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British Industrial History

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Yeovil Foundry and Engineering Works

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of the Borough, Yeovil

James Bazeley Petter acquired the Yeovil Foundry and Engineering Works, making agricultural machinery. It was there that two of his children, the twins Ernest and Percival, designed and built a self propelled oil engine in 1892 [1].

1895 Percival Petter became manager of the foundry. He developed an interest in the horseless carriage [2].

1895 They designed the first internal combustion-engined motor car to be made in the United Kingdom. The car, using a converted four-wheel horse-drawn phaeton and a 3 hp horizontal oil engine, had a top speed of 12 miles per hour. The vehicle was constructed at the Park Road carriage works of Hill and Boll. It weighed 9 cwt including the 120 lb of the Petter engine with its flywheel and side bars. A contemporary report said: The carriage is intended for two persons, with which a speed of ten miles an hour is obtained on level road. It will mount the hills of the neighbourhood with two persons, but larger power would be used for four persons … The exhaust is, we are informed, quite invisible, and the engine almost noiseless'. The removable handle (indicated in the plan drawing) was used to start the engine in the first place, and an arrangement is made so that the handle, when put in position, automatically opens the exhaust valve which closes instantly when, a good impulse being given, the handle is withdrawn and the engine starts … Tube ignition is adopted, and a small heating lamp is used … The engine starts in ten minutes and runs, we are told, without attention. The larger road wheels of the vehicle were 42 in (1.07 m.) in diameter.

1897 The twins continued to develop vehicles, the twelfth of which they entered to a competition at Crystal Palace in 1897, without success. Sometime used the name of Yeovil Motor Carriage Co. Failing to achieve the commercial success that they hoped, they adapted the engines for agricultural and industrial use.

1899 Petter Patent Oil Engine (1.25 hp) exhibited at the Royal Show.

1900 June. Royal Agricultural Show at York. Showed various small engines. [3]

1901 Ernest and Percival purchased the business from their father [4]. Reorganized as James B. Petter and Sons Ltd; Ernest and Percy (Percival) were joint managing directors.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Wikipedia [1]
  2. Sir Ernest Willoughby Petter, by Anne Pimlott Baker, ODNB
  3. The Engineer of 22nd June 1900 p650
  4. Sir Ernest Willoughby Petter, by Anne Pimlott Baker, ODNB