Buckland Village, Surrey Buckland Windmill Buckland Windmill Vanes

Buckland Windmill’s Steam Engines

Wantage 1389 & Robinson & Auden 1038

Steam engine photograph

When Duncan and Bridget Ferns were researching the history of the windmill at Yewdells, they were told a traction engine was used as the power for the commercial sawmill at Yewdells. In 2002, a kind neighbour got hold of picture of the traction engine and passed it on to them. They posted it on a traction engine web-site, hoping for an ID. and received several replies. One reply came from John Meredith of York, who had written an article about the history of this very traction engine as recently as 2000:

The engine was a Wantage, purchased by Thomas Sanders (of Yewdells Buckland) in 1900, and in 1953 was owned by Thomas’s son F J Sanders, who was quite emphatic that as long as he was there the engine would stay put. The Wantage firm was established in the Berkshire town in 1847 by Charles Hart. After a number of changes, it became Robinson & Auden in 1892 and produced a series of portable and traction engines. Another change of ownership occurred in 1900 when it became the Wantage Engineering Co Ltd, and the first engine they introduced under the new name was the subject of this article: and 8 hp single cylinder traction engine numbered 1389 and later registered as PB 9722. It was exhibited at the 1900 Smithfield Show and this is possibly where Thomas Sanders saw it, as he purchased the engine in the same month (December) as the show. Thomas Sanders was a carpenter based at Betchworth Rd Buckland, and the engine still carried a Surrey County Council plate No 66 in 1953.

Soon after my visit Barry Finch of Dunton Green, Kent acquired 1389 for preservation, and in 1955-56 it passed to Jim Hutchens of Ferndown, Dorset. A fine restoration job was undertaken, the engine being named Constance and it appeared at the Beaulieu traction Engine Rally in May 1961. Since then it has remained in Dorset and has been successively owned by WDJ Sparrow, Tricketts Cross; J Harris, Poole and A Fizell, Ferndown.

A few Robinson & Auden Engines survive but there is only one other Wantage engine extant in the British Isles today.

From Road Locomotive Society Journal (February 2000).

John visited Yewdells and took photos of the engine back in 1953, with Frank Sanders the owner, in Buckland (Gallery -1). John knew the engine had been sold and restored by 1961 where it appeared at the ceremonial opening of the Beaulieu Traction Engine Rally with Lord Montagu on the footplate (Gallery – 2).

Now knowing the Wantage engine was a bit unusual, a further Web search uncovered the archive history of the Wantage company, held by the English Museum of Rural Life in Reading. Duncan went along to find that the index referred to a ‘file’ of correspondence with Mr Sanders of Buckland. This not only confirmed the purchase of 1389 at the Smithfield show – but there was a copy of the original bill of sale for the price of £475 (Gallery 5). The engine was delivered by railway to Betchworth station (about 1 mile distant from Buckland). In later years, correspondence indicated maintenance engineers from the factory at Wantage would arrive by rail and be collected at the station.

Another web search found the only colour picture Duncan now has – a postcard advertised on ebay of 1389 in 1976, purchased in 2007 (Gallery 3).

And just to confirm that 1389 was used commercially in the saw-yard, Duncan has a photo-postcard (c.1900) with the heading ‘T Sanders Seam Saw Proprietor, Buckland near Betchworth’, and the engline linked to belt-driven circular saw; courtesy of Tim Winter of Haslemere, Hampshire in August 2008 (Gallery 4).

It is feared that 1389 is no longer in roadworthy condition, and its exact whereabouts are currently unknown. If anyone can help Duncan please send Duncan an email!

The museum file also detailed that 1389 was not the only purchase from this company. Earlier in December 1892 Mr Sanders had bought a Robinson & Auden ‘7 HP Portable Steam Engine, No 1038. Mounted on wrought iron travelling wheels, fitted with a quick speed governor & equipped with the necessary sets of firing tools, spanners & waterproof cover. This cost £160. (Gallery 6). He also purchased a 42” diameter circular saw (from Sheffield) and a hammering saw.

Jan Spencer (Surrey Industrial History Group) followed a quest to find this Robinson & Auden engine, should it still exist. In summer 2008, he arrived one evening with a photograph (Gallery 7) of this exact Robinson & Auden engine, 1038, fully restored and looking excellent. He took the photograph in Essen, Germany, at the Wurt Museum in 2008.

For steam engines, this is one cool story.

Further Resources