Born in Bishop’s Stortford on the borders of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1914, Douglas Hayter was educated in the town and on leaving school entered the retail trade. He found life rather dull and before long joined a touring air circus and spent his time servicing aeroplane engines, a job that left him with a lifelong interest in engineering.
In 1937, after serving an apprenticeship in the building trade, the young Douglas Hayter arrived in Spellbrook and built a five roomed bungalow for himself and his wife. In 1938 he started his own building business. He erected workshops and sawmills, manufactured his own plant, and invented a top secret device for the War Office.
World War II changed things and on learning that he was in a reserved occupation, Douglas Hayter decided to concentrate on buildings and repairing farm tractors and machinery.
When the war ended, he added the manufacture of cattle yard equipment to the company’s activities. On discovering that some of his employees had no homes, he decided to build luxury caravans for them from old RAF mobile containers previously used on the Queen Mary.
In 1946, he decided to add some extra factory space at Spellbrook. He borrowed a cutter bar mower from a friend to clear a space for the new building but made slow progress with this work. Soon after, on a visit to the London Science Museum, Douglas Hayter saw a horse-drawn rotary mower that had been invented a hundred years or so earlier. On his return to Spellbrook he added a second hand two-stroke engine to the collection of bits and pieces that he had under his workshop bench. By the next day, the first Hayter rotary lawnmower, complete with a dustbin lid over the rotor, was ready for use.
The new lawnmower worked quite well and before long, an admiring neighbour asked Mr Hayter to make one for him. From this small beginning, demand for the Spellbrook built mower grew, and soon after the Hayter Motor Scythe went into full production in 1947. It was a hand-propelled motor mower with a 24” cut made with whatever engine was available at the time.
Ipswich Town Council was one of the first customers to buy a Motor Scythe. Further work was done on product developments and a safety stone guard was fitted to the mower deck. When supplies became more readily available towards the end of the 1940s, a four-stroke Villiers horizontal crankshaft engine was used for the already popular Motor Scythe.
1946 saw Hayter incorporated as a limited company.