The story behind Lawrence Hall’s ‘Mowhall’ mower and Mervyn Richardson’s ‘Victa’
Lawrence Hall was a self-taught inventor who went on to become a Marine Engineer. In 1948, tired pushing a lawnmower around his mother’s lawn and around the grounds of the Cabarita Speedboat Club he set about finding an easier way to get the job done.
Using his engineering knowledge he set about building a motorised lawnmower. Using a disc from a plough, tin cans and steel pipe scraps he constructed a prototype powered by another of Hall’s inventions, a three-horsepower marine engine. In 1993 the Sydney Morning Herald interviewed his son Walter who claimed that “It was a heavy old monster and I nearly cut my foot off with it.”
But Walter also claims that this prototype of Hall’s ‘Mowhall’ mower, was used before Mervyn Victor Richardson’s ‘Victa’ mower was ever built. Richardson, who went on to be credited by most people for inventing Australia’s first petrol-engine rotary mower, started work on his ‘Victa’ mower in a garage in Concord in 1952.
Eventually the ‘Victa’ mower made Richardson a multi-millionaire but while many agree he deserved credit for his insight into the mower’s potential others, like Walter, also felt he copied the basic form and method of propulsion from Lawrence Hall’s “Mowhall” mower. The Hall family’s claim is backed up by John Longhurst who was a teenager apprenticed to Hall as a fitter and machinist around this time.
According to Longhurst, Merve Richardson, then an associate of Hall’s, visited the workshop one day when Hall was fitting his mower with a ’snorkel’ to prevent the engine being clogged with dust. After Merve commented on what a wonderful idea it was Hall proceeded to demonstrate how the mower could cut even the longest grass.
Eventually Richardson came up with the ‘Victa’ mower which was much lighter and more compact in design and which would go on to make millions. Hall’s ‘Mowhall’ mower while far less successful is arguably no less important to this great Australian story of invention. It is certainly rarer and this “Mowhall” mower has been on display in the Concord Heritage Society Museum since the 1980s, accompanied by a sign declaring it to be “the machine from which all modern mowers were copies”.
Concord Heritage Society Museum
Opening hours: Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
1 Bent Street, Concord
Group visits by arrangement.
Admission FREE (donations welcome)
Post from Lois Michel, Concord Historical Society