Petters Limited

Petters Limited

Petters Limited (known as JB Petter & Sons of Yeovil until 1910), were a maker of stationary petrol and diesel engines from 1896 onwards.inote|Petter|Petter

In 1915 Petter founded Westland Aircraft Works (renamed "Westland Aircraft" in 1935).

In 1986 Petters Limited merged with one-time rivals companies RA Lister & Company to form Lister Petter.


James Bazeley Petter, an agricultural engineer and iron founder, had premises in the Borough, Yeovil.inote|Lukins p. 5|Lukins5 It was there that Ernest and Percival, his twin sons, designed and built a self propelled oil engine in 1892inote||SSM1. Three years later they designed the first internal combustion engined motor car to be made in the United Kingdom. The car, using a converted four-wheel horse-drawn phaeton and a 3 hp (2 kW) horizontal oil engine, had a top speed of 12 miles per hour (19 km/h).inote|Lukins p. 5|Lukins5 The vehicle was constructed at the Park Road carriage works of Hill and Boll. It weighed 9 cwt (457 kg) including the 120 lb (55 kg) of the Petter engine with its flywheel and side bars.inote||SSM1

A contemporary report said::"The carriage is intended for two persons, with which a speed of ten miles an hour [16 km/h] is obtained on level road. It will mount the hills of the neighbourhood with two persons, but larger power would be used for four persons … The exhaust is, we are informed, quite invisible, and the engine almost noiseless'. The removable handle (indicated in the plan drawing) was used to start the engine 'in the first place, and an arrangement is made so that the handle, when put in position, automatically opens the exhaust valve which closes instantly when, a good impulse being given, the handle is withdrawn and the engine starts … Tube ignition is adopted, and a small heating lamp is used … The engine starts in ten minutes and runs, we are told, without attention.' The larger road wheels of the vehicle were 42 in (1.07 m.) in diameter."inote|"The Engineer", April 3 1896|Engineer18960403

The twins continued to develop vehicles, the twelfth of which they entered to a competition at Crystal Palace in 1897, without success. Failing to achieve the commercial success that they hoped, they adapted the engines for agricultural and industrial use. In 1902 they produced the first agricultural tractor, powered by a 30 horsepower (22 kW) horizontal oil engine.inote||SSM1

The first engines made by Petter were Petter Standard oil engines which were horizontal open crank engines made to very high standards.

With commercial production under way, the family launched a private company called J. B. Petter & Co. Ltd. in 1902.inote||SSM1

Around 1903 cheap American imports, including the "Jack of all Trades" manufactured by the Fairbanks Morse Company, threatened the English stationary engine industry, and unlike most companies at the time Petter decided to produce a cheaper engine of their own to combat the threat. This engine was called the Petter Handyman which was sold around 20% lower in price than the 'Petter Standard' and was sold in batches of 50 or more.

In 1912 the company went public and began engine production in a new factory named the "Nautilus Works" (after the fire grates that had made James Petter's fortune) in Reckleford.Its workforce of 500 men produced 1500 engines a year.inote||SSM1

From 1920s onwards Petters made two-stroke and four-stroke engines. Such models as the M-type and the A-type were highly successful and were competitors for Listers D-Type.

In the 1930s the company manufactured mechanical calculators. The company obtained a patent on calculator technology in 1923 and two more in 1930. Guy Bazeley Petter then took out equivalent US patents and assigned the rights to the company. The company subsequently sold its calculator designs to the Bell Punch company.inote|http://Tout, Nigel. 'Petter S', "Vintage Calculators Web Museum", (2003). Retrieved June 5 2005.|Tout2003

After the second world war, Petters took over the old Lagonda works in Egham Hythe near Staines, Middlesex, employing over 1000 people at its peak.


*"Stationary and Marine Oil Engines" (Yeovil: Petters, 1932)
*Lukins, A. H. "The Book of Westland Aircraft" (Leiceser: Harborough, 1944)
*Petter, Percival. "The Story of Petters Limited" (Westbury: David Edgington, 1989)
* [ St Paul's, Egham Hythe (see history page)]

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