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Great Yarmouth was established as a seaside holiday resort between 1800 and 1860 but it was not until 1909 that a young C.B. Cochran, later to become a world-famous impresario, was finally able to persuade the local council to grant a lease for a proposed seafront amusement centre.
The original Pleasure Beach consisted of a scenic railway and little else. In 1911 another popular attraction arrived, The Joywheel, and the park attracted large crowds until 1914 when it closed for the war years.
After the war, in April 1919, a fire devastated the Scenic Railway but this was repaired and re-opened by August 1919. In 1923 the council relaxed its restrictions on seafront development and the Pleasure Beach was restored and extended.
The Scenic Railway finally came to the end of its lease in 1929 and a massive water chute was installed to replace it. The same year the Colonial Exhibition was held in Paris and when it ended the Pleasure Beach purchased the huge Scenic Railway that had been built especially for the exhibition by Herr Erich Heidrich, a famous German expert in this field. The ride was dismantled, shipped to Great Yarmouth and re-erected by the German team over the next couple of years.
The new Scenic Railway opened in summer 1932 and has been the lynch pin of the Pleasure Beach ever since. It is capable of handling 2,500 passengers per hour and the costly and dedicated maintenance down the years has been repaid with an admirable safety record.
Botton Brothers arrived at the Pleasure Beach in 1954. The two brothers, Albert and Jim, grew up in a fairground environment with the family firm J. Botton & Sons, who had operated a travelling fair around London and the south of England since 1923.
Also in 1954 the famous Savages of King’s Lynn three-abreast Gallopers ride arrived at the Pleasure Beach. This 36-horse set holds pride of place at the entrance to the park and has become the endearing trademark whilst other bigger and more costly rides have enjoyed their time in the limelight and moved on.
Botton Bros. was formed in 1942, and soon expanded to own rides at many fairgrounds around London and by 1953 had taken over the operation of the big rides at Bertram Mills Olympia Circus. This continued until 1966 but meanwhile Albert had moved to Great Yarmouth to take over the Pleasure Beach. Albert and his wife, Lottie, immediately commenced improving the Pleasure Beach and started by asphalting the whole site, which had previously been duckboards, lay directly on the sands. New rides and better facilities came regularly every year.
Albert Botton died in 1975 and his position as managing director was taken by Jimmy Jones who had married Albert & Lottie’s daughter, Jane, in 1960. He too had the traditional, showman’s background having worked in his parent’s funfair in Bristol from an early age. Jimmy helped the Botton family at Olympia before moving to Great Yarmouth to run an arcade at the Pleasure Beach.
Under Jimmy Jones, with the support of his family, the Pleasure Beach grew to how you see it today. In October 1992 the various Botton Bros. companies were brought together and a new company was formed, Pleasure & Leisure Corporation PLC to which all the business was transferred. The company purchased the freehold of the Pleasure Beach site in November 1993 and at this stage Jimmy Jones relinquished the role of Managing Director to his son Albert and took the position of Chairman. The company continues to grow and in 1996 added a further 3 acres to the northern end of the site by taking on the Nelson Gardens complex, now re-named the Pleasure Beach Gardens, which provides a quieter area.
The Pleasure Beach maintains its position as one of the leading visitor attractions in the country. New rides are still regularly introduced, and the company is committed to ongoing change and development to ensure that the Pleasure Beach will remain the star attraction of the East Coast tourism industry.
Roller Coaster Facts
- First seen in 1929 at the Colonial exhibition in Paris.
- Purchased for the Pleasure Beach at the exhibition, dismantled, shipped over and re-erected for opening in 1932.
- Designed and built by Erich Heidrich of Hamburg, who also re-erected the ride at the Pleasure Beach and stayed to manage the ride until the outbreak of the Second World War.
- Maximum height attained – 70ft.
- Approximate length of the ride is one mile and duration 3 minutes.
- Maximum speed attained is 45mph.
- The five trains are each capable of carrying 30 riders and each weigh 3 tons unladen.
- The main construction is timber, Douglas fir and Colombian pine.
- There are approximately 700 upright posts, 300 collars (10cm x 30cm x 3.2m), 600 joists (10cm x 20cm x 3.2m) and 10 miles of 5cm x 5cm.
- The main timber is joined by around 8000 x 22.5cm bolts.
- 26 tonnes of steel cladding cover the superstructure.
- The ride is gravity driven after an initial rise by a 120m x 18cm steel chain, driven by a 70hp motor using 53Kw.
- 70Kw of lighting is produced by 4600 light bulbs.
- To re-paint the ride would require around 150 x 5 litre drums of paint.
Our very popular Gallopers have been a prominent feature of the Pleasure Beach since their arrival in 1954. They represent one of the mainstays of British fairground tradition and offer a comfortable alternative to the electronic space-age rides of today.
The ride was built by Savages of King’s Lynn in 1915 for Messrs. Cain of Deptford, a company specializing in supplying ‘swag’ to the fairgrounds of the day, and was called the Colonial Galloping Horses.
It says a lot for the quality of design and manufacture that the ride is still giving such pleasure after 80 years use. Mr. Fred Savage, a successful agricultural engineer, set up his company at the St. Nicholas Ironworks in 1873 and started to make fairground rides. He soon established a good reputation in this field and his biggest success was in Gallopers, which were exported all over the world. Following his death in 1897, the business was continued by his sons until 1910, when the company became insolvent, but a rescue operation was launched by the King’s Lynn MP, to safeguard the workforce. Production of Gallopers continued but by the mid 1920’s the emphasis was changed to first of all aircraft and later to marine engineering.
The original power unit for the ride was a steam engine but today this has been replaced by electricity. Many of the horses are the originals which were hand carved at Savages. The heads were made in three pieces from Siberian Yellow Pine with cast-iron ears. Poplar was used for the legs and the 4-piece body was normally fashioned from Lime and Alder. The suspension rods were made from the waste ends of boiler tubes, a by-product from the engine manufacture.
The ride consists of twelve rows of three horses giving a maximum capacity of 60 riders and is 47ft. in diameter. Each winter the ride is completely dismantled, serviced, cleaned and re-painted where necessary to ensure that it will still be giving enjoyment for many years to come.