Lions And Riders Take On The Wall Of Death

Before the telly people made their own entertainment. This is no fusty Luddite rant about how sticks and hoops were top-notch fun. Technology had a part to play in the Wall of the Death. Improvements in design meant motorcycles were able to race around large wooden board tracks with banked turns of 70-80 degrees. Build up enough speed and the centripetal force enabled riders to ride a vertical wall.

 

Mr Egbert taking his five year-old lion for a ride on the wall of death at Mitcham fair. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

Great stuff. And then why not add a lion? Fearless Egbert did, inviting Monarch the lion to ride in the sidecar. A news article from the Yorkshire Evening Post on September 24, 1931, tells us more:

“It is remarkable how even lions can become civilised. Three years ago, Monarch, the lion that will ride on a baby car around a wall at Woodhouse Feast, had never seen a motor-car. His grandfather roamed the jungle and his father was captured and trained to ride a horse in an American circus. Then, just over three years ago, Monarch came along, and, on seeing a baby car which is driven by ‘Fearless Egbert’ round the Wall of Death, clambered into it. When he was given a ride he enjoyed it so much he refused to get out. Obviously he was destined for a motoring career, and going one better than a mere rider of horses, Monarch was gradually introduced to the thrills in a car around a vertical wall.

“A ledge was fixed to the side of the car, and there was never any need to coax him to sit on it. He hopped aboard as soon as he was released from his cage, and snarled and growled if the driver had any difficulty in starting.

“Nowadays, Monarch is driven round the miniature track at speeds that would make his more sedate father gasp. If Fearless Egbert stops the car too soon, the young lion remains on the car. There are times however, when he gets a little bored, and the driver knows it is time to stop when he realises that Monarch’s head is very close to his face.”

“Like all good people who occupy the limelight, he is rather sensitive about the way the show should be run. Fearless Egbert is the only driver who is allowed to take the wheel when Monarch is about; attempts by others arouse only growls, and Monarch’s tail whisks like a whip.

“What is more, he is troubled like other stars, about his weight. Monarch could sit in comfort on the ledge when he joined the show, but since then his cage has twice had to be enlarged. Now he weighs about 350lb and he has to park part of himself on the bonnet of the car. Still, an attempt is being made to keep his weight down. On Sundays he dispenses with beef for dinner, and has milk and eggs.”

 

 

George 'Tornado' Smith clipping the claws of his pet lioness, Briton, at the Kursaal amusement park in Southend, Essex, 3rd December 1936. Smith is a stunt motorcycle rider on the wall of death sideshow at the park and Briton features in his act, riding in a sidecar. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

George ‘Tornado’ Smith clipping the claws of his pet lioness, Briton, at the Kursaal amusement park in Southend, Essex, 3rd December 1936. Smith is a stunt motorcycle rider on the wall of death sideshow at the park and Briton features in his act, riding in a sidecar. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

wall of death

racing lion death  riders

George 'Tornado' Smith cleaning the teeth of his pet lioness, Briton, at the Kursaal amusement park in Southend, Essex, 3rd December 1936. Smith is a stunt motorcycle rider on the wall of death sideshow at the park and Briton features in his act, riding in a sidecar. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

George ‘Tornado’ Smith cleaning the teeth of his pet lioness, Briton, at the Kursaal amusement park in Southend, Essex, 3rd December 1936. Smith is a stunt motorcycle rider on the wall of death sideshow at the park and Briton features in his act, riding in a sidecar. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

17th July 1936: 'Tornado' Smith, the Wall of Death rider from Southend, and his wife having tea with their pet lion and lamb. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

17th July 1936: ‘Tornado’ Smith, the Wall of Death rider from Southend, and his wife having tea with their pet lion and lamb. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

23rd December 1936: Mr Tornado Smith posts a letter while riding penny farthing bicycle. He is wearing a learner plate and his bike is advertising his Wall of Death act. (Photo by Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

23rd December 1936: Mr Tornado Smith posts a letter while riding penny farthing bicycle. He is wearing a learner plate and his bike is advertising his Wall of Death act. (Photo by Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

circa 1935:  Motorcyclists riding the wall of death.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

circa 1935: Motorcyclists riding the wall of death. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

24th June 1963:  Cindy Willis, a Wall of Death rider at Canvey Island, flanked by two other riders.  (Photo by C. Leech/Express/Getty Images)

24th June 1963: Cindy Willis, a Wall of Death rider at Canvey Island, flanked by two other riders. (Photo by C. Leech/Express/Getty Images)

 

A woman riding the 'Wall of Death' in Southend-on-Sea.   (Photo by Edward Miller/Getty Images)

A woman riding the ‘Wall of Death’ in Southend-on-Sea. (Photo by Edward Miller/Getty Images)

 

1938:  A woman riding a motorcycle on the Wall of Death at Southend.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

1938: A woman riding a motorcycle on the Wall of Death at Southend. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

April 1938:  Dixie riding on the wall of death at Southend.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

April 1938: Dixie riding on the wall of death at Southend. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

No bike? No lion? No matter. You could still ride The Rotor:

 

Centrifugal force pins three intrepid people to the wall of the Rotor at the Festival Pleasure Gardens in London. Doris Flores (left) appears to be averting her eyes from Doris Flaxman's immodest display of leg.   (Photo by Don Price/Getty Images)

Centrifugal force pins three intrepid people to the wall of the Rotor at the Festival Pleasure Gardens in London. Doris Flores (left) appears to be averting her eyes from Doris Flaxman’s immodest display of leg. (Photo by Don Price/Getty Images)

 

5th August 1965:  Members of the Russian Bolshoi Ballet company visit the funfair at Battersea Park in London.  (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

5th August 1965: Members of the Russian Bolshoi Ballet company visit the funfair at Battersea Park in London. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)