler 1PAAL with the number P10966 that dates the unit to approx. 1939/40, and appears in David Edgington’s book Fowler P type engines, when it was in the ownership of Bob Brown. Since then, it’s ‘been around the houses’ until recently purchased by Philip Sampson and, after some minor tinkering, was re-commissioned just in time to attend its first rally for some years. We can but guess that it may once have been owned by a Sussex Downland farmer to shear his flock of sheep.

1930s sheep shearing set

A close-up of the governor side, showing the nameplate and the fact this is a 1PAAL and, therefore, has two flywheels.


Another closer view of the engine. Note that the carburettor is the opposite hand from normal, to allow the belt clearance to drive the shearing head.

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


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