Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies

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Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies Limited
(from 1911) public listed company
IndustryAgricultural engineering,
General engineering,
FateTaken over
PredecessorRansomes partnerships
SuccessorTextron Inc.
Foundedof company 1884, of enterprise before 1789
HeadquartersIpswich, England
ProductsPloughs, Traction engines, Threshing machines, Combine harvesters, Lawn mowers, Trolleybuses, Forklifts etc
Websitewww.jacobsen.com/europe Edit this on Wikidata

Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies Limited was a major British agricultural machinery maker also producing a wide range of general engineering products in Ipswich, Suffolk including traction engines, trolleybuses, ploughs, lawn mowers, combine harvesters and other tilling equipment. Ransomes also manufactured Direct Current electric motors in a wide range of sizes, and electric forklift trucks and tractors. They manufactured aeroplanes during the First World War. Their base, specially set up in 1845, was named Orwell Works.

Ransomes' railway equipment business was hived off in 1869 with a different ownership as Ransomes & Rapier and based nearby at Waterside Ironworks.


18th century[edit]

Ransome Victory Plough, Monze, Zambia

The enterprise was started by Robert Ransome (1753-1830), a brass and iron-founder in Norwich before moving to Ipswich in 1789 where he started casting ploughshares in a disused malting at St Margaret's Ditches in Ipswich, with capital of £200 and one employee. As a result of a mishap in his foundry, a broken mould caused molten metal to come into contact with cold metal, making the metal surface extremely hard – chilled casting – which he advertised as 'self sharpening' ploughs, and received patents for his discovery.[1]

Thrashing machine advertisement c.1885

19th century[edit]

In 1809 Robert Ransome made his eldest son, James Ransome (1782–1849), his partner and they called themselves Ransome & Son. In 1826 James's son known as Allen but technically James Allen Ransome (1806–1875) went to live at Yoxford, Suffolk, where he established a branch of the business. In 1839 Allen Ransome moved from Yoxford to Ipswich and under his direction the firm of J, R & A Ransome (James, Robert and Allen Ransome) was to assume huge proportions.[2] After about 1841 the manufacture of ploughs and other agricultural machinery was supplemented by production of portable, traction and other steam engines and thrashing machines.[3]

In the middle decades of the 19th century the company produced heavy iron work for astronomical telescopes, mountings, and observatories.[4]

These included

Preserved, 1910-built, 4nhp light steam tractor "Back' us Boy"

In 1851 export trade was initiated which by the early 20th century was more important than the home market and included distributing agencies throughout the world with a branch establishment in Odessa.[3]

In 1869 four engineers, Allen, who remained the senior partner in the parent firm, his elder son R.J. Ransome, R.C. Rapier and A.A. Bennett, took the firm's railway department aside from the parent business and established Ransomes & Rapier at Riverside Works, Ipswich.

An independent factory was set up for the manufacture of lawn mowers of every class[3] Ransomes produced the 'Automaton' hand-powered lawn mower in 1867.[10]

20th century[edit]

In 1902 Ransomes produced the first commercially available powered lawn mower, driven by an internal combustion gasoline engine.

In the First World War, they manufactured aeroplanes: 350 Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b fighters.

In the 1950s Ransomes started producing forklifts, Class 1 Lift Code 5 (Electric Sit Down Counterbalance). With the start of production of the A Series, Ransomes forklifts were sold by the Hyster dealership network under Hyster serial number codes (A21R, A22R, A23R - the R standing for Ransomes Ipswich plant). The codes still show in the Hyster serial number system.

Ransomes also started producing Class 2 Lift Code 3 (Electric Stand On Reach Straddle) machines. Later the company expanded to producing Class 6 Lift Code 1 (Electric Tow Tractors).

When Hyster Corporation bought Lewis Sheppard, the largest market for Ransomes forklifts disappeared. In the early 1980s Ransomes sold their forklift line to Hawkins Mechanical Handling, which produced machines under the Hamech Ransomes brand name. Hawkins Mechanical Handling was later purchased by Crown, and the Hamech name retired, until 2004, when Crown brought it back for use in an Internal Combustion Engined forklift line.

