Full steam ahead for farmer's collection

One of the founders of the Tunstead Trosh, Billy Bird is selling his lifetime collection of vintage and classic tractors and steam engines.For the past four decades, Mr Bird has been an enthusiastic collector since he gained a passion for farming at the tender age of seven.

One of the founders of the Tunstead Trosh, Billy Bird is selling his lifetime collection of vintage and classic tractors and steam engines.

For the past four decades, Mr Bird has been an enthusiastic collector since he gained a passion for farming at the tender age of seven. He was allowed to drive his uncle's Fordson Standard N and about two years later took the wheel aged nine, when he could just get his feet on the clutch pedal.

Mr Bird, of Fall Farm, Tunstead, near Wroxham, who will be 69 in November, has made the decision to sell more than 20 vintage and classic tractors.

The pride of his collection wil be sold on Saturday, October 21 in the very field, where the famous "Tunstead Trosh" was held for so many years.


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He is selling tractors including a 1938 Case Model C and a 1941 Minneapolis Moline GTS with regret. However, on medical advice, he wants to sell the collection at the time of his choosing.

He is also selling a special steam traction engine, a 1922 Wallis & Steevens, which was acquired from the Henham Steam Rally in 1979. It has been extensively restored with a new firebox, front tube plate, new tubes and was rebored with new pistons in 2003.

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Some estimates suggest that it could make in the region of £60,000 - £80,000 because it is a superb example of its type.

He is also selling a 1916 Aveling & Porter steam road roller, White Heather, which has been restored.

Mr Bird, who became involved with the Norfolk Internal Combustion Engine Society, invited fellow members to take part in a fun working event. As the society's chairman, he had the idea of holding some working demonstrations of farming in a bygone age in 1974.

This provided very popular and the "Back to the Old Times" event was subsequently renamed the Tunstead Trosh in 1987. Over the next 15 years, until a series of very wet weekends put paid to the event, the "Trosh" became a popular attraction for thousands of visitors and raised thousands for charities and good causes.

Mr Bill, who was the son of a steel erector then living in Kent, was brought to Norfolk at the age of two shortly before the outbreak of war in 1939. While his father was able to work on the land occasionally, Billy was determined to farm if he could.

He was given the chance to run his uncle's smallholding when he was 16. It was to stand him in good stead when he applied about 10 years later to Norfolk County Council for a tenancy. He took on Hall Farm and never looked back. Over the years, his council landlord added extra acres and the farm expanded to about 122 acres. "At one stage, I was employing a full-time worker and growing a crops including sugar beet and potatoes," he added.

Mr Bird, who was later given the chance to buy the site, was also able to indulge in his passion for old machinery and tackle. He also had a full-sized Marshall threshing drum, which was restored about 20 years ago, and was a regular at the Trosh.

The sale of about 460 lots includes dozens of spare parts for the tractors plus plough shares, bygones including tool, sacks and some horse-drawn equipment including two-row turnip drill from F Randell Ltd.

Mr Bird is also selling a number of ploughs and tackle. The tractors include a 1948 Case LA, a 1937 Caterpillar 22 and a 1938 Caterpillar D2.

The sale starts at 10.30am in the brick barn, with spares, machinery, tractors from noon next Saturday. Viewing 10am - 4pm on Friday and from 8.30am on sale day. Details, Cheffins 01223 213777 or www.cheffins.co.uk

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