Scope and Content

Consists of ledgers sales and general and index book 1908-1963; petty cash books 1936-1968; day books sales and day books purchases 1926-1968; journal sales returns 1900-1968; journal purchases returns 1914-1967; journal transfers 1908-1959; cost book of individual jobs 1901-1949; cost books stock orders 1909-1920; cost books materials 1906-1937; cost books wages 1906-1941; cost books individual jobs internal 1909-1949; wages books 1932-1968; copy books invoices 1933-1958; labour records 1898-1911; plans of works 1968; materials records 1900-1920's; registers of goods received 1933-1962; advice books 1937-1965; price books 1910-1930; limited company records 1894-1930; property records 1893-1954; patenting records 1891-1909; detail package and despatch books 1937-1968; requisition books 1914-1935; advertising and servicing publications including a history of the firm 1980; house journal 1969

Administrative / Biographical History

The Wantage Engineering Company Limited was the name adopted in 1900 for a firm that traced its origins to 1826, when John Austin opened an ironfounding business in the town of Wantage, Berkshire. Austin ran a small business, which made mainly ploughs, haymaking implements and threshing machines. He also undertook general foundry and blacksmithing work for local customers.

In 1833 both Austin and his young son died, leaving no successor in the family. The chief foreman of the works, Charles Hart, took on the management of the business. In the 1840s, Hart's trade suddenly increased, following his successes in showing implements at the shows of the Royal Agricultural Society, which had recently been established. He also introduced Hart's Improved Berkshire Plough, which was favourably received. The increasing business meant that Hart move to larger premises. The new Vale of White Horse Foundry, opened in 1847.

By the 1850s, Hart was making more and larger threshing machines. In particular he was developing designs of machine for steam power. At this time he sold as agent the steam engines produced by other firms, such as Clayton and Shuttleworth, to work with his machines.

Hart took on new partners in 1857, bothers John and Henry Gibbons. John left after a very short while, to be replaced by a third brother Philip. The new partnership traded as Hart, Gibbons and Gibbons. After Hart retired in 1858 through ill health the bothers carried on and changed the name in about 1860 to P. and H. P. Gibbons.

Gibbons decided it was time to enter the steam engine market and make their own engines for their threshing machines. The development of the firm, therefore, lay in the manufacture of steam engines, threshing machines and associated equipment. These were what the firm concentrated on for home and export sales. Besides these, ploughs, harrows and other products became of minor importance.

In 1881 Henry Gibbons died, and Philip took on as new partner Arthur Robinson. Robinson was an engineer who was able to develop the designs of the firm's steam engines, so that the firm (Gibbons and Robinson 1881-91, Robinson and Auden 1891-1900) became specialists in traction engines, portable engines and threshing machines, with most of the output going for export.

The firm was incorporated as Robinson and Auden Ltd in 1894. Then in 1900 both Robinson and Auden sold their shareholdings to Lord Wantage, who reconstructed the firm as the Wantage Engineering Company. In the years before the First World War the business was transformed from agricultural steam engineers to a firm specialising in engineering for haulage, railway, mining and conveying.


  • TR WAN/AC1/1-8 Ledgers
  • TR WAN/AC2/1-10 Cash Books
  • TR WAN/AC3/1-11 Day Books
  • TR WAN/AC4/1-6 Journals and Books of Original Entry
  • TR WAN/AC5/1-98 Cost Accounts
  • TR WAN/AC9/1-7 Invoices and Accounting Papers
  • TR WAN/AD2/1 Customer List
  • TR WAN/AD3/1-6 Labour Records
  • TR WAN/AD4/1 Premises Records
  • TR WAN/AD5/1-16 Materials Records
  • TR WAN/AD7/1-2 Commercial Records
  • TR WAN/CO2/1-12 Limited Company Records
  • TR WAN/CO3/1-46 External Agreements
  • TR WAN/CO4/1-14 Property Records
  • TR WAN/CO5/1-9 Patenting Records
  • TR WAN/MP1/1 Registers and Lists of Production
  • TR WAN/MP2/1-6 Manufacturing Working Papers and Details
  • TR WAN/MP3/1-12 Parts, Repairs and Outworks Records
  • TR WAN/P2/A1-4 Advertising and Servicing Publications
  • TR WAN/P4/A1 House Journals
  • TR WAN/SP4/1 Personal Records

Access Information

Available for consultation

Acquisition Information

Records deposited in 1976, 1977 and 1988, T76/1, T76/14, T77/4, DX182


Compiled by Zoe Watson, March 2004

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is available at the Museum of English Rural Life

Conditions Governing Use

Please contact the Archivist

Geographical Names