Mr Sercombe's 1913 Saunderson Universal, a new light tractor, in South Canterbury.

Saunderson Tractor Register

The Saunderson Tractor and Implement Co. of Elstow Works, Bedford, England.
1910 became Saunderson and Gifkins
1912 became Saunderson and Mills
1923 production ceased when they were bought by Crossley Brothers.

Timaru Herald 18 August 1913 Page 2 Latest oil tractor landed.
To-day there will be landed at Timaru ex s.s. Orari, the latest design of oil tractor, a machine which ought to prove an acquisition, to the stock of the farming community of South Canterbury. The manufacturers are Messrs Saunderson and Mills, Bedford, England, and this is the first machine of this design that has been imported into the Dominion. It has a 3-speed gear which allows it to travel at seven miles an hour, and makes it adaptable for travelling on all kinds of country. It is on order to Mr R. T.W. Sercombe, farmer, Woodbury, Geraldine, and it will be interesting to see its work there. Mr R. C. Smith. Christchurch, is the New Zealand sole agent for the implement.

Wow, this tractor is still in Geraldine and still runs.

The 1913 Saunderson and Mills tractor was built at Elstow Works, Bedford, England in 1913 and is at the Geraldine Vintage Car and Machinery Museum. It is probably one of the oldest working tractors in N.Z., it was purchased new by a Woodbury farmer in 1913 for 375 pounds. [The purchasing power of $750 equals about $37,000 in 2020.] The transmission has two forward gears and one reverse. The steering system is stiff and involves endless turning of a level wheel on a rod linked to a cog. The tractor is in running order, has a cross mount motor with two large cylinders with two spark plugs each and there is a large rear tank for water cooling by convection.

 Model F, side steer. Found the maker plate with Serial  No. 553.

 2 cylinder  5 ¼ in bore  7 stroke. Has a long stoke so runs at a low rpm. [303 cu in. engine]
A feature was assess to both the engine and radiator, as well as the gearbox, without the rest of the assembly being dismantled.

Did it have a battery? NO.

Magnetos 'fire' the electrics when the crank handle is turned, in some circles they are known as 'hot boxes' no battery, so no lights etc.

The only electrical equipment is the Ignition System, and that is quite unique. There are two spark plugs to each cylinder. One of each is fed from the Magneto, in the photo below, the unit at the left with two black high tension leads going to the spark plugs. The other is from a low tension distributer, the round unit mounted in front of the Magneto. This has two low tension whitish colored wires which run to a pair of Trembler Coils. These are the same as the coils a Model T Ford had. From these coils there are two black high tension leads going to the second spark plugs in each cylinder. These would be powered from a battery feeding the low tension distributor.

Why the twin system?
A magneto will only produce a spark by spinning it at a reasonable speed and with a motor of this size and age would need a very strong man to crank it at speed. The Trembler coils on the other hand will give a continuous spark as long as the low tension is feeding it. This of course only happen as the circuit is energized through the distributor. Once the motor starts, the Magneto will be spinning fast enough to supply spark.

What is a magneto?
A magneto is a device employed to generate electric current for ignition systems of some gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to provide power to the spark plugs. A magneto is an electrical generator that uses permanent magnets to produce periodic pulses of alternating current.

100 Years of the Tractor. Rally at Winchester Showgrounds in 1989 (counted 27 traction engines)
Photo from the Geraldine Vintage Car & Machinery Museum fb July 22, 2016, at the Winchester Showgrounds.

Late 1940s to early 1950s Frank Sercombe, the son of the original owner, had moved off the farm and lived in Raukapuka, on McKenzie St. [aka Geraldine, but across the river] about 3 sections from the High School and below the sections was the river flat and took the tractor with him. Frank Sercombe had a large garden and raspberry orchard. He also had a lot of firewood stacked there and used the old Saunderson to drive a saw bench. G.T., Jan. 2020.

Temuka Leader 21 August 1913 Page 1
One of the general utility traction's passed through Temuka on Tuesday evening and it was a model of strength, serviceableness and fine workmanship. Beside the ordinary traction engine the light tractor looks like a toy. It is fitted with a two cylinder engine, has three speeds and it will haul a plough that generally requires six horses to pull. The tractor is half the weight of six horses.

Timaru Herald 20 August 1913 Page 7 A NEW TRACTOR. FROM THE HOMELAND.
The new "Universal" tractor, imported by Mr R.C. Smith, on account Mr R. T. W. Sercombe, of Geraldine was unpacked in the railway yesterday. The tractor has a handy and neat appearance and is well finished off. The power is derived from a two-cylinder, water-cooled online which develops 18.20 b.h.p. The valves of the engine are mechanically operated. The machine is described as a light general purpose tractor for agriculture, or transport and is mounted on four steel built wheels, springs to front wheels only. These are 30 inches in diameter by 10.5 inches wide. The rear propelling wheels are 4 foot in diameter by, 12 inches wide and all are fitted with renewable iron treads. The belt pulley is 10 inches in diameter by five inches wide and a locking device is provided for the defferential [sic] gear. For wet weather a waterproof awning is included in the list of spares and can be attached in a few seconds. A special point worthy of notice is the three point suspension system. As soon as the machine had been fitted up the engine was set in motion and ran smoothly. The tractor started off under its own power for Geraldine.

