Nothing is more pleasant to the eye than green grass, finely shorn.

FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626)


Cutting Edge

In the 18th century, lawns were cut by men with made-to-measure scythes. To change the height of the grass they strapped blocks of wood to the soles of their boots, rather than trying to adjust the height at which they swung the scythe. (This was partly because if they got it wrong and hit the ground they'd immediately blunt the blade). In 1830 a foundryman called Edwin Beard Budding was working in a textile mill in Stroud, Gloucester, where he designed a machine to trim the nap off the cloth for Guardsmen's uniforms. It occurred to him that he could adapt the design to lawn-mowing, but this idea was so widely ridiculed that he tested his machine at night, so no one would see him.
Budding’s invention democratised grass. Urban parks became possible, as did games like cricket, soccer, tennis and croquet – and, eventually, lawns in every domestic garden. Before the mower, a neat lawn was a luxury item with high maintenance costs; you needed an army of scythe-men and/or a flock of sheep for its upkeep. Afterwards, the odds of being able to afford a nice lawn were significantly higher.


Were we closer to the ground as children, or is the grass emptier now?

The prototype flymo was a dustbin lid with an engine stuck on it.

Celebrity Mowers

The British Lawnmower Museum in Southport, Merseyside, has an exhibition called 'Lawnmowers of the Rich and Famous'. It has over 300 exhibits, including machines previously owned by Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Nicholas Parsons, Alan Titchmarsh, Vanessa Feltz, Brian May, Roger McGough, and executioner Albert Pierrepoint. There’s also a British Lawnmower Racing Association (Stirling Moss won the Grand Prix in both 1975 and 1976), which claims to offer the cheapest form of motorsport in the UK and to have a lot of support at the grass roots level.

Many early lawnmowers were horse-drawn - the horses wore leather boots to avoid leaving hoof marks on the lawn.


There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.

The archives of the University of Hull contain Philip Larkin's lawnmower.

kept a flock of sheep on the White House lawn. He sold the wool and gave the money to the Red Cross.

Five species of grass account for half the calories in the human diet.