Scope and Content

Contains: private ledgers 1884-1944; memorandum account books 1895-1925, nominal ledger 1920-1939; analysis books of cost accounts 1885, 1936-1939; papers concerning Orwell Works cost accounts system 1856-1878; wage analysis sheets 1871-1939; salaries books 1887-1907, 1926-1940; general account book 1804-1832; account book of James Ransomes' foundry business at Great Yarmouth 1805-1807; summary accounts 1884-1901; financial statements 1837-1883, 1941-1971; accounts of Princes St Warehouse Ipswich 1916-1948; financial statements of Odessa Branch account 1892-1919; invoices 1834-1859; list of outstanding debts 1920; directors minute books 1884-1937; reports of proceedings of directors meetings 1919-1939; notebooks re sales, engineering department, ploughs, staff 1881-1950; papers concerning Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies and the Second World War 1940-1944; papers concerning applications to Queens award to industry 1966; registers of workmen 1793-1922; notebook concerning events effecting the Wages and Cost Department especially labour relations and trade unionism 1887-1924; apprenticeship indentures 1822, 1854, 1856; register of abstracts of apprenticeship indentures 1838-1872; contracts and letters concerning employment 1900-1920; rules for relief fund and friendly society 1817-1842; list of invalids absent from work 1838-1849; letters and memorandum to staff 1852-1969; plans of Orwell works 1846-1860, 1916-1918; papers relating to alterations of the premises 1870, 1918, 1963; analysis and notebooks concerning goods dispatched 1861-1891; oil fuel book 1926-931; papers concerning materials supplied on government contracts 1939-1943; papers concerning Ransome's termination of wooden thrashing machines 1955; memorandum concerning steam engine patterns will be scrapped. 1955; regulations concerning Ipswich Town Warehouse 1892; sale catalogues and balance sheets concerning closure of premises 1957; order books 1938-1943; analysis of export orders 1934-1944; papers concerning prices of machinery 1848-1927; volumes of publications 1858-1884, early 1920's; export books for Peru and United States of Colombia 1875-1884, Roumania 1866-1885, Russia 1861-1885; implement agencies books 1916-1949; business correspondence 1804-1969; partnership papers 1809, 1883; articles of association and associated papers 1884-1968; papers concerning stocks and shares 1911-1949; papers concerning patents and specifications 1785, 1803-1897, 1950; papers concerning trade marks 1877-1930; engineering drawings [1836-1951]; drawings ledgers 1836-1951; records concerning experiments and trials 1839-1963; publicity albums 1869; volume of technical publications 1865-1877; press cuttings albums 1862-1911; papers concerning patents and patent specifications 1786-1920; drawings albums [c1840]- [c1870's]; photograph albums 1860's - 1870's; engine registers c1850-1942; registers of steam wagons 1920-1930, plough types 1839-1943, trolley buses 1925-1941; turnery books 1860-1949; boiler plate books 1895-1944; special requirements book 1909-1932; engine registration books 1898-1914; log books documenting tests 1896-1919; engine reports 1874-1910; corn mill reports 1881-1910; despatch books 1883-1932; pattern mark book 1849-1888; parts registers 1842-1956; albums of publicity material c1800-1968; volume of publicity of manufacturers who exhibited at the Great Exhibition 1851; publicity material of James and Frederick Howard, Bedford 1856-1862; publicity material of various manufacturers at the Warwick meeting of the RASE 1859; publicity material of various manufacturers foreign language editions 1858-1869; individual advertising and servicing publications 1773-7, 1834-1895, 1901- 1961; poster albums 1882-1930; Ransomes Reporter house journal 1956; Ransomes Lawn Mower Review 1960-1961; Ransomes Record 1961-1963; Ransomes Roundabout 1964-1969; press releases 1958- 1969; press cuttings albums 1956-1969; albums of engraving proofs c1850-1969; catalogue circular and showcard register 1931-1958; photograph album [c1856]- 1961; records relating to shows and exhibitions 1839-1968; records relating to publication of the history of Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies 1928-1930; The Orwell Works magazine 1931-1940; general cuttings album 1847-1935; records relating to organisations, societies and events 1842-1968; press cuttings albums concerning products 1807, 1823-1876, 1949-1969; records concerning staff [c1845]-1969

Administrative / Biographical History

Ransomes of Ipswich was founded in 1789 by Robert Ransome. He had already been in business as an ironfounder in Norwich before moving to Ipswich, where he expected to be able to expand his markets.

One of Ransome's principal products was ploughshares. In 1785 Ransome patented the "chilling process that enabled sheares to sharpen themselves as they worked through the soil . This was followed in 1808 by a patent for interchangeable plough parts. Upon these foundations Ransomes were to become one of the leading manufacturers of ploughs in the country. Among the notable developments were the introduction of the YL plough in 1843, the Newcastle plough (RN series) from 1864, the self-lift tractor ploughs (RSLD, RSLM) from 1926 and the Ford-Ransome series in 1946.