Sercombe Rd from McKeowns' Corner, Geraldine, Flat. The house is in the trees with a red roof, was a big house with lots of grounds.

Rupert Theodore Walton Sercombe

Born 3 Jan. 1861 in at Fair_Park near Exeter, Devon, England. Educated at Westminster School and attended Exeter College, Oxford in 1880, in 1885 was a solicitor. He started as a barrister under Whitehead but deafness forced him to abandon his profession. He came out to New Zealand in 1886 and was up in the North Island during the Tarawera Eruption [10 June 1886] and took part in the rescue operations. He departed NZ in November 1886 back to London on the R.M.S. Kaikoura. He had stayed at Orari Gorge during his first trip to NZ and he liked the district so much he was determined to return to it. Married 8 Aug 1893 at St. Mary Magdalen, Paddington, Sophie Maria Eleanor COSSER (b. 1855 at Titchfield, Hampshire). After his marriage he came back to NZ and bought Arthur Hope's place - Rokonui, a big house but not much land. He added more land and increased it to 300 acres. The Sercombe's lived here for the rest of their lives. R.T.W. brought a small farm "Creevale," at Gapes' Valley in 1901. He was a poor farmer- probably lost money by it. He was a strong supporter of the C of E. and was a lay reader. Ref. McDonald's Dictonary. June 11th 1915 Mr R. T. W. Sercombe, Rokonui, Geraldine, offered accommodation for four or invalid and convalescent soldiers. Sophia died in 1940 aged 84. Rupert died March 21st 1944, aged 83 at Timaru. Both are buried at St. Anne's Churchyard, Pleasant Valley.

Temuka Leader 23 February 1905 Page 3 MAGISTRATE’S COURT, GERALDINE. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21st. (Before Captain Wray, S.M.)
Mrs Sercombe, wife of Mr R. T. M Sercombe, Rokonui, Geraldine, deposed that she was driving into Geraldine on the day in question about, 2.30 p.m. with her daughter and a Christchurch lady. On turning the cross roads from Woodbury she saw a traction engine ahead, and noticed that it had stopped while someone was attending to the works. Presently it started to move on again and witness, when they got nearer, held her hand up as a signal to the driver to pull up and let them pass in safety. The driver must have seen the signal, but he kept the engine going. Witness pulled her horse up, but this had no effect on the driver, who only laughed when she threatened to lay an information against him. At Geraldine witness made enquiries as to the name of the driver and informed the police. The horse did not shy, but there was a danger of its turning and bolting back, if a child had been driving there might have been an accident in any case.
    Constable Rasmussen gave evidence that when he served the summons defendant stated that he saw the signal, but, as he did not think any thing was wrong he saw no need to stop or render assistance. Witness asked defendant if he had a man walking in front of the engine according to regulations and he said “No.” His Worship stated that as defendant failed to appear he was practically guilty of the offence, end he would fine him 10/ and costs 19/.

Temuka Leader 16 January 1913 Page 4
Mr R. T. W. Sercombe, Rokonui, wrote that he has sold the property lately occupied by Mr Mann, Gapes’ Valley, and the purchaser should pay the rates incurred since the purchase. No rates had been paid since the purchase.

1871 Census Sussex.
[Rupert Theodore Walton Sercombe1 b. 3 Jan 1861, d. 21 Mar 1944, child of Louisa Smith and Rupert Clampitt Sercombe.]

1 West Hill Terrace, Hastings (St. Leonards civil parish) RG10/1033, enum. dist. 16, fol. 94, p. 64, sched. 296
SERCOMBE 	Louisa 		Head W 	49y --- 	MDX London
SERCOMBE 	R.T.W. 		Son - 	10y Scholar 	DEV Exeter
SERCOMBE 	Gertrude 	SisL U 	39y --- 	DEV Exeter
WARREN 		Pauline 	Serv U 	34y Maid 	Germany 

Star 13 November 1894 Page 2 PASSENGERS BY THE GOTHIC.
The following are passengers for Lyttelton by the Gothic, which sailed from Plymouth on Oct. 6 :— Mr and Mrs R. T.W. Sercombe...

Map of Geraldine Flat. "Rokouni" is shown at the western end of Sercombe Rd. and McKeown Rd.corner. R.T.W.S. had an orchard at "Rokouni."

