Very few other countries developed any four-wheeled wagons, and none produced such an extraordinary regional diversity, making this collection even more special. These magnificent English farm wagons were a universal feature of the countryside and we hope that a visit to the Wagon Shed will offer an introduction to a little-known aspect of our farming heritage.
In 1700, farming in England was still mediaeval in its techniques and could do little more than feed its local communities. 1760, however, the industrial revolution was beginning to draw farm labour to the cities, and landowners began to seek more efficient ways to farm. In a short time, their small 2-wheeled farm carts became inadequate. The carts were replaced with much larger four-wheeled wagons copied from the local road haulage wagons. The innovations spread rapidly and, by 1800, throughout there were about 25 county or regional designs of the new wagons. Heavier draught horses were needed to pull these wagons and two main breeds were developed – the preeminent Shire and the more compact Suffolk punch. For the next century, farming techniques developed steadily but wagon designs hardly changed. Only with the arrival of cheap tractors in the post-war era (1945- 50) were farm wagons finally abandoned.
From their beginnings, farm wagons were an exciting innovation for farmers and they became the symbol of 19th century farming. Farmers were proud to show off what was a very large investment in their business and a signal of their success. The makers of the wagons were quick to respond, producing wagons to the highest standards of workmanship with eyecatching paintwork and decorative carving. There were a number of key characteristics that made farm wagons so elegant and attractive.
The Doddington Wagon Collection is a unique and important collection regionally and nationally. It has been built on the site of a long-derelict Sawmill with support from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.