The Ryburgh Farmers' Foundry Part 1

The Ryburgh Foundry

Part 1. The early beginnings


In the absence of much hard evidence the early history of the Foundry at Ryburgh can be only sketched in from various pieces of evidence (some of it circumstantial) so far found on maps, deeds, press reports and census returns. My thanks are due to Nicky and Nigel Donohue for their kindness in making available the early Manor House deeds. Until more information (if it has survived) comes to my attention the story so far is as follows:

Before the coming of the railway in 1849, much of the land on the North side of the Street from the Manor House along to the fields that were cut through by the new line was owned by Hugh Fitzroy Esq (occupation "Army", so says the 1841 census).

In 1866 an elderly farmer, landowner and magistrate named Isaac Everitt residing in Ware in Herts. took out a 12 year lease on the Manor House property. At this time he was leasing it from agents of the “Boycott Settlement”, which looks to have been a quite complicated series of different bequests and beneficiaries and legal wranglings that extended over several years. The rental was £40 per annum payable half-yearly.


15 months later Isaac took out an 11 year lease on the 15 acres of land fronting what is now Station Road, from the Manor House itself to the Station Granary building. The rent was £37-18s-0d.per annum.


He moved to Ryburgh with his second wife, who was his junior by an ever changing amount in successive census years.! Maria Flaxman (nee Cross) had been, after the death of his first wife, governess to his 6 children.

After their marriage they had one son, Percival born May 12th 1856 in Limpenhoe. He attended Dr Jessop's Norwich Grammar School  from 1868 to 1870 and  in 1871 was boarding at Dr Pilling’s Guildhall School in Dereham.

By 1872 Percy had already come to the attention of the press when the Norfolk Chronicle reported the following occasion on 19th August 1872, and which was one of the "Remarkable Events" included in Charles Mackie's Norfolk Annals Vol 2:

The first really notable journey upon a bicycle was performed by Percy Everitt, of Ryburgh, a lad aged 16.  He started at 4.45 a.m. from Ryburgh station, and rode to Newmarket, where he had breakfast; thence to Whittlesford, where he lunched; and at 5.30 p.m. he reached Ware, in Hertfordshire, having accomplished the distance of 110 miles in about 12½ hours.  Everitt rode one of the first of the rubber-tyred bicycles—a machine of Coventry make, known as the “Ariel.”




It would not be unreasonable to suppose that Isaac Everitt, once established at the Manor, was able to facilitate the purchase of  a portion of the land he was renting in order that his youngest son could set up in business.

His next appearance in the media is found in this advertisement from the Norfolk Chronicle in 1876:


He was already described as an Engine proprietor by 1877 when he appears in the local press:


"Percy Everitt of Great Ryburgh, engine proprietor, was charged by Edith Mary Salter, of Attleborough, with an offence against the Locomotives Act of 1875, but the information was withdrawn."


21 year old Percival was already busy inventing and developing ideas and obtaining patents as seen in this notice in the Birmingham Daily Post in :


Percival Everitt, Great Ryburgh, improvements in machines for elevating and depositing hay, corn, or other agricultural produce. Dated July 30,1877


In December 1877 the fruits of the above labours are seen by HRH Edward Prince of Wales at the Smithfield Show reported in the Morning Post:


One of the first objects to attract the attention of the Prince of Wales in going the round of the Implement Department on Monday was the huge "hay and corn pitcher" exhibited by Mr P. Everett, of Ryburgh, Norwich, who is at once the inventor and the constructor. It is a large labour saving appliance, intended to do the work of pitching hay, wheat, barley, oats, beans , &c., from the ground where the crop has been cut into the wagon that is to take it to the stack -yard or elsewhere. The modus operandi was described to the Prince by the inventor himself. The machine is drawn along by one or two horses, and a fixed rake trailing along the ground, gathers up the corn or other produce, which is then taken up by a series of revolving rakes or elevators, and from the top of the machine delivered into the waggon. It is proposed to place a light framework on the top of the waggon, the sides of whicch will let down in unloading at the stack. The machine would deliver the produce over the top of this frame, thus allowing the loading to be easily accomplished by one man or boy, and enabling a larger load to be placed on the waggon. In this way the inventor calculates that his machine will cover from forty to eighty acres per day, according to crop, and will do the work of at least three harvest gangs, as it rakes as well as pitches the corn. In that case it would prove a labour-saving machine indeed, and, costly as it might be in itself, would soon commend itself to the enterprising agriculturalist. Yet this is only one of the many inventions or improvements in the appliances of husbandry top be seen in the present show.


