17. The Huxtable Plough
This clever invention was developed here in North Devon.
John Huxtable was a blacksmith’s son from Brayford, who was fascinated with all things mechanical from childhood. He used to watch the farmers at work in the fields near his home. The mouldboards of standard ploughs always turned the soil to the right. Traditionally ploughmen would plough clockwise around the edges of the field, which were often long thin strips, so the soil would build up into a ridge in the centre of the strip. The alternative was to return to the start of the first furrow without ploughing, a lot of additional work for both horse and ploughman.
In 1877 John patented his Huxtable Reversible Plough. This plough has two mould boards mounted one above the other, so when the plough is turned at the end of the furrow a handle can be used to bring the other mould board into use, and thus allows ploughing to be done to either side. This meant the worker could turn at the end of the field and plough the next furrow straight away.
Initially John was working from his father’s forge in Brayford, but soon moved the Huxtable Plough Works to Filleigh, where they were powered by an 18ft waterwheel. He later moved to Barnstaple, and started the Alexandra Iron Works on Alexandra Road. He developed several other innovations in farm machinery, and the business, John Huxtable & Son Ltd, was still in production in 1958, one of the last makers of horse ploughs.