In common with nearly all ironfounders in the early nineteenth century, Ransome undertook a wide range of general work. This included building some iron bridges in Suffolk in the years around 1820, and production of chairs, fastenings and other railway equipment from 1840's until 1869, when this part of the business was separated as Ransome and Rapier.

The production of agricultural equipment expanded during the 1830's, the range of products now including harrows, cultivators, barn machinery and threshing machines. Ransomes also became pioneers in the development of the agricultural steam engine. The firm exhibited a portable steam engine at the Royal Agricultrual Society's show in 1841 and the following year brought a prototype self moving engine. From these beginnings arose the firm's celebrity as one of the leading manufacturers of threshing machines and steam engines - portables, stationary engines and traction engines.

The fourth major product of the company was the lawn mower. From 1839 Ransomes took up production of the mowing machine patented by Edwin Budding of Stroud and lawn mower production was to become one of the most important activites of the firm from the late nineteenth century onwards. The firm introduced motor mowers in 1902.

Ransomes was an active exporter. In many years in the late nineteenth century more than four-fifths of its sales of steam engines and threshing machines were overseas. Prominent destinations were Russia, Australia and South America

In the twentieth century trading conditions were difficult for agricultural engineers. The home market between the wars was poor, several export markets, such as Russia, had been lost, and there was increasing competition from North American manufacturers. The lawn mower side of the business assumed greater importance in the 1920's and 1930's , and the company also took on other non-agricultural production, including electric trucks and buses.A notable introduction during this period was the MG (Market Garden) small crawler tractor, powered by a lawn mower engine. Introduced in 1936, these tractors remained in production until 1965.

In the second World War Ransomes contributed to the manufacture of armaments and aircraft as well as farm implements for the ploughing-up campaign. After the war the company faced with difficult adjustment to the new conditions of mechanised agriculture. Production of threshing machines ceased in 1954, but Ransome combine harvesters were introduced. The firm's agricultural implement product range concentrated on ploughs, harvesting machines (including root harvesters) and seed home international remained fierce, and by the early 1970's Ransomes decided to withdraw from the combine harvesters market. Then in 1989 the whole of the agricultural implement business was sold to Electrolux, to be merged with their subsidary Overum.

This left Ransomes as a big manufacturer of lawn mowers, their products including Westwood and Mountfield mowers. In 1997 the company received a take over offer from Textron Inc of the United States and Ransomes' independent existence ended early in 1998.


AC Accounts

AC1 Ledgers

AC5 Cost Accounts

AC7 Financial Statements

AC8 Branch Accounts

AC9 Invoices and Accounting Papers

AD Administrative and Commercial Records

AD1 Minutes and Proceedings of Board Meetings

AD2 General Administrative and Commercial Records

AD3 Labour Records

AD4 Premises Records

AD5 Materials Records

AD6 Branch Records

AD7 Commercial Records

AD8 General Correspondence

AD9 Minor Administrative Records

CO Legal Records of Companies and Businesses

CO1 Partnerships and Unlimited Concerns including capital

CO2 Companies and Limited Concerns including capital

CO3 External Agreements

CO4 Property

CO5 Patenting

CO6 Trade Marks

DO Drawing Records

DO1 Drawings

DO2 Registers and Indexes

ET Technical Records Experimental and General Reference

ET1 Experiments and Trials

ET2 Technical Reference to Firms Products (including General Technical Working Papers)

ET3 General Technical Reference

MP Manufacturing and Production Records

MP1 Registers and Lists of Production

MP2 Manufacturing Working Papers and Records

MP3 Parts, Repairs and Outworks Records

P Publications, Promotions and Advertising Records

P1 General Compilations

P2 Individual Advertising and Servicing Publications

P3 Posters, Notices and Display Matters

P4 House Journals and Technical Bulletins

P5 News and Press Releases

P7 Records of Advertising Campaigns and Events

P8 Printing Proofs and Artworks

P9 Other Records

PH Internal Photographic Records

PH2 Compilations of Prints

PH4 Registers and Indexes

SH Records of Shows and Exhibitions

SH1 Certificates

SH2 Registers and Lists of Awards

SH3 General Records of Exhibitions, Shows, Meetings and Matches

SP Social and Personal Records

SP1 General Reference Records including firm histories

SP2 Records of Events, Societies and Organisations

SP3 Records of Products

SP4 Personal Records

SP5 Other Records

Access Information

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

Material deposited in September 1969 (T69/4), July 1970 (T70/2), February 1972 (T72/42), June 1973 (T73/17, June 1973 (T73/18)


Compiled by Caroline Gould, 14 November 2002

Other Finding Aids

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

Conditions Governing Use

Please contact Archivist

Related Material

Further deposits of Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies archives are available at the Museum of English Rural Life

Geographical Names