He was certainly recruiting for foundry staff by 1877 as seen in this advert from the Ipswich Journal in December 1877:


PATTERN MAKER Wanted, who can make cog wheel and engine racket patterns, or turn his hand to carpenter's work if required. Apply, stating wages, to P. Everitt, Ryburgh, Norfolk


We can follow some of his inventions through the various press notices of his patents

This again from the Birmingham Daily Post:

Percival Everitt, London, an improved construction of screw stock Dated February 5, 1878 seen here in the US Patent of 1880


And in July 1878:

Since last year Messrs. Woods, Cocksedge, and Co., have produced a turnip thinner, patented by the inventor, Mr. Everitt, of Ryburgh. Two steel hoes, about a foot long and three inches wide, are fixed so that when drawn by horse power they would cut out of the line of turnips about a foot or so, and leave one plant standing. These hoes are adjustable, and can be heightened or lowered as circumstances may require.

This new invention warranted a half page advertisement in the Kelly's Directory for 1879:

June 1879:

The greatest novelties in the yard consist of a very effective turnip thinner, newly improved by Messrs. Everitt, Adams, and Co., of Ryburgh, Norfolk.


This photograph  (date unknown) depicting that very machine standing in the yard at the St Andrew's Works / Farmers' Foundry premises in Ryburgh. The granary building is clearly seen in the background. (photograph reproduced by the kind permission of the King's Lynn Museum)

June 1879:

Everitt, Adams, and Co., of Ryburgh, Norfolk, have some novelties in cultivating tackle in the form of an automatic travelling anchor, with a semsphore signalling arrangement erected upon it; also a corner snatch-block which anchors itself to the soil without the tedious operation of embedding timber "dead men;" and also an engine having rope winding drums hung at the sides of the boiler, and driven direct from the engine crank-shaft, without the intervention of clutches, bevel gear or coiling gear. This firm show what appears to be the most novel and efficient turnip-thinner which has yet appeared.

Everitt and Adams Anchor

February 1880:

Percival Everitt and William J. Adams,  Ryburgh, Norfolk improvements in machinery for cutting chaff. Dated February 10 1880.


The Foundry was built at the furthest point from the Manor and as near as possible to transport facilities to the wider world. A subsequent lease of 1882 shows the new arrangements in Station Road.

Ryburgh History


We now have Everitt Adams & Co Ltd Ironworks and a plot of land between the Foundry and the Manor with the name of Mr T(homas) Cooper on it.

Isaac as a Church Warden in the 1870s (certainly from 1872-1878) was probably also responsible for naming these premises the “St Andrew’s Works”, As yet it is not known what financial interest he had in the venture.

The Ordnance Survey map of 1886 shows the buildings occupying substantially the same areas as we know it today behind the long flint wall which runs from its start, at the bottom of the hill right up to a an entrance width from the Granary building. A purpose made entrance is established for the Foundry and also for access to Highfield land beyond. Again it is not unreasonable to suggest that the wall was built to enclose Manor House land purchased or leased running the full length of Station Road to the Station buildings. Prior to this long wall being built, the Manor House had a shorter and lower wall fronting just the house itself, the evidence for which is still there to be seen today. At this time both the above maps show the central entrance to the Manor House, but the plot of land  with Thomas Cooper’s name upon it by 1886 has become the Foundry Manager’s House, known then as now as The Vines.

