The Hermaphrodite Cart

The Hermaphrodite Cart is a type of cart ~ waggon that was used in the eastern counties of England, for example Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, from the 1800s until the mid-1900s. In farm parlance, it was often called a mophrey and was created, primarily in hay or harvest time, by extending a two-wheeled cart through the addition of a fore-carriage and ravesorladders.

Figure 1 shows a ‘mophrey’ that belonged to Charles Clarke, West Willoughby, Lincolnshire circa 1910.

The basic cart was often, as known to the writer, a “Scotch cart” i.e. a lighter-built cart that, associated with the later 1800s migration of Scottish farmers to the eastern counties, replaced heavier “tumbrils” used in the area. The basic cart, capable of carrying one ton of such crops as potatoes, was limited for hay or grain sheaves. However, by removing the shafts and adding a fore-carriage along with harvest ravesorladders (a wooden frame used to extent the loading platform) around the cart’s body and over the fore-carriage, it created a vehicle closer to a waggon’s capacity. The shafts were re-fitted to the fore-carriage for the horse.

Figure 2 shows the author in 1980 driving a ‘mophrey’ in the care of the Peterborough Farm Machinery Preservation Society, but which had belonged to Frank Smith of Kirton, Lincolnshire. The orange colour, traditionally correct for the area, is in fact ‘red lead’ paint which turns to pink as the lead oxidises, often confusing restorers who think they should be that colour!

Bob Powell, former Curator of the Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, Scotland; Working Horse and Farming Historian