Raising a glass to Charles Henry Roe

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Legendary Leeds-based coachbuilder Charles Henry Roe has been the subject of two rather different tributes, reports Nick Larkin

In the first of two reminders of the well-known coach builder Charles Roe, an event is planned for 2021 to mark 100 years since Roe began operations at the legendary Cross Gates factory in Leeds. Secondly a Wetherpoons pub called the Charles Henry Roe has finally opened nearby, after delays caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Roe remained Managing Director of Chas H Roe Limited until 1952, by which time the company’s products were considered by many to be the best quality on the market, forming the backbone of many municipal and some BET fleets, as well as double-deckers being snapped up by independents.

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[/wlm_nonmember] [wlm_ismember] By 1982, Leyland had taken over control of Roe, and closed it in 1994.

The story did not end however as the business was bought by management and employees, opening as Optare in 1985. Today Optare, as part of Ashok Leyland, is a major force in the British bus industry and operates from modern premises at Sherburn in Elmet – the Cross Gates site is now housing.
The new pub got its name after an approach to Wetherspoons by Transport Yorkshire Preservation Group, a not-for-profit organisation which cares for several historic buses built at the factory.

To mark the opening, a vehicle procession was organised that included B144 RWY, a Leyland Olympian, carrying the last-but-one Roe body built, unique West Yorkshire PTE Optare-bodied Leyland Cub C807 KBT, a new Optare Metrodecker EV bound for First York, and a former Black Prince Optare Prisma.

The event was supported by Optare: “We were delighted to be invited by the Transport Yorkshire Preservation Group to support this event,” said Marketing Manager Louise Taylor. “With over a century of innovation beginning with Charles Roe, it is great to see Charles Henry Roe being commemorated at a site close to the original factory in Cross Gates.”

Eddie Gershon, spokesperson for JD Wetherspoon said: “We strive to commemorate historical individuals in the name of our pubs. The Charles Henry Roe is a very apt name for our pub in Cross Gates and we commend the Transport Yorkshire Preservation Group for bringing Mr Roe’s achievements to our attention.”

Chairman of the preservation group, James Fairchild, said that owners of Roe and Optare-bodied vehicles would be invited to a Roe 100 celebration, most likely on 22 May: Mr Roe’s birthday. “We hope to make this a really great event,” he said.

A location has yet to be finalised, but it may be held at the Optare factory at Sherburn in Elmet. A third tribute to Mr Roe has been announced as local councillors have granted permission for a heritage information board next to the former factory site featuring historical information about Mr Roe.
Anyone wishing to get involved in the Roe 100 event should email James on [email protected]


Charles Henry Roe staff outside the new pub at Crossgates, Leeds. WETHERSPOONS