The Vines with the Foundry buildings behind (date uncertain)




Young Percival Everitt had a flair for engineering and invention. According to Ronald Clark in the chapter on The Farmers Foundry in his book “The Steam Engine Builders of Norfolk”, Percival had already been granted a patent for a steam ploughing system by early 1879.  That was produced under licence by the famous Thetford firm of Charles Burrell. For those with a technical interest, the following extracts are from The Engineer:


4th July 1879


Messrs. Everitt, Adams, and  Co., of St. Andrew’s Works, Ryburgh, Norfolk, a new firm, exhibit a very novel ploughing engine, which we shall illustrate in an early impression.  One member of the firm has for some years worked ploughing engines; that is to say he has hired them out.  In this way he acquired much experience, and arrived by degrees at certain conclusions to what he wanted. The result is the engine to which we refer. It is a very powerful machine, not perhaps quite so well finished as those exhibited by other makers, but obviously capable of doing a great deal of hard work. The spur gearing is of unusually large diameter-an excellent feature.  The system of ploughing adopted is quite new.  On each side of the engine is mounted a large vertical winding drum, driven by a spur pinion on the crank shaft. Each drum is fitted with a friction brake, to prevent slack. No bevel gear is employed- an important advantage. The drums are easily taken off when the engine is wanted for thrashing or hauling. When employed on the double engine system, one drum only is mounted, and the wire rope is led direct round a large horizontal pulley under the tank direct to the implement. When a single engine is employed, two drums are used, the ropes being led in any desired direction. When we illustrate this engine we shall have more to say concerning it.



July 16th 1880


The engine sent by Messrs. Burrell and Sons, of Thetford, we illustrate on page 44.

 It is constructed under the patents of Messrs. Everitt and Adams, of Ryburgh.

The first engine of the type ever built was exhibited last year at Kilburn. The prominent peculiarity of the engine is the mounting, on each side of it, of a winding drum, either of which can be caused to revolve by putting a pinion on the crank shaft in gear with the ring of cogs on the drum. These drums are, in fact, vertical windlasses, and wind up the rope which hauls the plough or other implement.  If two engines are used, one on each headland, then a single drum on each will suffice; but for roundabout work, both are required ; and in order to lead one rope  in  the proper direction, a horizontal pulley of large diameter is  fitted under the foot-plate, and round this the rope is led. Thus the rope from either drum can be led off at any angle. The engine is 10-horse power by the Society's rules-that is to say, it has a cylinder l0in.diameter and 12in. stroke. The safety valves are loaded to 150 lb. on the square inch.  The boiler is of steel, as is all the gearing, but the brackets, road-wheels, and drums are of wrought iron, the latter having cast iron cog rings.  The drums are 6ft. 6in. in diameter, and each carries 800 yards of 3/4in. wire rope. A self-acting brake is fitted to each drum. It consists of a hoop, lined with wood, encircling a sheave fixed to the drum. The hoop can be tightened by a screw.  On the stud on which the drum revolves is fixed a small ratchet wheel.  An arm provided with a click is fixed at its outer end to the brake strap, while at its inner end it embraces the stud. When the drum is winding, the brake carries the arm round with it, the click running over the ratchet wheel; but when the drum is paying out, the click enters the teeth of the ratchet wheel, and the arm then prevents the brake strap from revolving with the drum and in this way the tail rope is kept tight. There are eleven teeth in each of the drum pinions, and 107 teeth in each of the drum rings, so that as the engine makes about 150 revolutions, per minute, when hauling, the drums make nearly 15.5 revolutions in the same time, which corresponds to a speed of implement of, say 310ft. per minute or over 3·5 miles an hour.  For ploughing  the speed is less than this, the engine being run more slowly, but for cultivating in light land the velocity is higher, the engine making from 200 to  25 0  revolutions  per minute. The driving wheels are 18in. wide, and 5ft. 8in. diameter.  The leading wheels are 4ft. by 16in.  By a very neat arrangement of brackets the pinions driving the drums are kept quite close up to the bearings when in gear. 'The workmanship of this engine we need hardly add leaves nothing to be desired. The side drums, it may be proper to add, are carried on studs, which are really the arms or ends of a strong axle, bent in the middle to half encircle the boiler, to which it is secured by bolting it between stout angle irons rivetted  to the barrel of  the boiler. 


