UK Galloper Reports by Brian Steptoe


UK Gallopers

A Visit to Brighton plus Two New Books

  There are now (as at Spring/Summer 1999) two sets of Gallopers at the Sussex seaside resort of Brighton. The machine built by Rundles for the Palace Pier company remains in use with their other amusements. It was originally described in an earlier UK Galloper report soon after it was first delivered new. Now it has a standard safety-style fence surround. A notice on the fence, just visible here left of centre, shows a photo from the Virgin Records photoshoot of the Spice Girls, which took place on these gallopers in September 1996.

Rundles gallopers on Brighton Palace Pier

Rundles-built modern gallopers on Brighton Palace Pier

  The other machine is to be found on the seafront between the Palace Pier and the old West Pier. But, as is obvious from this photo, it was not open to the public at the time of my visit in late-April. In fact, on that day the organ in the ride was receiving attention from Mark Waltham, who is particularly known for his electronic control systems for playing fair organs without the need for an operator to feed in book music. This ride has recently been purchased by showman Owen Smith from David Corbin, who rebuilt the ride after itsOwen Smiths 1888 gallopers repurchase from the USA, minus its original horses. The ride dates from 1888 and was originally built by Allchins. David Corbin fitted it out with a set of quality fibreglass horses and cockerels to traditional carving designs and added a Dean-built organ plus a steam centre engine. The organ remains with the gallopers, but the engine was not included in the Smith’s purchase.

Above:  Owen Smiths gallopers (1888 origin),
but with apologies for being closed in this photo!


And Now Something Different - Brighton West Pier

  The West Pier started life in 1866 as a Victorian parading pier, where people would take the air and enjoy the view, whilst perhaps listening to a band playing on the pier.

West Pier Pavilion and former theatre Its role gradually changed into a pleasure pier with the addition of two main halls, one part way along and one at the outer end. This work was completed in 1920. It was a major steamer stopping point and excursions to France often took place. The pier evolved into an essentially funfair pier after World War Two. It was closed to the public in 1975 and since then it has come very close to being totally derelict. Now it has been saved by the award of a major Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 1998 and restoration has commenced. It is Britain’s only pier with a Grade One listed status. It is hoped to complete restoration by 2002.
West Pier Pavilion and former theatre
at start of restoration, April 99
(Acknowledgements are due to Fred Gray for his book “Walking on Water” for some of the information given here)

John Carter and Paul Braithwaite

A Palace on Wheels

  Paul Braithwaite’s book on showmens living wagons, entitled “A Palace on Wheels” was launched on 8 May 1999. The launch took place in a traditional round stall (a hoopla stall) with media personality Libby Purves in attendance. John Carter was himself involved in writing some parts of the book and the launch booksigning session had all three personalities busy with their pens.

Left:  John Carter (in foreground) and
Paul Braithwaite at book signing

Pinkneys Green fair is the Carter family’s event of the year where the aim is to power all their rides by electricity generated from steam showmens engines, as well as using their own Galloper and Yacht steam-powered rides. On this occasion a major feature was the large number of traditional showmens living vans in attendance. Anna Carter’s recently restored Brayshaw-built wagon was there - readers can see several photos of this, as featured in the book, in the Spring 1999 UK Galloper web report.

Front page from A Palace on Wheels

Front page from the living van hardback book

This book is the first to cover the subject of traditional showmens living vans, those bespoke travelling homes which were frequently their owner’s pride and joy, but where public gaze on their interiors was to be discouraged. One all-pervading feature was the “Mollycroft” roof. The styles of these traditional vans differ from those of the gypsy community, although several makers took orders from both groups. This book covers showmens vans manufactured over the timespan from 1860 to 1960 and also includes descriptions of some twenty traditional vans that have been, and in many cases still are, travelling with Carters Royal Berkshire Steam Fair.

The Travelling Cinematograph Show

“The Travelling Cinematograph Show” by English fairground historians Kevin Scrivens and Stephen Smith is a new and comprehensive book on this relatively overlooked subject. It covers the timespan from the first reported instances of moving pictures on the fairground in 1896 to the end of their era after the First World War, in a handsome black and white book of 180 pages. The social context is suitably covered in earlier chapters and the reasons for demise of this travelling entertainment form as fixed cinemas became established in towns throughout the country, often by entrepreneur showmen themselves, is documented. The book is well illustrated throughout.

 Front cover of The Travelling Cinematograph Show

Front cover of this softback book, ISBN 0 9535067 0 2

Three-quarters of the book is taken up by comprehensive descriptions of all the English operators with travelling bioscope shows. As is often the case with such treatments, these chapters can be seen as overfilled with historic fact and trivia, but one reader’s trivia can be another’s content of major interest, especially if related to the family involved.

Some editing down to allow the inclusion of a full index would further improve this worthwhile publication.

Manders Waxworks Show

Manders Waxworks Show, opening also with
“Edison’s Electric Animated Pictures”
Hull Fair 1904 (courtesy of Stephen Smith)  

UK Gallopers
   The next issue of the UK Galloper report will be published this summer.  It is planned to include a feature on the visit to the United Kingdom of the US National Carousel Association.  Close to 100 NCA members will be visiting in mid-June to experience English gallopers and other traditional rides, to hear fairground organs and visit a steam rally.  
UK Gallopers

Brian's new book Roundabout People is Here!
Read all about the artists and artisans
behind so many wonderful carousels

This Way

and This Way to the Book Shop

 UK Gallopers
Text and photographs by Brian Steptoe, 1999.

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