The scythe and similar tools were used for cutting corn and hay up to the middle of the 19th century when mechanical reapers began to appear. The side delivery sail reaper, made by A C Bamlett, shown on the left probably dates from around the 1870’s. The sails pushed the corn onto cutters and then round to the side where it lay in neat rows to be picked up and formed into sheaves.
A later development was the self-binding side delivery reaper binder with sail arms and conveyor belt. The one in the museum dates from 1896 and was made by Massey Harris. The sails pushed the corn onto the cutters, which was then carried by a canvas conveyor belt to the side of the machine where it was tied in a sheath and discharged into the field. A similar model is on video at the museum shown working on a farm at Egerton in the 1930’s.
The sheaves of corn were collected and placed together to make a stook. These were left in the field to dry before being taken back to the barn or stack for later processing. The photo on the left was taken in August 2001 and shows stooks in a field near Faversham, which were cut by a reaper binder similar to the one above.
When the corn was dry it was taken back to the farm by wagon. Most counties in Britain had their own style of wagon and the one on the left is one, which was built at Willesborough in Kent at the end of the 19th century. The style was called ‘Plain Jane’ because of its appearance. It is also called a pole wagon because of the poles in each corner to stop the load from falling off.
The other large wagon in the museum originated from the South Midlands but was modified and used in Sussex. It was made around 1880 and the regional variations are clearly visible.
There are two other box wagons in the museum, although these are sometimes called trolleys as the front wheels can turn under the body. They were both built at the end of the 19th century and were used until the 1960’s. One was used on the Isle of Thanet, mainly carrying broccoli and the other took sheep to Ashford market. In the open stall outside there is another small wagon and a cart.