Stunning festive favourite still in the running after 137 years
They’re a dazzling festive fixture that’s captivated thousands of children and families in Leeds for the last fifteen years.
But few could guess the extraordinary ride through British fairground history taken by Millennium Square’s spectacular Golden Gallopers.
The traditional roundabout attraction, one of the most eye-catching spectacles at the square’s annual German Christmas market, is thought to have begun its remarkable life back in 1881.
It was originally built by well-known Norwich-based engineer Robert Tidman as a Dobby, an early type of roundabout usually propelled manually by the operator, before it was rebuilt as an “overhead Galloper” by Thomas Walker.
An accomplished agricultural engineer, Walker had branched out into repairing fairground rides in the early 1900s, working on everything from swing boats to merry-go-rounds and rollercoasters.
Gallopers had become popular at a time when most working people couldn't afford their own horse and a ride on the Gallopers would have been the fastest many customers had ever travelled.
Over the years the ride fell into disrepair but was eventually sold to James Crow in August 1963, who began the painstaking process of rebuilding and restoring it to its former glory.
Back up and running, it operated at the famous Spanish City in Whitley Bay before moving to Sunderland and appearing at major fairs across the north including Newcastle Hoppings Fair and Hull Fair.
In 2014 the Gallopers were purchased by the Harris family, owners of Pat Collins Fairs who have undertaken extensive restoration work- no easy task given that the ride includes thousands of components and a total of 3,000, 110-volt light bulbs.
Michael Harris, director of operations at Pat Collins Fairs said: “The Golden Gallopers are a real piece of history which must have entertained hundreds of thousands of families all around the country in their time.
“We’re currently continuing to restore some of the art and guild work ourselves, but the Gallopers really are in quite remarkable condition considering their age and it’s amazing to see them still going strong after all these years.
“We know they’ve become a real favourite in Leeds too and it’s great to think that even today, a ride that was made more than 130 years ago is still capturing people’s imaginations at Christmas. We’re really grateful to the events team for making us feel so welcome too.”
The Golden Gallopers are presented at the Leeds German Market by International Funfairs.
Staying open right through until Saturday December 22, the seasonal showpiece has seen Millennium Square transformed into a scenic festive village with more than 40 traditionally decorated wooden chalet stalls selling seasonal gifts, toys decorations as well as authentic German food and drink.
The market also includes cosy indoor venues and family entertainment along with the special Santa’s Breakfast experience for children and families.
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The German market has been part of Christmas in Leeds for 15 years now and it’s wonderful to see it returning.
“Christmas in Leeds is always a special time and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone enjoying a memorable festive season all across the city.”
The German Market will be open daily from 10.30am to 9.30pm Monday to Friday, opening at 12pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The market closes at 7.30pm on Sundays.
For more details about this year’s German Market, please visit: www.leeds.gov.uk/christmasmarket
For media enquiries, please contact
Leeds City Council
Tel: 0113 378 9182 (please note my new number)