Driffield News

No pedals? No problem for the BBC’s Repair Shop team

A ‘Bucking Bronco’ fairground bike that was previously owned by a late North Dalton couple has been restored to full working order thanks to the BBC’s Repair Shop team.

For many years, Jon and Pat Gresham lived at Westwood House in North Dalton, where Jon’s extensive collection of sideshow and fairground memorabilia, that he collected during his career in the industry, were stored.

As well as Jon being Europe’s youngest fire-eater, the couple were widely known as owning one of the largest private collections of coin-operated machines in the world, Penny Arcadia in Pocklington.

Sadly, Jon passed away suddenly in 1994, but his legacy continued first through Pat and then in the hands of close friend and fellow magician Jon Marshall.

Jon (Marshall) had discovered the novelty bike, which has no pedals, several years ago in a rundown state.
But other than put it in a skip, he was unsure what he could do with.

It was after a throwaway comment from his business colleague that Jon decided to apply to The Repair Shop, the hit BBC show that sees experts restore family heirlooms for their owners.

In the course of going through the barn, we found this old bike, which was also covered in grime, caked in a gaudy yellow gunge and in a dilapidated state.

Jon marshall

The story of Jon and Pat’s fairground bike impressed the producers, so much so that it was the last item viewers saw when the latest episode was screened last Wednesday.

Jon Marshall first got to know the Greshams as a 17-year-old and shared his friends’ love of the sideshows and attractions that were popular at fairs and festivals in the 1950s and 60s.

When Jon died, Jon Marshall set out to restore some of the shows he had collected over the years.

“Jon Gresham was born in Cottingham in 1930 and he was brought up going to Hull Fair, which in those days was packed with sideshows and all kinds of other attractions,” Jon told the Wolds Weekly.

“He also used to go on holiday to Bridlington and Withernsea with his parents, where he loved going into the amusement arcades.

“It gave him a lifelong interest and he became a young magician after practicing fire eating at public school.

“When he left school at 18, he didn’t go into National Service or his grandfather’s timber company – instead, he decided to go on the music halls and spent two years performing as Europe’s youngest fire-eater.

“Between engagements, he got a job with a sideshow and that inspired his interest.

“Although he did eventually go into the family firm, he maintained his interest in shows and put on pantomimes at various theatres and established his first sideshow in Scarborough during the mid-1950s.

“More shows were developed in Scarborough alongside Jimmy Corrigan and he expanded his empire all over the country before the shows went into storage in 1969.

“They were untouched for many years and, sadly, in 1994, Jon died suddenly. Pat, I and others wanted to restore one of Jon’s shows, which were kept in their barn in North Dalton.

Jon and Pat Gresham outside The Ritz

“Sadly, over 40 years, they had been attacked by rodents, pigeons, grime and muck, so it was a real detective story to try and discover them.

“However, we managed to restore one called ‘The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl’ and put the show on.

“Now, we’ve restored six or seven of Jon’s shows.”

The barn was also where the bike was discovered. But given the state Jon found it in, he felt there was little he could do with it.

Jon was Europe’s youngest fire-eater in the late 1940s.

That was until The Repair Shop restorers got their hands on it, rediscovered its original paint and gave it a new, colourful lease of life.

A ‘thrilled’ Jon said Jon and Pat would be delighted to see the bike being used for the enjoyment of others again.

“In the course of going through the barn, we found this old bike, which was also covered in grime, caked in a gaudy yellow gunge and in a dilapidated state,” said Jon.

“It’s very unusual in that it has no pedals and is posterior powered. We didn’t know much about it or what it was.

“I searched the internet and up came a link for an amusement firm in Blackpool and in one of the catalogues was a Bucking Bronco bicycle, the same as Jon’s.

“It was in such a bad state that I didn’t know what to do with it. My business partner jokingly suggested that I should contact The Repair Shop.

One of the sideshows at Hull Fair.

“I thought it was a good idea and applied. It’s a long, rigorous process of interviews and sending videos.

“But the producers loved it and it was great fun to make the programme and see what the restorers did with the bike.

“I have to say that Tim Gunn, the bike restorer, and Dominic Chinea, the painter, did a fantastic job.

“They scraped off the layers of paint and discovered the original colours. It has now been decorated fantastically in a brilliant fairground style.

“It’s wonderful and we are delighted to have it back as part of the Gresham archive and it will be taken to festivals across the UK.

“I’m over the moon and totally thrilled. It’s just magnificent. If Jon and Pat are looking down, they would feel the same too.”

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