Leeds German Christmas Market carousel's long history

It’s a dazzling festive fixture that’s delighted thousands of children and families in Leeds for the last 15 years.

But few could guess the extraordinary ride through British fairground history taken by Millennium Square’s spectacular Golden Gallopers carousel.

The Golden Gallopers at Leeds Christmas Market.

The Golden Gallopers at Leeds Christmas Market.

The traditional roundabout attraction at the square’s annual German Christmas market is thought to have begun life back in 1881.

It was originally built by 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 could not afford their own horse.

The Golden Gallopers in a previous incarnation.

The Golden Gallopers in a previous incarnation.

And at that time, a ride on the carousel would have been the fastest many customers had ever travelled.

Over the years the ride fell into disrepair, but in August 1963 it was sold to James Crow, who began the painstaking process of rebuilding and restoring the attraction 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 events 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.

This was no easy task, because 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.”

The Golden Gallopers are presented at the Leeds German Market, which stays open to the public until Saturday, December 22, by International Funfairs.