The Rulley

Time passed and I needed to move more and heavier loads, so decided to build a rulley. Again, the scrap wood was utilised, but I had to buy wheels, and then fit them to an axle.

In some areas, especially the manufacturing towns of central and northern England, the single-horse dray or trolley, also known as a ‘lorry’ or ‘rulley’, was a familiar sight from the 1880s to the early 1950s. This was a flat open vehicle, either sprung or dead-axle, having screw-down brakes in some versions but usually without a driver’s seat.

From Discovering Horse-drawn Vehicles by D.J.Smith

Conventional fittings were too expensive, as I needed shafts and hubs to fit my second hand wheels.

Eventually I found that a 2” pipe, fitted through 2” pipe flanges, which were bolted onto the wheels, would suffice.

The pipe had to be bought in a length, and cut to fit, and then it had to be attached to the frame, so I used mild steel straps first and then drilled through the pipe and screwed it onto the frame. It hasn’t given away yet.

Basic rulley frameBasic rulley frame

Rulley axleAxle only attached temporarily with cable ties.

I built the top frame first, which turned out to be a mistake, as there are too many cross members. A much simpler frame, reinforced later would have been better.

The frame was later topped with shuttering ply, which needed two lengths of new timber. Bad planning!

The remainder of the sheet made a tailboard. The turntable was made from a cable reel left by some electricians. It is a bit stiff to swivel, but Spiller is now strong enough to cope. I also had to buy timber for the shafts, and hooks etc. for the harness to attach the back straps to.

The final article was painted, and may well be turned into a small bow-top for grandchildren.

Spiller in harness with the rulleySpiller harnessed to the finished rulley.

Spiller workingSpiller working with the rulley.

Spiller's progress

Final word. Spiller is now four and a quarter, and it hasn’t all been easy. He went through an adolescent stage and is still a bit of a teenager!



The rigs are strong enough to cope with a serious bashing, but have built-in weak points that will, and have, given way when things go wrong.

So far, when this has happened, he has stopped and looked behind him to ask me what did I think I was doing, even when he could have run away, so I have had to regard that as a bonus.

This winter he has to cart some long logs, then muck and as spring approaches we ought to try some grass harrowing. I have a swingle tree ready!

If anyone wants more details of the builds, I will be happy to supply them.

Richard Petter

About Richard Petter

Richard is an ex dairy farmer from the north Riding. Now retired, Richard has a smallholding of 5 acres in North Lincs where he keeps sheep, goats, two Shetlands and inevitably some hens!

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