The distinctive ridge and furrow pattern created by ox-drawn ploughs in the Middle Ages can still be seen in fields throughout the area.
Horses had replaced oxen by the end of the 18th century but ploughs changed relatively little until, in 1763, James Small of Blackadder Mount in Berwickshire manufactured the first plough with a cast-iron plough-share.
Small's design developed into the “Scotch Swing Plough”, which was constructed to make it easier for the ploughman to swing the plough round into the next furrow.
Throughout the 19th century horses were the main source of motive power for ploughs and most other farm machinery.
In his book ‘The Implements of Agriculture’, published in 1843, J. Allen Ransome argued that the weight of steam engines made them unsuitable for ploughing. However, he concluded: “The time is perhaps not very distant when a steam engine will be one of the matters to be on every well conducted farm of 300 or 400 acres of arable land, perhaps even with less than this. The more prominent purposes to which such an engine may be applied are thrashing and dressing corn, dressing corn for the use of stock, crushing oats, beans, oil cake, cutting roots, chaff cutting, churning, bruising gorse. The boiler of the engine will afford the requisite means for boiling potatoes, or any other food, for cattle in a cheap manner.”
Despite these reservations, in the second half of the 19th century steam locomotive engines began to work ploughs on some farms where the fields were large and level enough to allow them to operate.