Aveling Porter Ltd., Rochester

Aveling and Porter

Aveling and Porter was a British agricultural engine and steam roller manufacturer. Thomas Aveling and Richard Thomas Porter entered into partnership in 1862, developed a steam engine three years later in 1865 and produced more of the machines than all the other British manufacturers combined.

The partners

Thomas Aveling was born at Elm, Cambridgeshire, in 1824 and was apprenticed to a farmer where he had the opportunity to familiarise himself with the new steam-powered farm machinery of the time. In 1851, Aveling’s interest in engineering led him to set up a business in Edward’s Yard, Rochester, with his father-in-law producing and repairing agricultural machinery. In 1856 they produced the first steam plough. In 1860, the business moved to Strood, on a site adjacent to Rochester Bridge

Aveling_&_Porter_engine_at_ChathamAveling Porter loco at Chatham

The business

In partnership with Porter, the steam roller they produced in 1865 was tested in Military Road, Chatham, Star Hill in Rochester and in Hyde Park, London. The machine proved a huge success. Aveling and Porter steam rollers were exported to Europe and as far afield as India and North America.

In 1919 Aveling and Porter joined the Agricultural & General Engineers  (AGE) combine. Production of Aveling and Porter steam wagons was transferred to Richard Garrett. In 1932 AGE went into receivership, bringing down Aveling and Porter with it.

In 1933, Aveling and Porter combined with Barford & Perkins to form Aveling-Barford which continued to make steam and motor rollers. The rescue, part-funded by Ruston & Hornsby of Lincoln, involved the firm moving to Grantham, Lincolnshire, from the Rochester site. After World War II the company continued to make motor and steam rollers as well as expanding into other construction equipment.

Aveling Barford is now part of the Wordsworth Holdings Group, a family owned company. The company is based in Grantham, and still trades under the name ‘Barford’ which uses a modern version of the Aveling-Barford ‘prancing horse’ logo. Barford manufacturers and sells a wide range of site dumpers.


Aveling & Porter built more steam rollers than all the other manufacturers combined. They also built traction engines and steam wagons.

Another example of Aveling and Porters engineering skills can be seen in the massive covered slips at Chatham Dockyard. These Leviathans of steel pre-date the great London train sheds of St. Pancras, King’s Cross and Paddington—traditionally understood to be the oldest and largest steel framed structures of the time.

In fiction

Two Aveling and Porter products are found in The Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry and the TV Series based on the books: George the Steam Roller and Fergus the Railway Traction Engine.

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