The illustration below  is of an engine built by Everitt Adams & Co., was part of a donation to the Gressenhall Museum from the family of Henry Ely one time foreman at the Farmers’ Foundry:



A small illustrated catalogue which must date from around 1880 shows what the foundry was intent on producing. These were not cheap machines and the cost of just one of these "Universal Engines" at £580 represented the combined annual incomes of 20 Ag. Labs!










In 1882, the connection to the railway industry was probably not unhelpful in the winning of the contract to supply iron work to the "state of the art" rail complex then being built by the Lynn and Fakenham Railway Company at Melton Constable. This extract from the Norfolk Chronicle for January 28th 1882, first published in the Lynn Advertiser, describes some of this sizeable project:



The partnership with William John Adams (the son of a noted railway engineer) trading as “Everitt, Adams & Co Engineers, ironfounders and agricultural machinists” was fairly short lived.  On September 27th 1882  notice is given in the Liverpool Mercury under the heading "Partnerships Dissolved" Percival Everitt and William John Adams, trading as Everitt, Adams & Co., 35 Queen Victoria Street, London, and at Great Ryburgh, Norfolk, engineers.  However the name still appears on the 1884 lease as well as in White’s Directory for 1883. This directory also lists the “Everitt Steam Plough Co., contractors for steam tilling and reclamation of waste land”. This would seem to be the remnant of a partnership that had been dissolved in September 1882, as seen here in this notice in the Norwich Mercury for September 30th that year:





William Arthur Wilson (b December 1857) was the middle son of a Scottish Weslyan Minister, William Wilson and his wife Jane McOwan. He was born on Bau Island, Fiji. The family returned to the UK after his mother died on May 15th 1859, and were living in Offord Road, Islington by 1861.

He was married but lodging alone in Ryburgh according to the 1881 Census. In the 1891 Census he is living in Potternewton, Leeds  with his wife Margaret who was a Canadian by birth. They had one son at that time but with a daughter born later that year. He is described here as "Mechanical Engineer & Shop Foreman to Automatic Threshing Machine Co. (Could this have been another Percy Everitt invention?... see below)

By 1901, he had been widowed and was remarried to widow,Alice Jane Smith at Kings Lynn All Saints in1895.  They had a further son together and emigrated to Canada in 1910. 

William John Adams, pictured below with his wife and family, went to Australia in 1883 where his career flourished.Follow this link for more about William Adams


Graces Guide has the following illustration posted with the date of 1880 

The Eureka Mower was an American machine as seen in the advertisment below found in the 1890 "American Agriculturist" but there is no explanation to date for Percy's connection with this machine.


This press report from May 1880 suggests that he is not particularly “ hands on “ with this business:


STEAM LOCOMOTIVES.- Percy Everett of Great Ryburgh engine proprietor, was charged by Supt. Mumford with unlawfully allowing a steam locomotive engine to be travelling on the highway at Mundford on the 2nd ult., without having  a person on foot in front. Mr Everett did not appear, but Mr. A.Wilson appeared on his behalf and pleaded guilty, stating that the men had been continually cautioned, but the lad who ought to have been in front had travelled many miles that day and as tired, and finding a long straight piece he got upon the engine to ride.- Fined £1 and costs £1 5s.  11d.


In the St Andrew’s Churchwardens’ accounts for Jan 13th 1879 there is the first evidence I have seen of the foundry trading in Ryburgh:


Everitt Adams & Co

Repairs to stove as per bill £3-7-6d


This Book Press is the earliest artefact seen to date from these early days



In spite of this auspicious start he continued inventing and patenting and not necessarily with Ryburgh engineering in mind as we see:

Percival Everitt, London -construction of alarum apparatus February 1881.

