MP010: Shanks Jehu

The Shanks Jehu was a popular motor from the 1920s.

The Shanks Jehu was a motor mower produced by Alexander Shanks & Son of Arbroath, Scotland, during the 1920s and 1930s. It was designed for use on ordinary gardens as well as sports fields, large estates and town parks.

Like many motor mowers of the period, the Jehu was lighter, more compact and less expensive than the petrol engined mowers produced before the First World War. Advances in technology and materials made it easier to produce the iron castings, alloys and steels that simplified production and reduced overall costs. Early motor mowers were powered by large four stroke engines that were heavy, low powered and required large frames to mount them on the mower, all of which added to the weight and cost. By the 1920s, however, advances in technology meant that low cost two stroke engines with a reasonable power to weight ratio were for the first time available for use in every day objects such as lawn mowers.

Like many mowers of the period, the Jehu was a simple design with open chains and sprockets.

The result of these advances was an explosion in the availability of motor mowers from a number of manufacturers newly freed from the 'War Effort' but with engineering know how and production capacity to fill. The motor cycle industry went through a similar expansion for the same reasons.

The Jehu was powered by the same 269cc Villiers two stroke engine as another popular motor mower of the period, the Atco Standard. It is probably fair to say that the Jehu was aimed at a more discerning user in that it had a more solid design and gave a better quality of the finish to the lawn than the Atco although this came at a higher price. However both mowers were among the first that were practical for use by either the home owner or the professional gardener. Before the First World War most motor mowers would have been operated by the gardening staff rather than the person that owned the house. But social changes and the expansion of suburban housing (each with its own lawn) meant that many private individuals bought motor mowers in the 1920s for their own personal use.

The Jehu was available with a rounded grass box which had to be emptied manually or a square box which featured a patented emptyting system that used a lever that could be operated from the driving position (see top picture).

Available in 20, 24 and 30 inch cutting widths, the Jehu was priced at £60.0.0d for a 20-inch model,  £70.0.0d for the 24-inch model and £90.0.0d for the 30-inch model in 1927. Prices had fallen considerably by the mid-1930s when production of the Jehu ended.

The Jehu is much less common than Atco motor mowers from the same period although a number of examples are owned by collectors throughout the UK.