The Lowcock Plough is a type of turnwrest plough.
It was invented around the 1840’s by a Mr Henry Lowcock of Westerland (near Marldon), Devon, UK. Henry would have been around 29 years of age when it was invented.
The patent specification enrolment is dated June 28, 1844. You can obtain a copy of the patent (in a book of published patents from that era) from Google Books. You will need a Google play account to get the book.
In various articles, Mr Lowcock’s address is also given at St Peter’s St, Tiverton.
According to my Ancestry.com research, I am related to Henry Lowcock. Although, there is sadly no (as you will later learn) Lowcock Plough fortune.
What is a turnwrest plough? from Wikipedia
The turnwrest plough allows ploughing to be done to either side. The mouldboard is removable, turning to the right for one furrow, then being moved to the other side of the plough to turn to the left (the coulter and ploughshare are fixed). In this way adjacent furrows can be ploughed in opposite directions, allowing ploughing to proceed continuously along the field and thus avoiding the ridge and furrow topography.
A full-color advertising leaflet for the Lowcock Plough is available from the Museum of English Rural Life (in Reading) including a color illustration/picture of the plough, Unfortunately, that collection can only be accessed in person.
Fortunately, I do have a copy of the patent illustration for the Lowcock Plough (courtesy of Google) from the patent book mentioned earlier (click the image to expand/view).
An advertisement for the Lowcock Plough, from “The Farmer’s Almanac and Calendar” pp 133. (1844) is below (click the image to expand/view). If you can’t see the image below, it’s because you’re using an Ad Blocker (yes, even 1844 ads get blocked).
The advertisement lists Henry Lowcock as the inventor, the manufacturer as J.R. and A. Ransome, Ipswich, and the mechanic as R. Adams. To order the plough, a letter to Mr Ransome of Ipswich or Mr Lowcock of Westerland, Marldon, Devon, would be met with “prompt attention”. The price is listed as £6 6s or about £574 today according to measuring worth (~US$750) .
Mr Ransome (J Allen Ransome) did publish a “Treatise on the Implements of Agriculture” in 1844 that features a picture of the plough. It seems Mr Ransome was quite an expert on Agricultural tools of the period, with an earlier version of the document (but no Lowcock Plough) available on archive.org. The actual document I need with the Lowcock Plough is only available from the Museum of English Rural Life (in Reading)
Henry Lowcock seems to have been a prolific advertiser of the Lowcock Plough. “Woolmers Exeter and Plymouth Gazette”, in 1845, featured numerous advertisements for the Lowcock Plough. Of note, these were front-page, double column width ads. As someone who works in media today, extra large non-standard ads on the front page always attract a premium and is only done if you’ve got the money and believe advertising works.
I was able to get a copy of one of Lowcock Plough ads, which also includes a picture! Pictures add even more to the overall cost of the advertisement (click below to expand) so Henry believed in advertising.
I personally like this advertisement. As the drawing is detailed, including the Lowcock name on the plough (excellent branding!). It also includes details as to tests and proven success with the Royal Agricultural Society and various other users. But my favorite part is the stern warning at the end of the ad to pursue anyone who infringes the patent. Clearly Henry Lowcock was protective of his plough patent. The address for orders is given as Paignton, Marldon.
Lowcock Plough Manufacturing
The Marldon Local History Group has a page of interviews with residents of Marldon, recalling historic facts. The Memories 3 page, has a transcript from 8th July, 1957 where a Mr Bridgeman recalls his father’s iron foundry. Mr Bridgeman notes that the foundry was in in Compton (Compton Castle is nearby) and that Lowcock Ploughs were made in Compton.
Quoting from the Marldon Local History Group page:
“What did he (Mr Bridgeman’s father) make? When the foundry was started by my father, we made Lowcock’s ploughs, pulled by horses, and that was from a patent of a man who lived in Marldon, and all the castings and all the ploughs were made in Compton. At that time there was three smiths, four forgers and the foundry.”
What’s interesting, is the article then goes on to say that:
“Some ploughs were sent to Australia. But the ploughs didn’t last long. They began to use a balance plough around here.”
So technology eventually evolved away from the Lowcock Plough. That said, it is heyday the Lowcock Plough was definitely a tool for the times. Caistor Heritage makes reference to an article from Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) in 1890, by Dan Pigeon, where it is noted that “the manufacture of even the commoner implements had passed out of the hands of village craftsmen and become transferred to makers possessed of great intelligence, skill and capital” and the Lowcock Plough (1845) is listed amongst other notable inventions such as the portable steam engine, a haymaker (1841), combined threshing machine (1843), straw shaker (1845), improved seed drills, and sprung carts (1843).
The Compton Iron Foundry (near Marldon) ceased operation in the mid 1940’s. It’s also worth noting that I am not sure where Mr Bridgeman fits in relation to Ransome and Adams, whose names are listed in advertisements as manufacturers and the RASE article above. So it is possible the plough was manufactured in other foundries as well.
