The Petters invented the horseless carriage and the Nautilus fire grate. They also generated the electricity that lit the streets of Yeovil. Joseph Lewis, Heritage Co-ordinator at the South Somerset Community Access Heritage Centre in Yeovil recalls those early inventions
Around 1881 James Bazeley Petter designed a modern and efficient fire grate which he called the ‘Nautilus’ because its internal structure resembled the internal structure of a Nautilus shell in which smoke from the fire circulated before being expelled by means of a flue.
Recording of Percy Petter describing the 2-stroke Petter oil engine recorded in 1934. This is an early example of how Petters used sound recordings to promote their products.
Looking back over that hundred years, one of the key elements are those people within the story. Certainly, Ben Jacobs and the horseless carriage and the development of that particular engine into the stationary engine, agricultural side. We’ve got a picture of them, one Petter engine, being used as a reciprocal saw to cut wood so that type and indeed the lesser known side would be the lighting of Yeovil. There were many larger Petter’s engines that were used to light Yeovil before the National Grid came in so that element of the story and then, of course, looking at aircraft production like Teddy Petter with the Lysander hence why we have Lysander Road here in Yeovil and always that sort of element, particularly that link between 1933 and 1986 with wanting to set some sort of benchmark that people have not done before. So, the first flight over Everest, then you’ve got the world air speed record and at points in the company’s history, it might be on a slight downturn, it literally lifts them up and says well, this is what Westlands are about. I think the other anecdotal element to the story is where James Bazeley Petter’s wife, perhaps it had already been called Westlands by then, but looking out at the first factory, land to the west of Yeovil – West land – is just another sort of anecdote.