Archive for the 'steam roller' Category


The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Dudley Vernon Steynor

Service conducted by  The Revd Canon Cavell Cavell-Northam


Dudley was born on 16 October 1909 in Malvern where he grew up with his two brothers and sister in a large family home enjoying the freedom of the Malvern Hills.  Kite flying, model aeroplanes, motor cycles and motor cars were just some of the hobbies pursued by the family.

His interest in music developed at an early age as the family were very close to Vernon Warner the young protégé pianist.

Dudley was in one of the first intakes at Stowe school and a contemporary of David Niven, Sir Nicholas Winton and Geoffrey de Haviland .  In later years he bumped into David Niven at Heathrow Airport. David recognised him immediately, which says a great deal about the Steynor profile.

On leaving Stowe he studied the piano in London at the Academy of Music   living in Kew with his brother Martyn.  Together they joined the Hounslow Flying club and learned to fly.

Following his studies at the London Academy of Music he was advised to continue studying in Europe and chose Berlin where he studied at the Edwin Fischer School, only returning due to the imminent possibility of War.

His wish to assist the war effort as a pilot was initially thwarted by poor eyesight.  Having spent some months on the ground as a Link Trainer Instructor, and following a weekend party at the house of Jumbo Edwards his Commanding Officer and pre war Olympic Gold Medal Rower, a further medical in London was arranged. This medical was with the Chief Medical officer of the RAF.  He proceeded to test his eyesight by initially requesting him to read the chart with his good eye and then, without changing the chart and while looking the other way, asked him to read it again!  Dudley passed.

Some months later Dudley bumped into the Chief Medical Officer, thanked him, and asked if he realised that in fact his eyesight in one eye was really quite poor.  He replied that he knew people who could see perfectly and were quite lethal in the air and some people, like  Dudley, who might not have perfect eyesight but were  excellent pilots. As one who spent his time on the ground he would prefer people like Dudley above him!

The outcome of this was a posting to Booker Airfield as an Instructor in charge of B Flight where he spent the rest of the war. Here he met Ann who was assisting the war effort by helping with the tea wagon along with two of the sisters of King Zog of Albania who was living in exile at Parmoor here in Frieth.  Dudley and Ann were married in 1943.

On being de-mobbed Dudley decided that a career as a concert pianist was no longer an option and proceeded to devote his energies to designing and developing various ideas.  The first of these was the Verdik Petrol Economiser which made significant improvements to the petrol consumption of the cars of the day, and was widely acclaimed by the motoring press.

There followed  a humane rat trap which he designed at the request of his uncle in Birmingham who owned a hardware shop and it was the mesh of this trap that led to his next significant development.

A famous burns’ surgeon was staying with the Hon Mrs James in Lane End and on seeing one of the traps announced this was just the mesh needed to make guards to protect children from the horrendous burns suffered as a result of accidents with electric fires.  Dudley came up with a suitable design and as a result was kept busy for a few years supplying the electricity companies and then gas companies with guards to fit to all their various models. It was not long however before the manufacturers started incorporating guards at the manufacturing stage bringing this market to a close.   Guards for open fires were a further development and these carried on selling for a number of years.

Dudley and Ann started their married life at The Cottage, Lane End next to the old Chapel on Moor Common.  William was born here in 1948.

In 1951 they moved to Colliers Corner on the day of the birth of their daughter Linden who Dudley delivered in the absence of the midwife who had not yet arrived.  Dudley always said he was not phased by this as he had been in the Boy Scouts!!!

The family was completed by the arrival of James in 1956.

Although continuing throughout his working life with his inventions he decided that with a growing family to support he needed a more stable income. This led to his ownership of Goodchild’s Garage in Lane End and then a Daf Dealership.  Soon Dafs could be seen wherever you looked!

Among his many and varied interests steam always held a fascination. The purchase of an Avelling & Porter Steamroller gave the local community a much loved landmark as he kept it next to the road outside his house.

In 1964 he was tempted back to flying when William started gliding at Booker, now Wycombe Air Park. Dudley was soon recognised as an excellent pilot and instructor and he continued enjoying his gliding in retirement up to the age of 84.

In early 1981 disaster struck. There were extensive power cuts across the area as a result of a heavy snow fall. Dudley had taken Ann out to get a hot meal when the power was restored. The resultant surge caused a fire in Colliers Corner and they returned to find five fire crews doing their best to get it under control. They had lost nearly everything they owned.

Undaunted, a mobile home was bought and placed at the bottom of the garden for them to live in. The initial clearing of the site was carried out by two young men who were keen to earn some money between their training sessions at Marlow Rowing Club. A number of local tradesmen were engaged to rebuild the house and by the spring of 1982 they were able to return. As a thank you for all the hard work Dudley took the two rowers gliding. In the years that followed he watched with great interest the developing career of one of those rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Following the death of his wife Ann in 1996 he returned to his music and at the grand age of 87 produced two CDs of his favourite piano pieces.

