Rare early tractor set to return to Essex town where it was made

A rare and historic Crawley Agrimotor farm machine, made in 1920, was auctioned in Ely. Picture: Che

A rare and historic Crawley Agrimotor farm machine, made in 1920, was auctioned in Ely. Picture: Cheffins. - Credit: Cheffins

A rare Essex relic of a bygone farming era has fetched double its pre-sale estimate at auction after a bidding battle.

A rare and historic Crawley Agrimotor farm machine, made in 1920, was auctioned in Ely. Picture: Che

A rare and historic Crawley Agrimotor farm machine, made in 1920, was auctioned in Ely. Picture: Cheffins. - Credit: Cheffins

The early tractor, a 1920 Crawley Agrimotor, is set to return to its home town of Saffron Walden after it was snapped up by a local vintage collector for nearly £68k.

“This important early British tractor is a well-known example and is one of just six Crawley Agrimotors known to have survived preservation,” said auctioneers Cheffins, as it went under the hammer at its Ely sale on October 20.

The Agrimotor was invented and manufactured in Saffron Walden, in 1920. It was the brainchild of Albert Edward Crawley, who came up with the idea of a motor plough after leaving school at aged 14 in 1906. Two years later, he and brother, Arthur, who farmed at Hadstock, near Saffron Walden, built a working prototype.

By 1913 an agreement was reached for Garretts of Leiston to manufacture it at its factory, but only three machines were ever built. By 1914 the Crawley brothers established their own manufacturing facilities at the Tower Works in Saffron Walden, where production continued until around 1924. The machines were a huge hit with buyers, with machines exported as far afield as Australia and the Middle East.

The machine is now regarded as a significant milestone in farm machinery development.

The model auctioned, No. 234, was sold new into Suffolk, and was possibly one of three supplied to Frank Sainsbury, of the supermarket family, who farmed near Haverhill.

Most Read

It later moved to Great Finborough where it was requisitioned by the Home Guard during the Second World War so that it could be used to barricade the road into the village.

The ancient machine was rescued in the early 1960s by contractor Robert Miles of Great Ashfield. It was then sold again in 1993 and has since been exhibited widely by the previous owner.

Cheffins chairman Bill King said: “The Agrimotor was the highest result of the day and it was great to see this important machine returning to its home town of Saffron Walden.

“As one of only six of these original tractors still in existence, the Agrimotor generated much interest ahead of the auction and sold for over double its pre-sale estimate after competitive bidding from a series of buyers.”