Three manufacturers of tractor emerged who could supply farmers with reliable, cheap tractors – David Brown, Fordson and Ferguson. The tractor not only began to replace horses but changed agricultural methods forever. Production increased as a tractor could plough or cultivate much more land than a horse. The binder disappeared and was replaced by the combine harvester. Grain from combines initially was run into large sacks frequently weighing sixteen stones. These were later collected and put onto trailers. This method was replaced by the collection of loose grain into trailers and then tipped into large sheds or silos.
Ferguson revolutionised the tractor. It no longer was a vehicle that just pulled trailed implements after he incorporated a three-point linkage onto the Grey Ferguson. The Little Grey Fergie, as it became known, also had a power-take-off (P.T.O.) enabling the tractor to drive implements. Before this, implements were wheel driven. Now tractors could tip trailers, drive balers, muckspreaders, spray crops with chemicals and carry bales behind the tractor. In short, the tractor had not only replaced the horse as the main source of power on the farm, it had revolutionised agriculture. However, although working horses were becoming fewer in number, it took many years for them to virtually disappear from most farms. In September 1965 there were still twenty one thousand horses being used for agricultural purposes in Britain.
To conclude, the loss of the working horse in rural England in the twentieth century was inevitable. The demand for more food during two world wars demanded higher productivity from the land, and this could only be achieved by the use of tractors. The ploughing of grassland for the use of arable crops could not have been achieved with only horse power. The later post war policy ensured high productivity and efficiency would be required of British farmers. There was no return to extensive types of farming and a reversion of the plough policy after the Second World War. As time progressed the tractor became more versatile, more reliable and affordable. The invention of the P.T.O by Ferguson made the tractor more than a pulling machine, like the horse. Nowadays one sees working horses at ploughing matches throughout the country, but one rarely sees a horse ploughing at a genuine working farm. Perhaps, in these times of bio fuels we may see the horse reappear in the countryside, but it is unlikely it can ever replace the tractor.
22/3/09, Jonathan Severs, B.A History (Hons), York St John.
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Primary Sources and Journals
Caunce, S, Twentieth-Century Farm Servants: The Horselads of the East Riding of Yorkshire, found at: www.bahs.org.uk/39n2a5.pdf, accessed 2/12/08.
Davidson, T, Plough Rituals In England and Scotland, p.30, found at: http://www.bahs.org.uk/07n1a4.pdf, accessed 1/3/09.
M.A.F.F, A Century of Agricultural Statistics, Great Britain 1866-1966, London, (1968).
Storey, N, Ancestors at Work, Ploughmen and Penny Boys, in Family Tree, (09/06).
David Brown Tractor Club, found at :http://www.davidbrowntractorclub.com/David%20Brown%20History.htm, accessed 23/1/09.
Ferguson Family Museum, found at: http://www.ferguson-museum.co.uk/index.php, accessed, 29/1/09.
The Little Grey Fergie, A Legend In Its Own Lifetime, found at: http://www.myfergie.co.uk/index.html, accessed 29/1/09.
 T. Davidson, Plough Rituals In England and Scotland, p.30.
 Ibid, p.31.
] One cannot help but think of the chaos and lawsuits that would result from such an act today, especially with a large modern 200hp tractor and eight furrow plough.