Vintage kings of the fields are fired up

Tractor Fest at Newby Hall, Ripon
Tractor Fest at Newby Hall, Ripon
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In two weeks thousands of people from across the country and from as far afield as Germany and Holland will descend on Ripon to pay homage to the humble tractor.

These won’t just be any old tractors. A whole fleet of up to 800 are expected; polished and transported to Newby Hall by collectors for Tractor Fest 2014. Vintage machines from as early as the late 19th century will be lined up for enthusiasts to admire.

Richard Sturdy, chairman of the Yorkshire Vintage Association which organises the event each year, said: “The Tractor Fest at Newby is the leading tractor show in the North and probably in the UK.”

This year’s theme is the ‘Single Cylinder Tractor’.

“Most people think of the Marshall as the iconic single cylinder tractor so the event will be strongly supported by the Marshall’s Collectors Club and the leading suppliers of Marshall spares, Robert Crawford & Son of Lincolnshire.

“We also have the Hornsby oil tractor from 1898, the oldest tractor in the UK. It’s single cylinder and wasn’t a great success in 1898 when there wasn’t much acceptance of oil tractors. Everyone was into steam; oil took a while to catch on. It was very heavy and not so powerful but it’s a marvellous piece of history.

“There will also be a single cylinder Fairbanks Morse; a Canadian prairie tractor. It’s from around 1908, comes from a local collection and was used to break the virgin prairie land at the beginning of the century.”

A single cylinder Mogul tractor from 1915 is being transported to Ripon from Weilheim in southern Germany and it’s hoped that the gathering will attract the largest ever assembly of Moguls, which Richard

reckons currently stands at

less than 20.

To add variety, there will be as many as 500 cars on show featuring all sorts of models of Fords from the early Model Ts onwards.

“Every year we try to feature a different make. Henry Ford was a great engineer. Among the motors will be my wife’s 1929 Ford Model A which still runs like new,” Richard said.

There will be other forms of vintage transportation including a display of historic emergency vehicles.

Retired ambulance man, Alan Dunderdale is travelling to the two-day festival from his home in Burnley to show his 1960s Austin Gipsy fire appliance and trailer pump. The vehicle dates from 1963 and was originally owned by the Cornwall County Fire Brigade, serving at Bodmin and then Helston 20 years later.

It provided a vital service for a remote hamlet of six houses that was only accessible by a small foot bridge. The only appliance to tow a pump, it pumps 350 gallons of water a minute, as does the trailer. The vehicle finished active service in February 1985.

Alan, who used to work for South Yorkshire Ambulance service, owns a fleet of emergency service vehicles which he is painstakingly restoring. They include a pre-production prototype of the Austin Gipsy Wadham Stringer Ambulance and, most recently, an Austin Gipsy police mobile column vehicle.

“As a former ambulance man, I jumped at the chance of adding to my collection and buying an Austin Gipsy Wadham Stringer Ambulance,” Alan explained. “I spotted the ambulance abandoned in a field and had to wait a year for it to come up for sale. It turned out to be a very special vehicle – one of only two pre-production prototypes built.

“I bought it as a long-term restoration project over five years – but that was before my move to Burnley and getting married. Lack of space meant that I could not bring the ambulance home so restoration work had to be delayed for about 18 months, so I’m really happy to be working on it again now and I will hopefully be bringing it to Tractor Fest 2015.”

Newby Hall’s estate manager Stuart Gill says preparations are already underway to accommodate the large gathering of machinery. Some 9,000 people attended Tractor Fest last year – a new record – and Mr Gill is proud of the event’s growth.

“It’s one of our biggest events of the year now. Tractor Fest has grown exponentially from its first one about seven years ago and it’s a great way for Newby to reaffirm its links with the agricultural world.

“The house here is full of Georgian grandeur and the grounds date back much later than that, from the 1930s onwards, so to have vintage tractors here that would have been a very common sight in the fields around Newby in the 1920s, 30s and 40s is a great thing to see.

“The frisson of excitement as the first tractors arrive on the Thursday night and Friday morning is a highlight for me, and the smell of diesel engines and the noise of the very soft put-put-put of the engines means early summer and tractor show.”

Not just for collectors

Families and not just tractor enthusiasts are attracted to Newby Hall for Tractor Fest on the weekend of June 7-8.

A ‘March of the Tractors’ sees a parade driven from Newby Hall at 5pm on the Saturday, bound for Ripon market square where the machines are parked for visitors to take photographs and to mingle with collectors.

There will be more than 1,000 exhibits on display at the event in total, including working machinery, tractor and trailer rides, vintage tractor pulling, food stalls and trade stands.

Tickets are £9.50 adults, £8.50 concessions and £7.50 children. For more details, see