Award Winning Plough
Henry Lowcock was being honest when he provided testimonials in the advertisement. I found a few examples of the Lowcock Plough winning awards. “Woolmers Exeter and Plymouth Gazette”, Sunday March 4th, 1843, reports that Henry Lowcock’s ploughman, John Talbot, won £2 in the Fourth Class, “Ploughman turning their land all the one way, with a double plough”. As evidenced below (click to expand):
The same article also details the post-winning celebrations, which includes the great comment of people “cheerfully complying” with the request to toast to Henry Lowcock’s success. What’s interesting, is the article dates from 1843 but the Lowcock Plough was only patented in 1844. Digging through archives, I discovered that the 1843 win was the first trial of the Lowcock Plough. No wonder Henry Lowcock needed a drink (image of article below, click to expand), he had won a prize and finally proved his invention to be a success.
A year later, it was reported in “The Illustrated London News” July 27, 1844 that Henry Lowcock received a £5 prize during a showing of the plough at the Cattle Show, Portswood as part of an exhibition of Public Exhibition of Working Implements.
It appears that Henry Lowcock entered Bankruptcy in 1849 according to the London Gazette, with assets sold and distributed around December of that year. A document I found, Focus on Thorverton, lists (from historic records) the bankruptcy and sale of assets of celebrated ploughman Henry Lowcock as a notable event of 1849-1850. The cause of bankruptcy is listed as an “unpredicted severe depression in the market“. For context, 1849 was the year of the Great Potato famine in Ireland (possibly unrelated, but the only major agricultural event that aligns).
What’s clear from the sale of assets is that Henry Lowcock and his family were well-off for the times, as the assets sold include telescopes, a music box, and a magic lantern (an early type of projector). So the Lowcock Plough business had definitely been successful up to that point. The residence at the time is listed as Raddon Court Estate, Thorverton.
The good news is, Henry Lowcock and family recovered from this setback and a few years later were living in a respectable place in the area. Also, Henry still held onto the rights to the Lowcock Plough.
Lowcock Plough, The Great Exhibition, 1851, Crystal Palace, London
Thanks to Google and their scanning of out-of-copyright books, I found reference to Henry Lowcock exhibiting the Lowcock Plough at the Great Exhibition (a pre-cursor to the World Fair) at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. The Lowcock Plough was exhibited in “Class 9: Agricultural and Horticultural Machines and Implements” (pp62). A screenshot of the relevant section from the official catalogue is below (click image to expand).
International Availability: The Lowcock Plough in New Zealand
While sleuthing on Google, I found some ads in the New Zealand “Lyttleton Times“ for the Lowcock Plough. The first ad is from 19th July 1856, this is the year Henry Lowcock and his family moved to Australia (more details below). The ad lists two of Lowcock’s patent turn-wrest ploughs for sale by a A J Arport (As well as a quantity of fencing wire). The ad is below, click to zoom.
On the 4th June, 1866. when Henry Lowcock (now aged 58) and his family would been in Australia for about 10 years by this time, another Lowcock plough is listed for sale. The contact name listed in the advertisement is R Smeaton. A copy of the ad is below (click to zoom). I do want to acknowledge the National Library of New Zealand for copies of these ads.
As the Marldon Local History page shared, the Lowcock Plough’s were being made in Marldon for export to Australia. It’s not clear who imported the plough to New Zealand. Whether it was agent on behalf of Henry, or if Henry had taken up exporting to New Zealand (in addition to Australia). Both ads do mention Lowcock’s patent but the fact they are advertised by separate individuals and not by Henry himself (who was known to advertise), suggests they are used plough’s for sale by the owners.
My Ancestry.com research suggests Henry Lowcock emigrated to Australia on around September 1856 (aged 48) with his wife (Susan Sharland, age 47) and their family. The reasons for this are unknown, it would have been 7 years post-bankruptcy. Maybe the family wanted a fresh start, perhaps they were motivated by the tail-end of the Australian gold rush, or maybe it was the appeal of Australia being granted self-governing status in 1855? Whatever the reason, the entire family moved and paid their own passage to do so.
Family members are listed as Mariann, age 11; Stephen Lowcock, age 20 (my ancestor); and Henry Junior, age 24. The Victoria, Australia, Public Records Office has the details. Ancestry.com does list other family members moving to Australia.
The all arrived in Melbourne on the ship “Beemah”.
Details on Henry Lowcock get bit muddy here, as Henry also had a son called Henry and the stories get intertwined. If you’re reading this and are related, hopefully you can shed some light:
Henry Lowcock Senior
- There is a Henry Lowcock registered as a schoolmaster in Victoria, Australia. His address was listed as Charles St, Prahran, Victoria. Susan Lowcock (need Sharland) is also listed at this address and is listed as passing away on April 18, 1871 (aged 62 years).
- Henry Lowcock senior passed away in Gunnedah, but in 1884 (aged 73). It seems Henry Junior (below) lived in Gunnedah.
- There are details that state two (2) of Henry Seniors children (Mariann and Susan) died while in their 30’s. The cause of death is unknown, but they both died in the same year (1839), although in different months and parts of Australia.
