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Page last updated at 09:05 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010
The Mellors - a history of a fairground dynasty
Nottingham Wheel
The Nottingham Wheel is one of the biggest structures operated by the Mellors

The Wheel of Nottingham is the latest big ride to be operated by the city based Mellors family.

For more than a century they have been travelling the country putting on attractions for thrill seekers.

It all began with a shooting gallery in Bulwell but has developed into an international industry where the bigger the ride the louder the screams.

There have been four generations of Mellors. The fifth is already being groomed to follow the family tradition.

James Mellors Jr said: "My boy's four and when he was three he loved sitting on my knee at the Goose Fair, helping take the cash and handing out the tickets."


The Mellors association with fairs and showmen dates back to the 1890s.

Henry Mellors Sr lived in Hyson Green and had a pig farm on allotments there. He moved to Bulwell to operate a timber business. Here he diversified by operating a swing boat ride and shooting gallery.

Henry (Harry) Mellors Jr moved into stalls and began running a coconut shy, swings and other children's rides.

"He operated one of the first ever rides on the Goose Fair, when it used to be in the Market Square," said James Mellors Jr.

"It was a small kiddies ride which you had to push around in those days."

The next generation

It was James's father, James Mellors Sr, who took the business further. He was the one who bought the family's first large ride.

Mr Mellors Sr said: "It was very frightening when I purchased The Paratrooper. It was very difficult to get any money from the bank as a loan. My father (Henry Mellors Jr) put some property down as a guarantor for me. The bank eventually loaned me the money."

James Mellors Sr supplemented this by distributing sound equipment to showmen throughout the country. It was a deal that benefitted him and also put the Nottingham sound firm on the map.

"I got involved with a company that operated from a small garage but became a big firm in Nottinghamshire, called Carlsbro Sound Equipment.

"They became famous because we started putting tweeters and horns into the speakers. I had the distribution to sell them to showmen around the country.

"That bit of money helped go towards the ride. It cost me around £8,000 in the early 70s. It was a new type of lifting Paratrooper - it spun round and lifted into the air."

Pass it on

James Sr's sons are now carrying on the Mellors tradition. James Jr, 32, is the fourth generation of showmen.

"I was born into it," he said. "I've not been forced into it. I could do something else if I wanted but all of my other family do it and I just enjoy being part of the leisure industry."

However, the current torch carrier (his brother Edward is also in the business) says much has altered since he became involved in the industry.

"Health and safety has been a massive change. There's so much more paperwork and restrictions.

"Everything is more technical with an increase in computers. Expectation from the public is greater and pricing is a big factor because there's so much competition.

"In the old days a fairground used to come to a small village and this was all people would see. Today, with the Internet and theme parks, there's so much entertainment for people and it's become a tougher business."

The future

The Mellors have seen massive changes since the days of their first shooting gallery. James Mellors Sr believes the industry will continue to evolve.

"Rides can still get bigger but you've got to create the excitement at the same time. It would be nice if we had more sites for showmen on hard standings so you didn't have to put them up for just three to four days.

"It's too difficult just to put them up for a couple of days. Like the Wheel of Nottingham they need to go up for a couple of months to make it practical. If that happened then we could have really big rides!"

The Wheel of Nottingham will be operational from 12th Feb to 26th April 2010.



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