When it comes to seaside resorts, you’ll always find a fish and chip shop, stick of rock, and of course some sand. Southport has plenty of each of those things but that’s not to say that we can’t offer a truly unique experience. We caught up with Brian Radam, curator of the British Lawnmower Museum, to find out more about his one-of-a-kind attraction. 

illustration of a man in top hat and tails using a Victorian lawnmower

How did the British Lawnmower Museum come about?

The grass roots of Southport’s British Lawnmower Museum started as Stanley’s, Southport’s first DIY shop which opened in 1940. The family moved to Southport after their Liverpool home was bombed during WWII. The company has now been serving Southport for 81 years and is best known for duplicating keys, servicing locks, safes & garden machinery. 

The British garden machine industry was once the biggest and best in the world; watching its demise led to us wanting to preserve this small part of Britain’s engineering heritage and the only museum in the world dedicated to the humble lawnmower was born. We’ve since gone on to win numerous awards and welcomed thousands of visitors to explore our collection.

The museum celebrates the mundane and delivers a unique experience. Edwin Budding invented the lawnmower in 1830 and was deemed to be a madman and a lunatic for making such a strange contraption and had to test his machine at night so not to be seen. The collection spans 1000 rare and vintage machines, from horse-drawn mowers to one of the first from the hallowed turf of Lord’s Cricket Ground: weighing in at two tons and at the time costing twice the price of a house. In addition to the machines themselves we have a vast archive of blueprints, manuals and spare parts.

interior of a museum - floor covered in artificial grass and a display of vintage lawnmowers

Some of the exhibits are the biggest, the smallest, fastest, most expensive… our ‘Lawnmowers of the Rich and Famous’ exhibition really captures people’s imaginations. We have items that belonged to Prince Charles & Princess Diana, Brian May from Queen and James May from Top Gear to name just a few. Lee Mack’s dibber even featured on ‘Would I Lie To You’!

We’re always on the lookout for more to add to our collection so if there’s anyone famous reading this we’d love for you to get in touch.

What do you love most about what you do?

Running the museum is a dream job for me. I’ve long had an interest in all things mechanical, so I love spending my days with these fascinating pieces of machinery. It’s always interesting chatting to visitors too. Many will have memories of their parents or grandparents using particular mowers and younger visitors find it hard to imagine that this was how people used to cut the grass.

We’ve welcomed many a celebrity for filming, including Robbie Coltrane as part of his series ‘B-Road Britain’, and Guy Martin for ‘How Britain Worked’. The historical value of our collection means that we’re often called upon to supply lawnmowers for period productions. One of our mowers can be seen in the Downton Abbey feature film!

When not in the museum I’m modifying my own mower to achieve over 60mph so that it’s ready to take to the Lawnmower Racing Championship. I’ve also helped with the fastest mower team for the Guinness Book of Records; the current Guinness fastest lawnmower reached 150mph.

bearded man wearing a burgundy jacket and navy tie, crouched down next to a vintage lawnmower

What was your average day like pre-COVID?

Being the only museum in the world dedicated to the humble lawnmower we welcome people from all corners of the globe who are enthralled by our collection. American and Chinese visitors are particularly fascinated as they tend to have a very different gardening culture and even different types of grass, to us here in the UK.  

As our collection is so unique there will always be internet & phone enquiries, whether for archive history, mechanical advice, custom parts, or even classic lawnmower restoration which we can provide through the museum workshop. this mentioned a few paras earlier

What changes have you made to your business to be ready for reopening? 

We’ve done everything we can to make the visitor experience as contactless as possible - an automatic entrance door has been installed and the audio tour is conveyed without head phones or hand-held devices. Subject to government guidelines we will still be offering personal guided tours which can be pre-booked.

Due to the pandemic we envisage a growing demand for more virtual tours; we expect to lose foreign visitors this year, but virtual tours would allow them to enjoy our exhibits without leaving their homes. I believe more people will visit from across the UK and this is encouraging us to focus on the future of the business. New designs are in progress to revamp and update the exterior façade, using locally sourced materials.

dark green and red vintage lawnmower on a white background

What do you love most about Southport?

I have lived in Southport all my life but during lockdown I was still able to discover something new to enjoy. The number of hidden gems right on our doorstep has been eye-opening; from watching high tide lapping against the sea wall (especially when over 9m) transforms the coastline, watching sea water flow into the Marine Lake along with sea birds are something seen on exotic holidays.

Have you had any particularly memorable visits?

With Southport boasting so many amazing golf courses we’re popular with visitors who travel here to play a few rounds, and many have a real interest in groundskeeping. When hosting 20 professional groundsmen from the USA they couldn’t believe we actually used these “strange contraptions”! We hope that all of our visitors will remember their trip forever mower!

British Lawnmower Museum, 106-112 Shakespeare Street, Southport, PR8 5AJ

01704 501336 / or email Brian: br@lawnmowerworld.com

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