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Collection of vintage tractors and steam engines owned by dual fanatics retails for £1.5million

A treasure trove of vintage tractors and steam machines hoarded by two devotees has retailed for an enormous £1.5million. John Keeley and his wife May collected the pile of tarnished machinery on their farm in Berkshire over a 40-year period. Their curious fleet comprised of 50 vintage tractors and 15 steam engines, and was so vast they were able to stage their own agricultural show that became a famous event. Mr. Keeley passed away in 1999, and the yearly Knowl Hill Steam and Country Show ran for five more years before it creased. The pair warehoused their collection in numerous barns and even hedgerows. Mrs. Keeley passed on last year, and relations who inherited their machines chose to sell them at public sale.

The biggest sale of the auction was a 1928 Foden D-Type Timber tractor that went for £140,000, while a 1929 Sentinel five-ton steam wagon named ‘Deborah’ went for £80,000 and a 1935 version retailed for £75,000. Dual steam rollers dating to the 1930s was sold for £127,000, and a 1873 John Fowler plowing engine was auctioned for £58,000. The collection, which also included some classic cars, sold for a whopping total of £1.5 million (Almost $2 million).

Foden F1 1931 diesel Source:By Eagleash - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Foden F1 1931 diesel Source: By Eagleash – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

William King, the administrator of auctioneers Cheffins of Cambridge, stated, “This is possibly the first and last time that we will see such a diverse collection of historic and vintage vehicles comprising everything from steam engines to classic cars come to the market. Not only was it one man’s collection containing an eclectic mix of steam, tractors, commercial vehicles, cars, and memorabilia, but John Keeley managed to collect some of the most interesting items in all of those categories. It was amassed over the years with much care and attention to detail, and with many of the lots untouched and highly original.”

1930 Foden steam lorry Source:By Elsie! aka Les Chatfield - Found at, CC BY 2.0,
1930 Foden steam lorry Source: By Elsie! aka Les Chatfield – Found at, CC BY 2.0,

“With 50 vintage and classic tractors on offer, there was a make and model to suit every collector and his pocket. John and May were avid and discerning collectors, and that was reflected in the popularity of the sale.”

“We had an enormous crowd and there was some fierce bidding – with buyers from across the world, including Europe and America.”


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News