Before tractors were developed in the early twentieth century, steam was the first method of mechanised ploughing. Steam ploughing involved two steam traction engines, each with a drum carrying cable suspended beneath its boiler. They were too heavy to cross land pulling ploughs so they were located opposite each other at the edge of the field. The engines took turns in winding the cable across the field to which a special balance plough was attached.
In order to be cost effective this system, developed by John Fowler an agricultural engineer, needed large areas of suitable terrain. Unfortunately the area around Whitchurch was not entirely suitable as so much was devoted to dairying. Only the wealthy could afford to purchase their own steam engines and ancillary equipment. This led to the formation of local steam ploughing companies. One such group was created in Whitchurch which allowed farmers to hire in men and equipment when required.