Steam Farm


Ever heard of a clover huller? Or a potato riddler? Head on down to our steam farm to learn about the applications of steam in agriculture.

Watch as the vertical boiler and horizontal stationary steam engine work together to drive the line shaft. Follow your eyes along the series of belts and pulleys to see how kinetic energy powers the machinery. 

Here is displayed a wide range of machinery used to prepare feed stuffs for animals on a large farm is represented in the farm buildings. Driven by line-shafting, power is from a Robinson horizontal steam engine, built at Rochdale in Lancashire over 100 years ago, which for many years was used to drive a well pump at Basing House.


Farming with Steam

The application of steam to agriculture spurred on change in the countryside right from the early 1800s.

Mainly used for driving threshing machines, to separate grain from
the stalks, and land cultivation, mechanisation was not liked by farm workers and riots ensued. However, progress was inevitable, as was the loss of jobs, which led to an exodus of people from the countryside to the new factories in cities.

You can see a variety of farm machinery and agricultural traction engines at Hollycombe. The open barn contains many examples found on a farm, including a butter churn, a cider press, corn mill, root cutter and clover huller. These are driven by belting from line- shafting – a typical way of driving several devices from one engine.


Steam Threshing

An early use of steam was to separate the grain from cereal crops. Originally this was a very labour-intensive process done by beating the corn with sticks. This was replaced by winnowing machines inside barns. Mobile threshing machines were introduced, driven at first by an engine which had to be pulled around by horses. Later, threshing sets – traction engine, threshing machine and elevator or baler – would be hauled from farm to farm by the engine which would then drive the machinery by a belt from its flywheel.


Steam Ploughing

A major advance was the introduction of steam ploughing. In the 1870s, a two engine system was developed using a pair of engines, one on each headland, pulling a plough or cultivator across the field between them. This system was used until the Second World War when the petrol tractor became more common. Until a few years ago, a few steam ploughing engines were still used for dredging large ponds.