The "Pudsey Roller" - A Brief History

For many years, thousands of parents brought their children to Pudsey Park for the special treat of playing on the steam roller there, following its arrival in the playground in 1959.

The Pudsey Roller was built at John Fowler’s Steam Plough Works at Leathley Road, Hunslet, Leeds in 1921. It is Fowler works number 15752 and was registered WR 7508. The Roller spent a long commercial life with West Riding County Council in whose fleet it was No 18 and at some time, it was given the name Majestic. It was latterly with the contracting firm of Yorkshire Hennibique and was then obtained by a local benefactor, Alderman Sir Walter Ward, one time Mayor of Pudsey, at a time when it was common practice for such items to be placed in children’s playgrounds for them to play on. The Roller was presented by Sir Walter to the people of Pudsey in 1959 and installed in Pudsey Park for the benefit of the Borough’s children.

In 1974 the Borough of Pudsey was incorporated into Leeds City Council. Many children continued to enjoy the privilege of the Roller until, in 1990 due to its deterioration, the machine became too dangerous to continue in use for this purpose and was removed for storage in a council storage yard at Kirkstall. This yard was sold for residential development and when the site was being cleared around 1994, it was seen by ex-Pudsey resident Keith Wear who determined that it should not be scrapped and negotiated with the Council for it to be moved to their storage site at Farnley.

Keith Wear, a former Pudsey resident, noticed a derelict Steam Roller in the Council storage yard at Kirkstall in 1991 and recognised it as the one from Pudsey Park. Subsequently, the yard was sold for residential development and when the site was being cleared around 1994, Keith was advised by men on site that the Roller was to be scrapped. He was determined that this should not happen. Keith’s intervention meant that the Roller was moved to alternative storage premises at Farnley, and was thus saved from the scrap man’s torch.

Because of the way the Pudsey Steam Roller was gifted to the people of the Borough of Pudsey, Leeds City Council were in a difficult position regarding its disposal and could not sell it. A method had to be found to rescue the Roller. After several years of deliberations and further negotiations with the Council, and with Keith Wear’s valuable help, the Road Roller Association, a national enthusiast’s body, signed a long term loan agreement with the Council on 5th March 2007. The result has been a successful way forward for both the Roller and the people of Pudsey. The roller is to be restored by volunteers to full working condition and presented in its original colour scheme. After restoration, a task that may take up to ten years and take between £20 and £30,000, the Roller will be taken back to Pudsey and driven through the streets, by taking part in the Pudsey Carnival. Unfortunately it will not be able to resume its previous role as a plaything in the Park but nevertheless, it will be seen again and Pudsey’s people will be able once more to enjoy the Roller that was gifted to them.

Pudsey Roller

Pctured above is the Pudsey Roller in the Farnley Depot of Leeds City Council, just before the agreement between Leeds City Council and the Road Roller Association was signed.

Saturday 28th April 2007 was a very special day! The Roller was uplifted on to a low loader ready to be taken for restoration in north Leeds. During this journey it visited Pudsey and was display to the citizens and visitors at the following venues and times.

An invitation was extended to local residents to come along and view the roller and to see the enormous task ahead that the RRA’s volunteer Operations Agent, member Ian Fearnley and his son Jamie will have before them. Ian’s wife Doreen was a Bramley girl and well recalls the roller when it was in the park.

It is anticipated the cost of restoration will be in the order of £20-£30,000 and will probably take around five years – once sufficient funds have been raised to enable a start to be made.

To this end, the Road Roller Association has opened the Pudsey Roller Restoration Fund and monetary donations can be sent to the fund at 5, Dryden Avenue, Balderton, Newark on Trent, Notts NG24 3QT. Cheques made payable to the ‘Road Roller Association’, please. In addition, donations in kind can be offered and discussed with RRA Vice Chairman, Derek Rayner, on 01904 781519.

The initial statement announcing that the Road Roller Association had secured the "Pudsey Roller" on loan can be viewed here.

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