The road steam fleet of Skipton Rural District Council
Vice Chairman of the Road Roller Association and President of the Leeds and District Traction Engine Club
Road maintenance in the area surrounding Skipton was in the hands of Skipton Rural District Council until April 1930 at which time government legislation transferred the responsibilities to the West Riding County Council. The RDC’s depot was at Gargrave.
Over time, the Rural District Council owned nine steam rollers, all purchased new, plus two road steam engines and a Yorkshire steam wagon; this latter having been manufactured in July 1915 by the Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Company of Pepper Road, Leeds.
The first steam roller obtained by the Rural District Council was inevitably one supplied by Aveling & Porter of Rochester, Kent. This was in October 1896. Aveling’s were the UK’s most prolific steam roller manufacturer, they having made more steam rollers than all the other British makers put together. It was Royalty Number (works number) 3791 and was a 10-ton overhead valve compound roller weighing probably around 12-tons in working order. According to the presently available records, courtesy of the Road Locomotive Society, this was followed a couple of years later by another identical roller, Aveling No 4258, in December 1898.
Later steam rollers were purchased from Charles Burrell & Sons of Thetford (No 2269 of March 1900) and then Thomas Green’s of North Street, Leeds, (No 1473 of January 1903). These were followed by two more Avelings, Nos 7586 of January 1912 and 8481 three years later in January 1915.
The final three rollers were one from John Fowler’s of Leathley Road, Hunslet, Leeds – No 15590 of April 1921 and two by Wallis & Steevens of Basingstoke, Hampshire – their ‘Advance’ models – Nos 7807 of September 1924 and 7910 in February 1927.
The road engines were both obtained second-hand, a traction engine by 1921, having been built in Leeds at the Midland Engine Works of J & H McLaren on Jack Lane, Hunslet, in 1897 – this being No 641. The other was a steam tractor which came from Clayton & Shuttleworth of Lincoln in December 1927 – No 48858. It’s likely that these were used for hauling roadstone to the site of works relating to road repairs where the crushed stone would have been rolled in by a steam roller. This latter machine was still owned in 1951.
The initial two Aveling rollers were so similar in looks and specification that it would have probably been impossible to tell them apart without looking at the brass Royalty Plate on the cylinder where the Royalty Number is engraved – so that which is pictured in Fig 1 – is one of these two rollers. Specifically which one of the two 1890s rollers is not able to be determined.
Fig 2 shows the Thomas Green roller working at Delaney’s Quarry, close to Horton in Ribblesdale and driving a stonecrusher by means of a leather belt from its flywheel. It was presumably on hire to the quarry owners at the time or it was reducing the size of quarried stone to manageable proportions for the council’s later road making purposes elsewhere.
One interesting coincidence here in regards to this article is that there is a Skipton RDC owner’s plate which still survives – Fig 4 from Aveling & Porter 8-ton steam roller No 7586. This machine was sold out of council service at an unknown date to contractor Charles William Sykes of Netherton near Huddersfield. In 1942, this firm’s threshing business passed to Joshua Rodgers of nearby South Crosland and although the roller itself was later purchased from Sykes by the roller hire firm of Hampshire Brothers of Ravensthorpe, near Dewsbury, the plate was acquired by Rodgers and re-used by being polished and engraved on the reverse with his name and Fleet No 4. Fig 5
This plate is now fitted to the author’s 1915 Aveling & Porter steam roller No 8506 White Rose, Fig 3 which was purchased from Joshua Rodgers for preservation by him and two colleagues in 1964 and which is still owned by him.
The only surviving steam vehicle once owned by Skipton Rural District Council is the 8-ton Aveling & Porter roller No 7586 which is now in preservation in Northamptonshire.
It should not be forgotten, however, that Skipton Urban District Council was an entity in its own right. Prior to 1895, this was Skipton Local Board and this organisation purchased its own steam roller – Aveling & Porter, No 3479 – new in December 1894. It is not known whether the dates of 1895 and December 1894 in respect of the UDC and the purchase of the RDC’s first steam roller in October 1896 are significant or not.
Aveling No 3479 worked for the UDC until 1921 when it was replaced by a new Fowler steam roller, No 15813, in April of that year. This one was eventually sold (undated) to the same Joshua Rodgers as noted above. The other steam roller owned by Skipton UDC was Wallis & Steevens ‘Advance’ type No 7869 which was new to them in July 1926. Both these two rollers are still in existence, the Fowler being near Stroud in Gloucestershire, whereas the Wallis is in Lincolnshire.