A History of Land Drainage Machines

A History of Land Drainage Machines

The installation of land drainage has been going on in the UK for centuries. It has played an important part in improving crop yields for farmers and making waterlogged land usable for the construction sector.

Digging agricultural drainage ditches many years ago was a mammoth task. Back then they were largely excavating and laying clay pipe by hand – not an easy job! The digging and maintaining of agricultural drainage ditches these days is a lot quicker and easier. It’s a much more automated affair with a number of farming tools available to make the job less physical.

There is no denying that the implementation of drainage machinery has helped farmers to introduce more intensive, modern farming methods. These machines not only helped to shape the country’s land but also shaped our business, so to celebrate we wish to take you through a brief history of some of our favourite machines from the glory days.

Our MD, Andy Cotterill, has selected his top five picks. In no particular order…

The Ford 7700 4WD

This photograph shows a Ford 7700 4WD in action. The Ford 7700 4WD is pulling a gravel cart with side conveyor, backfilling the trench with the land drain in place. The machines features a White’s design & built stone cart with petrol engine driven conveyor.

The Ford 7710

This photograph shows a self propelled articulated gravel cart based on a Ford 7710. Although we don’t have any images of this machine in action, we used a machine like this on many projects where we had to lay gravel.

The K140 Barth Chain Trencher

What a beauty! Here is a photograph of the Barth Chain Trencher K140 land drainage machine in action, a very popular self propelled track laying machine used widely in the UK throughout the 60’s, 70′ and 80’s. This particular photograph was taken in the mid to late 80’s. Cotterills had the pleasure of viewing one of these recently at Startin Farms, who are still using this machine to install their land drainage. This just shows that these machines were built to last! This machines definitely deserves its place on our list.

The Fiat Allis BD20 Bull Dozer and a JCB 806B Excavator

A Fiat Allis BD20 Bull Dozer used for levelling land and backfilling trenches and a JCB 806B excavator used for ditch cleaning, big culvert work and tree clearance. Cotterills had the later JCB 814S excavators, which were a great addition to the machinery collection. JCB excavators are still used on our construction projects today and are one of Andy Cotterill’s favourite machines to use on site.

The Honourable Mention

The Caterpillar 955 with a hedge grubbing fork attached

Although this 955 did not make it onto our list, we thought it definitely deserved an honourable mention. This old black and white photo shows a lovely old Caterpillar 955 with a hedge grubbing fork attached. Cotterills were the happy owner of one of these machines. There were government grants in the 60’s and 70’s to grub hedgerows out in order to increase field sizes, which vastly improved farming efficiency and yields. We had one of these machines at Cotterills and sadly sold it about 5 years ago. This photograph was taken in Blackmore area, Essex, in the early 80’s.

The History of Cotterill Civils

In 1986, our MD, Andy Cotterill founded Cotterill Contractors offering agricultural contracting and drainage services to farmers in the West Midlands area. As the business grew, so did our offering which extended into sewage treatment installations, concreting and farm building construction. From this, Cotterill Civils was founded in 1993. With a background in farming, Andrew originally set up the company to install land drainage and environmental solutions. During this time he found he became increasingly choosy over the products he would install to the point where he decided to carry them in stock. Andy comments “I quickly realised that finding good reliable suppliers for land drainage products was very difficult. In 1996 I bought my first lorry load of drainage for our own use and stock. Within a fortnight that first load had vanished and half of it had gone out to other farmers around us for their own use. At this point Cotterill Drainage was conceived.”

Almost thirty years on and the business has grown into a leading UK supplier of land drainage and environmental solutions to the agriculture and construction sectors. Our customers now extend to over 2,500 farmers and 3,500 contractors as well as large multinationals, major retail brands, government agencies and many more.

Special Thanks

Cotterills would like to extend our thanks to Trevor Little, a machinery enthusiast that grew up surrounded by these glorious machines. His family operated many of the machines in these pictures that were proudly donated to us to feature in this collection. Trevor has been a focal part in putting this project together and we really appreciate his help and expertise. If you have a love for machinery both new and old, please follow his account on Twitter @Rochdogs.