- In 1877, when Henry Lowcock Senior was 66, Ancestry.com lists him as having witnessed the death of grandchild. I am not sure of the name of the child or the parents. Either way, if it was the grandchild of one of his daughter’s, they passed away just 1 year later.
- It is possible that Henry Senior moved in or near to Henry Junior, given the run of tragic family news (Henry Senior’s daughters passing, Henry Junior’s wife passing. the grandchild’s death).
- I am at a dead end any earlier than Henry Lowcock Senior.
Henry Lowcock Junior
- Prior to moving to Australia, Henry Lowcock Junior is listed as attending Blundell’s School, a day and boarding school in Devon. Henry attended when he was 15 3/4 years of age, along with his brother (my ancestor) Stephen Lowcock, who was aged 14 1/4 at the time.
- There is a Henry Lowcock Junior is listed in the Australian National Archives as the Manager of Pullaming Station in 1882. Breaker Morant happened to have worked at Pullaming Station (although I don’t know if Henry was ever Breaker’s boss, as I am uncertain if the dates align).
- Henry Lowcock Junior was married to Ellen Jane Smyth, who passed away at aged 31 (she was a native of Sydney). She was noted in the same National Archives Article, as being the sister of JJ Smyth, a local storekeeper. Henry would have been 48 when his wife, Ellen Lowcock, passed.
- Another version of the article, which I found on the National Archives, provides some other details about Henry Junior’s wife Ellen. Noting she moved to Gunnedah around 13-14 years before her death (~1868) and got married 8 years before her death (~1874).
- If I am getting the math right, Henry Junior would have been around 48 years old at the time of the death of his wife Ellen and Henry Senior around 74 years old.
- I believe Ellen was Henry Junior’s wife but I don’t have an Ancestry subscription to verify against. A reference to Ellen Jane Smyth is all I discovered but I can’t view the age of her husband at the time of marriage, death, etc.
- The National Archives articles about the Henry Junior’s wife’s (Ellen’s) death makes no mention of Henry Senior (or Henry Junior having his father in Gunnedah), but does mention that Henry and his wife had one child, a boy aged about 6 or 7 and they went to Sydney after the death of the mother (she was from Sydney). I can’t find the boys name, Henry Junior and Ellen did have two (2) other children, who passed before Ellen (according FamilySearch.org).
- It makes sense that Henry Senior moved to be with or near Henry Junior (as both would have been widowers) by the 1880s.
- However, it appears that Henry Lowcock Junior may have remarried. FamilySearch.org lists Lily Swete (daughter of Dr Swete) as his wife at the time of his death. They married in 1885 at Pullaming Station.
- I can’t place the date, but there’s a report that a Henry Lowcock was the superintendent of Tocal Station. While the superintendent, he had some horses with his HL brand stolen by bushrangers (thieves). The Bushranger Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt) is associated with this story. Ward lived from 1835-1907. So there’s a chance they were contemporaries, although I have not yet located a record for Henry living in or around Tocal (which is near Patterson/Maitland). There is a report that Henry Lowcock testified at the trial of Federick Ward.
- Henry Lowcock Junior passed away in 1912 in Gunnedah (aged 78). According to a newspaper report, he had been resident of Gunnedah for 45 years at the time of his death.
Lowcock Family Tree (Simplified)
For those trying to reconcile a Lowcock family tree, here’s what I have for those born in Marldon, UK that moved to Australia:
- Henry Lowcock Senior 1811-1884 (aged 73) – Plough Inventor: my ancestor
- Susan (nee Sharland Lowcock) 1809 -1871 (aged 62)
- Henry Lowcock Junior 1834 -1912 (aged 78)
- Ellen Jane (nee Smyth) Lowcock wife 1851 – 1882 (aged 31)
- Arthur Lowcock (son)
- Lily Swete – possible 2nd wife, no details available –
- Ellen Jane (nee Smyth) Lowcock wife 1851 – 1882 (aged 31)
- Stephen Lowcock 1836 -1901 (aged 65) : my ancestor, accidentally killed in a fall from a horse
- Elizabeth Clarkson 1849 – 1904 (aged 55)
- Susan Lowcock Junior 1839 – 1878 (aged 39)
- Edward Hely – no details available –
- John Lowcock 1841 – 1906 (aged 65)
- Mariann Lowcock 1844 – 1878 (aged 34)
- Henry Lowcock Junior 1834 -1912 (aged 78)
If you can provide any clarity on the Lowcock ancestry, contact me. If you’re active on Ancestry.com, I am happy to collaborate on the entire Lowcock family tree.
Do you have a Lowcock Plough?
I find it hard to imagine that any of the Lowcock Plough’s survived to this day but given I have evidence it was was for sale in the UK, exported to Australia and evidence of them New Zealand, perhaps an old one still exists somewhere. One of the reasons I built this page is in the hope that should someone, one day, find the Lowcock Plough or any remnants of it, you would be able to learn more and even contact me.
Lowcock Family History
If you would like to learn more about the Lowcock surname and family history, please visit the Lowcock History page.
This page is maintained by Joshua Lowcock.
Last Updated: Last updated: July 7, 2017 at 8:22 am