Percival Everitt, London -scarves.  January 2, 1882.



It must have been during these first 4 years of the foundry’s existence that his most noted invention, that of coin-operated machinery systems was being developed. Although listed as being in Ryburgh on the night of the 1881 Census Percy is also entered as a visitor, occupation  Engineer, born Ryburgh,  at the house of a W[idow] Lillian Foster an Actress in the Hanover Square parish in London. She crops up again in the celebrated divorce case  

In 1882 the Manor House lease now names him jointly with his father and as being of Ryburgh. In 1884 upon the death of Isaac the remainder of the 1882 lease was assigned to John Blomfield of Foulsham /Billingford. John Blomfield went on to be Rector’s churchwarden to  Revd. Morris Fuller.

After Isaac's death,  Maria was  living at “Lion Villas Kew Road Richmond” and Percival has this as his address in 1887 and 1888 according to the Surrey Electoral Registers for those years.  


In the early 1880’s he patented the first practical vending machine, going on to patent several automatic vending devices . One such device was a machine for dispensing pre-stamped postcards and was first installed in London in 1883.

Clearly the brains behind the foundry’s early products and with a family who made it all financially possible, it still required an Engineer a little more grounded to make it work as a day to day business. There would seem to be no evidence for the prior existence of any foundry in Ryburgh. If there had been, then they surely would have supplied the new gates for the church wall in 1869 instead of sending all the way to  Coalbrookdale in Shropshire to what was  then admittedly a very fashionable place to buy such items.

If Isaac Everitt had any connections with the business they would have ceased in 1884 when he died aged 83, an event which could well have been the reason for the instigation of the Farmers Foundry Co. Ltd. He was buried in St. Andrew’s churchyard followed by Maria 18 years later.

Percival, it would seem had effectively left Ryburgh as he is described as of "London" in one of the above 1881 patent notices and London Engineer on a patent of 1882.  According to a further patent, Messrs. Everitt,  Adams, and  Co were  trading at  53 Queen Victoria Street, London E.C. After his father’s death he lived for a brief spell in America where  a descendant writes that he had married Emma Potter on 27 Feb 1886 in Hoboken New Jersey. The wedding record says she was 26. and has been described as a widow by another Everitt researcher He had what seems to have been an unsuccessful business venture as the Everitt Manufacturing Company which made a variety of “nickel in the slot” machines for the vending of small items. It was then back to London and in July 1886 he featured in a very high profile divorce case which was reported at some length in the press. But still the inventions and patents kept coming:





June 14 1887. Percival Everitt, London-filters.

April 1889 " An improved case or receptacle from which an opera-glass or the like can be hired by depositing a coin of predetermined size and value therin" Percival Everitt, London.

A complete list of Patents has yet to be assembled.

Not surprisingly he was an early user of the telephone and had the telephone number 1554 in the 1885 Directory at 11,12 &13 Huggin Lane E.C which were probably his business premises. The 1890 Directory gives the same number but by then he was  at 47 Cannon Street as given on the 1886 patent above.

In the 1891 Census aged 34 Percy and  Emma now aged 30  were  living  at 17 Holland St Kensington, London.  He returned at some point after that to the US because he is remembered thus on his father and mother’s memorial stone in St Andrew’s churchyard:

“And of Percival only and dearly beloved son of the above, born May 12th 1856, died at New York February 19th 1893, interred in Evergreen Cemetery Brooklyn.”


Even after his death US Patents were still being filed by his lawyers,one of which was for a Velocipede, rather indicating he had not quite forgotten his early adventure from Ryburgh to Ware:




Our thanks are due to Nicholas Costa who for more than 30 years has been fascinated by the extraordinary and largely unsung Percy Everitt.  He has kindly been able to fill in some fascinating pieces of this enigmatic character's life story, including his last will and testament:


The National Probate Calendar for 1893 shows that at Percy's  death, his "Effects" amounted to £71-10/- . Considering the huge amounts of money his inventions and business ventures made he seems to have fared very badly indeed.  This source also states that his death occurred on February 19th 1893 at the Union-square hotel in New York and that Probate was granted in London on August 5th that year  to his widow, Emma Everitt.