Ransomes also made electric stillage-carrying trucks for use in factories.

In 1989 the whole of the agricultural implement business was sold to Electrolux and merged with their subsidiary Överum.

This left Ransomes solely as a manufacturer of lawn mowers, with the Ransomes, Westwood and Mountfield mower brands. The company accepted a take-over offer from Textron Inc., USA, and their independent existence ended early in 1998. Westwood and Mountfield were later sold in a management buyout.[11]

The history of the company and preceding businesses is the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket, Suffolk and they are also represented in Ipswich Transport Museum.


Ransomes 24 MK3 with trailered seat powered by a 5hp Briggs and Stratton I/C

Ransomes to this day still produce a variety of grass cutting equipment. From professional high quality turf machines to more industrial gang mowers for use on wider areas such as public parks etc. Yet they do still make a range of pedestrian mowers for use on manicured lawns and bowling greens for example.


The business begun by Robert Ransome was later owned as partners by various individuals. The different names or styles by which the one enterprise was known before it was bought in 1884 by the limited liability joint-stock company Ransomes, Sims & Jeffries Limited were:

  • 1789 Robert Ransome. sole trader on his own account
  • 1809 Ransome & Son. Owners Robert (1753-1830) and his son James Ransome (1782-1849)
  • 1818 Ransome & Sons. Owners Robert the elder and his sons James and Robert Ransome (1795-1864)
  • 1823 J & R Ransome. Owners brothers James and Robert Ransome
  • 1830 J R and A Ransome. Owners James and Robert Ransome and James's son Allen (James Allen Ransome) (1806-1875)
  • 1835 Ransomes & May. Owners Ransomes and Charles May
  • 1852 Ransomes & Sims. Owners Ransomes and William Dillwyn Sims who replaces May
  • 1869 Ransomes, Sims & Head. Owners now joined by John Head (and as this company exhibited in Lima in 1872.[12] Separate firm Ransomes & Rapier took railway department
  • 1881 Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies. Owners J R and A Ransome, William Head and John Robert Jefferies (1841-1900)
  • 1884 Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies Limited, a limited liability company, was incorporated and it purchased the business from the former partners
  • 1911 Public listed company. In June 1911 £250,000 of preference shares were offered to the public and they were listed on the London Stock Exchange
Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies
Old steam power engine in a park in Stellenbosch, South Africa
Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies plate with serial number on the steam power engine in Stellenbosch


Ransomes & May 1848 catalogue

  • Ploughs
  • Scarifiers
  • Cultivators
  • Rollers
  • Clod crushers
  • Corn gatherers
  • Dag rakes
  • Stack stands
  • Thrashing machines
  • Winnowing machines
  • Chaff engines
  • Turnip cutters
  • Mills


  • "Good Ploughing" by E.J. Roworth, published by Ransomes Sims & Jefferies Ltd. 1973?


  1. ^ Kenneth J Goward. "The Ransomes Connection To Orwell Park Observatory". Archived from the original on 4 April 2008.
  2. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Ransome, Robert" . Dictionary of National Biography. 47. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. ^ a b c Ransomes Sims And Jefferies, Limited. The Times, Wednesday, Jun 07, 1911; pg. 18; Issue 39605
  4. ^ "Ransomes' Astronomical Equipment". oasi.org.uk. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  5. ^ "The Royal Observatory Greenwich - where east meets west: Telescope: Airyâ's Altazimuth Telescope (1847)". www.royalobservatorygreenwich.org. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  6. ^ "1871MNRAS..31..103. Page 103". articles.adsabs.harvard.edu. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  7. ^ "The Equatoreal Motion" (PDF). p. 4. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  8. ^ "The Greenwich Meridian - where east meets west: Airy Transit Circle (ATC)". www.thegreenwichmeridian.org. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Greenwich Observatory notes: The Great Equatorial". rog1894notes.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  12. ^ "The Engineer". 30 August 1872: 148. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)


  • Ransomes Sims & Jefferies: Agricultural Engineers - Brian Bell, Old Pond Publishing Ltd (2001), ISBN 1-903366-15-1

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