We follow the progress of the latest monster ovens (and their police escort) through the streets of Yorkshire

Such is the demand for the humble Yorkshire pudding, a West Yorkshire based convenience food specialist recently stepped up to the mark. It placed an order with Spooner Industries (in nearby Ilkley) for the manufacture of several large ovens in which to bake Yorkshire puddings.

Once these new ovens have been installed, the smaller of the two ovens will be used to produce an estimated 60,000 Yorkshire puddings per hour, with the larger oven producing 120,000 small Yorkshire puddings per hour.

William Wycliffe Spooner, a talented engineer with several inventions to his name, set up in Ilkley in 1932, moving to Railway Road, Ilkley in 1940 where part of the business still resides today. The company is a world leader in the design and manufacture of industrial ovens.

Local heavy haulage company Chris Wright of Baildon (based just outside Bradford) was called in to transport the monster ovens across West Yorkshire. Chris Wright’s company was formed in 1976 and started out buying tippers. He progressively added flat wagons and crane trucks to his fleet before finally adding lowloaders.
Although these loads were not overly heavy and the distance they had to be transported not too great, it was to be their width of five metres which caused Chris Wright the biggest problem.

With the loads potentially filling the road, the first two convoys of Yorkshire pudding ovens were restricted by the police to only being allowed to set out on their journey across West Yorkshire after seven o’clock in the evening, when the rush hour had subsided for the day.

Due to their being well over width, a police escort was required. This came in the shape of a pair of police motorcycles and a police car to escort them along their way into Leeds and their final destination. The sight of police cars and motorcycles escorting abnormal loads used to be quite common on the roads of the United Kingdom, before the advent of self-escort some six years previously.

All the loads did not travel together, with two leaving on the first night, followed by three on the second night, and the remainder having to wait a further two months before departure.
The first obstacle for Chris Wright’s drivers was to get them through the factory gates. First to leave was Dennis Feeley in a 6×2 Volvo FH 12 with the oven carried on a three-axle Nooteboom steering flat trailer. Second to leave was to be Ian Jefferson in a DAF XF 8×4 tractor unit, also coupled to a Nooteboom flat trailer.

The factory complex is set back from the main road with a housing estate to be negotiated before being able to join the main road. Houses all along the route had been leafleted a couple of days in advance to warn of the up coming movements, and advising local residents to keep the road clear of parked cars. Unfortunately, even with all the advance publicity, their efforts where in vain. 

There were cars parked in all the worse places along the route through the housing estate leading to the main road. But, apart from a few tight squeezes here and there, the main road was reached in under half an hour and away the ovens went to Leeds in the gathering dusk.

The following night was to see three further parts of the ovens depart from Spooner Industries. Joining Ian and Dennis was Chris Morton driving a 6×4 Iveco and once again it was to be Dennis who led the way, with Chris following and Ian bringing up the rear of the oven convoy.

This evening, the factory gates were to be the least of their problems, as the local residents had clearly not paid any attention to the advance publicity or the previous night’s loads and their struggle to negotiate the badly parked cars. Once again, the police were in attendance to oversee the movement of the second convoy.

Even though many of the local residents had seen the loads struggle to negotiate parked cars on the previous night, several of the residents chose to ignore the warning not to park inconsiderately again. Not long after setting off on its journey, the oven convoy was brought to a halt whilst the owner of a very badly parked BMW was found. It had been parked directly opposite a lamppost, preventing any further forward movement.

Once the lady owner of the BMW was found and asked to move her car, she promptly started berating the attendant police officers about what on earth such big loads were doing on her street. The fact she had been forewarned of the impending movement of these mammoth ovens, or the fact they had been manufactured around the corner and were on their way to their customer, seemed totally lost on her.

Following this brief delay, the convoy was able to resume its journey towards Leeds and headed off into the early evening. So the next time you have a Yorkshire pudding, it could very well have been baked in one of these mammoth ovens.