The following  widely circulated obituary gives us a potted biography of Percy Everitt. Some of the assertions of the compiler prove to be at odds with what has been discovered above. However, given that his 5 years adrift, the 1872 date would  proportionally be 1877 as a start date for the Foundry, a date strongly suggested by the other evidences .

Mr Percy Everitt, whose death occurred very suddenly at the Milwaukee Hotel New York, recently, had a brief but somewhat remarkable career as an inventive genius. He was born at Ware, Herts, in 1851, and when his parents removed to Great Ryburgh, Norfolk, Percy was sent to be educated by Dr Jessopp at Norwich Grammar School. From an early age he turned his mind to mechanics, and on leaving school went through a course of study under Mr. R Adams at the Bow Railway Works, standing at the lathe and forging his way in the fitting shops through every department of the engineering curriculum, thus gaining technical knowledge which proved of great value to him in after life. He started making agricultural machinery at Ryburgh about 1872, and at his father’s death Everitt to London with his first novelty, the “Rock” skate. Unfortunately our climate is so fickle that skates per se are not calculated to enrich an inventor, and skimmers o’er the ice have had peculiarly brief sport for many seasons past. But Mr. Everitt is best known to fame through his patent automatic machinery for supplying the public with all sorts of daily necessities by “putting a penny in the slot.” First came postcards and envelopes, then sweetmeats, cigarettes, and scents, and finally your height, weight, and strength, as all know, may be ascertained while waiting for a train. These familiar machines proved such a “boom” that companies were speedily formed for carrying out the enormous business with all its ramifications that resulted; royalties were granted, and the ingenious novelties started up at railway stations and points of vantage all over the world, bringing prosperity to the inventor and employment to thousands. The deceased gentleman had other important developments in hand when death stepped in and cut him off in the very prime of life.


We had a most fortuitous visit from David Wicks the descendant of a Farmers' Foundry carpenter, a man still remembered by a few as "Old Wicks". After the death of his first wife Martha in 1916, Alfred Wicks married again in November 1917 to Nellie the daughter of Doyley Thompson ,an iron moulder at the Foundry, who had died in May that year. David very kindly let us have a copy of a photograph of Alfred and his new wife Nellie standing outside their home Aldworth House, still there on the Fakenham Road but looking rather different today:

David also had a photograph of some farm machinery  and written on the reverse was the following:

Everitt's Threshing Machine made by Tyrell Cooke & Alfred Wicks Gt Ryburgh 

Tyrell Cooke" Mechanical Steam Engineer"  was also Farmers' Foundry Works Manager in the first decade of the C20th. and there is some circumstantial evidence that prior to that he could have been a salesman for some of Percy Everitt's inventions. He is described as an "Agent for Automatic Machines" in the 1891 Census and his eldest daughter, Mildred was born in America soon after that and around the time that Percy was there. Tyrell Cooke was also witness to a US Patent  of April 1889  for "new and useful improvements in Coin-Operated Grip-Testing Machines"

The photograph on close examination seems to depict  a scale model of this machine and probably dates from around 1910.  Perhaps the real thing was produced at Ryburgh and this model was exhibited at trade exhibitions to attract orders? What ever the fact of the matter, Percy Everitt was still in the minds of Farmers' Foundry workers well over a decade after his death.



We are also fortunate in having the  reminiscences of a later foundry worker, Hector Middleton recorded in the 1970’s by David Howe.  He speaks of this now legendary man in what seems to be an amalgam of several different characters from the start up days of the Foundry.The impression gained, after a working life in the foundry that started more than 30 years after Percy's death, is that his most celebrated invention was the skate referred to in the obituary! 


End of Part 1

copyright 2014

 Peter Trent


Page last updated: 18th February 2018 2:49 PM