Francis "Frank" Walton Sercombe

Born 10 Nov. 1895 at Geraldine, NZ s/o Sophia Maria Eleanor and Rupert Theodore Walton Sercombe. Frank Sercombe died in 1979 in  Timaru.  Frank married Edith Roberts BEWS in 1936. Frank served in WW1 Service No. 50708 and his name is recorded as Francis Walton Sercombe. He was an Anglican. His name was drawn in the ballot, April 1917, for the 30th Reinforcements. Enlisted 5 May 1917 NZMR for the duration of the war. Embarked from Wellington 21 Feb. 1918. Disembarked Suez 4 April 1918. Got a septic finger 19 Oct. 1918. Highest rank Sgt. He was 6ft half inches. Weight 196lbs. Hair fair. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Class A. Appendix scar. Service aboard 1 year and 206 days. In his father's will his Frank's name is written as Francis Walton Sercombe and also on his Oxford University record, marriage and death but his NZ birth is recorded as Francis Walter SERCOMBE.

Press 21 March 1936 Page 2 WEDDING  SERCOMBE—BEWS.
The wedding was celebrated at St. John's Church, Invercargill this week, of Edith Roberts, youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs J. E. Bews, Invercargill, to Francis Walton, only son of Mr and Mrs R. T. W. Sercombe, “Rokonui,” Woodbury, Geraldine. Archdeacon J. A. Lush performed the ceremony, and the Rev. Mr Lomas was the organist. A frock of parchment satin beaute made with wide lapels and long straight sleeves was worn by the bride, who was given away by her father. Miss Gwenda Christophers (Lawrence) and Miss Ellen Oliver were the bridesmaids. They carried lemon gladioli. Mr A. Drummond-Sharpe (Geraldine) was best man. The guests were received in Elmwood garden by Mrs Bews, who was wearing a frock of black georgette and lace and a black straw hat. Her flowers were autumn-tinted chrysanthemums. For travelling the bride wore a black suit and a hat to match. Mr and Mrs F. W. Sercombe will live at “Rokonui,” Geraldine.


In 1901, R.T.W. Sercombe, a New Zealand farmer, living in a lodging house at 5 St. James Road, Surbiton, Surrey, with his wife Sophie, their son Francis, and Sophie's daughter, Sophie M. LaVie (b. ca. 1885 in Ceylon) [Mary Sophie Underwood and died January 13th 1966, Bedford, Bedfordshire, ENG. ]  

Sun 1 September 1916 Page 1 MARRIAGE.
UNDERWOOD— LA VIE.— On July 16, at Holy Trinity Church, Sliema, Malta, by the Rev. Chas. E. O'Hara Tobin, C.F., New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Frank Louis Underwood, Captain R.A.M.C., to Mary Sophie La Vie, daughter of Mrs Sercombe, Rokonui, Geraldine. [Capt. Underwood served in Salonika (2 Jul 1917)] [Dr. Underwood died in 1941] 

Older tractors

In February 1913 a farm motor the "Universal" made by Saunderson and Giffkins [sic], Bedford, England, imported by the local agent Mr R.C. Smith. Had a 4 [sic] cylinder water cooled engine with with gears and a speed of 7 mph. The driving wheels 5ft in diameter with a belt pulley fitted on the friction clutch shaft. Started on petrol and switched to kerosene. Total weight 5 tons. It was very light on the land. The model was manufactured in Bedford and weighs approximately only two tons.

The oldest tractor in New Zealand is the 1910 D Titan owned by Roger Mahan, late of Milburn, now of Geraldine. He had constructed a 100mm x 50m building to house his collection in Geraldine. photo

Roger Mahan & Son, Geraldine

North Canterbury Gazette 25 June 1935 Page 6 JUBILEE OF THE TRACTOR
Progress in agricultural engineering in the last quarter of a century is the fascinating study.
For it was in 1910 that the first tractor trials were held:—at Byegrove, near Baldock, Herts—by the Royal Agricultural Society of England. "The agricultural motor," intended to be the subject of the trials, was described as "any form of motor using either steam, oil, petrol, or electricity as its motive power, which—
(a) Shall be capable of hauling direct in work a plough, cultivator, harvester, or other agricultural implement.
(b) Shall be capable of driving such agricultural machines as a threshing machine, chaff-cutter, grist mill, etc.
(c) Shall be capable of hauling a load along a road or on the land."
    Of eleven entrants, seven went through the trials.—four steam and three petrol tractors. The petrol tractors were the single and double-geared Ivel agricultural motors, and the Saunderson.
    The development of the tractor was slow in this country until the war, with its exigencies of increased cultivation with reduced man power. The war left a legacy of Fordson, Moguls, and Titans, many of which are still working to the satisfaction of their owners. The definition given above still fits the present day tractor. There have been many changes in outward appearance and internal construction, but finality is still far distant. Tractor design is still vigorously advancing.

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