Restored historic plough marks agricultural past of town where it was made
PUBLISHED: 11:31 25 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:46 25 September 2019
Diss Heritage Triangle Trust
A piece of industrial and agricultural history has been returned to the Norfolk town where it was made over a century after it was last used in the fields.
The Champion Iron Plough, better known as "The Swootman", was produced by Diss manufacturers Elijah Youngs & Co and became world famous.
Now 100 years after it last worked the land a surviving example of the famous plough has been lovingly restored and is to be unveiled as a new sculpture in the town.
Diss Heritage Triangle Trust has funded the plough's complete restoration, which was carried out by Peter Hyde, the charity's chairman of the trustees. It has been installed with information boards explaining its unique local history in the Heritage Wildlife Gardens beside Diss Mere.
Brian Falk, of Diss Heritage Triangle Trust, and co-author of Traders of the Triangle, a book telling the story of the town and how it has changed over the centuries, said: "The Swootman was produced by E. Youngs & Co, whose Victoria Road Ironworks in 1878/9 expanded to Sawmills across the way when they joined forces with William Swootman and George Unwin.
"Together, as the Waveney Ironworks and Swootman Foundry, they produced what was to become the 'Farmer's Favourite and Horse's Friend', a single furrow wheel plough which, depending on whether you wanted one or two wheels, cost between £4 and £5. In its day, it was very popular and lived up to its reputation for doing 'more work and cost less for wearing parts'."
The restored plough was originally donated to Diss Museum by Peggy Wheeler, the granddaughter of Elijah Youngs and whose father had originally owned it. Latterly it had passed on to her niece, Sally, and was last in use at Alexander Wood, near Sotterley, in Suffolk.
The plough may have "scattered good seed" in its time but it is now set to bring the Youngs family together from as far afield as South Africa and Belfast for the sculpture's official unveiling on Monday, September 30.
The Youngs family and firm and their part in Diss life and industry will also be commemorated in a special display at the Bressingham Steam Museum on Sunday, September 29.
Mr Falk said: "The Swootman also has a continuing relationship with Diss. William and his wife Mary had a daughter Ann who married William Madgett. "They had 10 children and there are still Madgetts in Diss, the third generation owning Madgett Cycles in Shelfanger Road."