Latterly he kept himself fit by doing at least 10 minutes a day on his exercise bike and completing fiendish Soduko puzzles until only a few months before his death.

His 100th birthday was a milestone he wanted to achieve. He thoroughly enjoyed his day which many here I am sure will remember as it brought Lane End to a standstill!


On a journey to London, soon after the war, I saw a strange steam roller working on a strip of the Westway. It was a Robey Tri-Tandem with three rolls of the same width, one behind each other. I stopped and had a few words with the driver. “It’s worth its weight in gold” he said, and from that moment I decided to make a smaller version of it for use on my tennis-court-sized and very uneven lawn. I would drive it by a small petrol engine and with water-fillable rolls it would weigh up to half a ton. I had visions of supplying the roller to cricked clubs, bowling clubs, tennis clubs – perhaps even Wimbledon!

I had some luck almost at once. A firm in Wycombe made a twin-roll roller powered by a Tecomsi 3hp engine, so all I had to do was to add another roll to it to get what I wanted. Then I had to consider the matter of steering it. It would be perfect for straight runs. The Wycombe twin-roll roller was easily turned by bearing down on the long controlling arm which raised the front roll clear of the ground. With 3 rolls and being a ride-on machine one does not have this option. So the extra roll would have to do the steering and be able to change its height as well. Compensated by a spring this made its operation easy by a simple lever. It was time to get it made. The ever-co-operative blacksmith in Lane End, Meakes, made just what I wanted and my tri-tandem roller was born. It performed well and I lent it to many friends, but the engine was its weak spot. I ought to have scrapped the Tecomsi and fitted a Honda. Finally the water-filled rolls rusted and the roller was scrapped. But it had lasted many years and was fun to drive. Final improvements would be a canopy over the driver to encourage him to use it when it was raining – ie under the best conditions for rolling, and a self-starter.


Steam has always fascinated me although it would be more correct to say it was the reciprocal steam engine where the appeal lay, for the steam turbine held no interest. My younger days were spent at Berwyn, North Malvern, within 500 yards of the granite quarry there and many times a week a steam traction-engine would pass our gate with its empty trailer on the way back to the quarry works after unloading its contents at Malvern Link railway station a mile away below us. They took another route on the way down. I have never lost this fascination and at Stowe School I built several model boats powered by Stuart Turner steam engines. I tested these at a small lake next to the British Worthies monument which was quite near the main building and convenient. When I bought, and moved, to Colliers Corner in 1951 there was a rusting wreck of a Foden Steam wagon laying a a piece of wasteland only a few yards from the house. But Fodens did not interest me then. One day, at a Steam Fair I met Chris Edmonds – a real steam fanatic – and the interest in steam returned with force. Chris found me an Aveling and Porter Steam Roller in good condition for, I think, not much over £100, and I bought it. Chris had a Fowler Steam Roller of similar size and he would drive it over to Lane End and leave it overnight on that piece of green common in the village. I was persuaded to organise the re-surfacing of the School Road in the middle of the village which was in a shocking state with potholes everywhere and, although this road was ‘unclaimed’, the Council offered the help of their workmen in laying the tarmac at no cost if I would pay for the stuff. We made headlines in the national press with our MP – John Hall – officially opening the new road when we had finished it.

Bill Connor – Casandra of the Daily Mirror – asked me to let him have a go at driving my roller and he arrived complete with photographers for the event. Later he arranged for lunch at the Blue Flag, a couple of miles away, and wished to drive me there on my Aveling. Now, steering a steam roller is not easy! It is about as far as you can get from ‘direct’. Bill was only saved from ditching us by my rapid use of the reverse gear which, on a steam engine, can be instantly applied. I got on well with Bill. WE both had almost encyclopaedic knowledge of motorcycles and we used to try and catch each other out on the subject. Steam rollers paid no road tax in those days and I did various jobs for friends – rolling the car park at The Chequers, Fingest, or pulling up a tree with the winch and also rolling Booker airfield (we tested it for maximum speed on the runway – close on 20 mph) and a long run to the steam rally at Chesham. On the road there never seems to be any vehicle ahead – looking behind things were rather different!

When I became too busy to have the time to enjoy it I sold the Aveling to a Mrs Vickers and so another chapter in my crazy life was over. But it was fun and all my children and my wife enjoyed it too. As I was finishing these notes my elder son, recently retired from being a Training Captain with BA, on reaching their age limit of 55, has just asked me if I am going to write about the fun we all had with Gokarts – or Karts as they were later called. I might do so, but at the moment I think I have said enough for one long lifetime and anything more must wait for my next lifetime on this planet. Then, of course, I may have totally different interests – none in steam, none in cars, perhaps none in flying but I hope plenty in music with a special addendum – that my final years are not hampered by deafness the next time round.

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