Leeds nostalgia: Pulling power of campaign to save Pudsey’s steam roller

How the Pudsey Roller looked in 1959.
How the Pudsey Roller looked in 1959.
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PLANs to restore part of Pudsey’s lost heritage have been given a boost, thanks to a £10,000 donation.

The Friends of Pudsey Roller group has been fundraising since 2007 so they can restore an 11-ton steam-powered road roller, which for many years was a fixture in Pudsey Park. It stood there from 1959 right up to 1990, when it was removed over fears it contained asbestos.

An image of the engine in 2007.

An image of the engine in 2007.

Since then the engine has been left to rot and when the Road Roller Association intervened in 2007, it required a complete overhaul.

Chairman of the friends group, Derek Rayner, a retired mechanical engineer who has owned a steam roller for the last 50 years, said the Pudsey roller was on a 25-year loan from Leeds City Council.

“At the moment, it has been dismantled, so there are parts of it all over the country.The boiler and firebox have gone for replacement parts to be manufactured and assembled to a specialist firm - Hunslet Steam - in Staffordshire, for example. That was necessary given its condition.

“The hope is to restore it to full working order and then it will return to Pudsey at different times of the year, including participation in the carnival.

“Obviously, it cannot go back into the park to become a permanent fixture. There was a time when lots of steam rollers used to be features of playgrounds - there were about 30 up and down the country but health and safety and our litigious society have changed all that - there are now just two now that i know of.”

mr rayner, who is also vice chair of the Road roller association and president of the Leeds and District Traction Engine Club, added: “We owe these machines a huge debt of gratitude. Without them, we wouldn’t have many of the roads in the condition they are today.”

The Pudsey Roller was built in 1921 by John Fowler & Co (Leeds) Ltd at the Steam Plough Works, Hunslet.

At some time it is known to have been given the name Majestic. The roller was supplied to Yorkshire’s West Riding County Council (it is not known to have worked in Pudsey) and when its working life ended in 1959 it was bought by Alderman Sir Walter Ward and presented to the Borough of Pudsey.

For the pleasure of generations of children it was placed in the playground of Pudsey Park. On the reorganisation of Local Government in 1974 the Borough of Pudsey was incorporated into an enlarged City of Leeds. In 1990 the roller was removed from the park by Leeds City Council on safety grounds.

After many years of neglect there were various attempts by groups and individuals to find a means for the Pudsey Roller to be restored. Success eventually came following several years of negotiations.

On March 5, 2007, agreement was reached between the Road Roller Association and Leeds City Council whereby the Pudsey Roller would be loaned to the association - it is hoped it will be in working order in the next few years.

If you would like to contact the friends group, please ring Derek Rayner on 01904 781519 or email: derek@invicta1915.freeserve.co.uk, or look at their website: www.pudsey-roller.co.uk

If you remember the Pudsey Roller or have pictures of it, please get in touch with Times Past at the usual address.