TO put a significant slant on an old saying, greater love hath no man than for his steam roller. Or in these PC days, no person. Either way, when John and Mildred Stansfield move up to Worcestershire from Berkshire in 1980 they faced a bit of a problem.

For along with their nine assorted cats and kittens they had another “pet”, a 12-ton, 54-year-old road roller called Rosie and it wouldn’t fit on the furniture van.

They solved that one by hiring a low loader, but there was another when they reached their new home in the village of Peopleton, near Pershore, because there was no room on the front drive of the house in Monks Way.

So they put an appeal in the parish mag. for anyone with a spare barn to house “Rosie”, which had been a birthday present from John to Mildred 15 years before.

Presumably they found one because the story ended there, but it just illustrated the passion steam engines arouse.

To people of a certain age, and that certainly includes me, steam rollers were a familiar sight in the county in the years after the Second World War whenever roads were being repaired.

In fact Worcestershire County Council didn’t retire its last one until the mid-1950s.

When bottle banks were space age

They had first appeared in the UK in the late 19th century but even in those days it took a far amount of discussion in committee before the county council bought one.

The highways and bridges committee sounded out other local authorities about these new fangled machines and eventually lashed out and bought three in March, 1897 at £327 each.

There was no canopy over the driver on any of them as the county surveyor, who was either hearty or parsimonious or both, decided such luxury to be un-necessary, especially as £5 per roller could be saved by their omission.

A suggestion by a divisional surveyor that roller drivers should be supplied with heavy overcoats instead did not receive committee approval either.

The three original rollers weighed between 10-15 tons each and became such favourites with councillors they voted to buy two smaller “patching rollers” for use filling in potholes or for use on footpaths or in small or narrow corners.

With a deft bit of financial chicanery, the War Department seconded three Worcestershire rollers for “war service” in 1916, but only replaced two afterwards. Nevertheless by 1921 the county council’s fleet comprised 15 machines and the 1920s was the hey-day  not only of the Charleston, but the steam roller too.

From then on their fortunes gradually went downhill as they were replaced first by petrol and then diesel machines. From time to time the county council sold off old steam rollers, either complete or for scrap, until there were no more in Worcestershire. There wasn’t quite the same mourning that marked the passing of steam on the railways, but even so it must have been obvious  a bit of character had gone out of roadmaking.