In an era when grass was still cut by a scythe, he had the idea of a lawnmower after visiting a local mill and watching a cutting cylinder trim the irregular nap from woollen cloth. Granted a patent in 1830, he went into partnership to make mowers in a factory at Thrupp Mill near Stroud, later known as the Phoenix Works.
Budding’s engineering and manufacturing skills also extended to the production of a five-shot percussion revolver around the same time. Author and super-collector William Keith Neal (1905-90) identified three Budding ‘pepperbox’ models made c.1825-30 although other variants have since been identified.
He believed their “curious construction was most likely the work of a skilled metal worker or engineer rather than a gun maker” and concluded “it is doubtful if as many as 50 were made”.
Keith Neal owned two Budding guns: a single-shot walking-stick gun sold by Christie’s in 2001 for £1950 and a 140-bore ‘second model’ pepperbox sold for £5500 when more guns from the collection were offered by Bonhams in 2005.
The latter resurfaced for sale on ‘home soil’ at Stroud Auction Rooms (18% buyer’s premium) in Gloucestershire on November 9.
Fashioned predominantly in brass, the frame signed Buddng Maker [sic] in an oval cartouche, with shaped walnut grips, it came in its original lined and fitted mahogany case with the Thrupp Mill address. It contained a powder flask, bullet mould, combination tool and labels including directions for use.
It was estimated at £3000-5000 but sold at £8000.