Daredevils flocked to the Kursaal to take on the Wall of Death in years gone by – and the Mayor of Southend even took on the death-defying event when it returned to Chalkwell Park six years ago.

The Wall of Death, which involves motorcyclists riding around the inside of a wooden dome, was one of the Kursaal’s most thrilling spectacles when it opened in 1929 and it is reputed to have been the first in Britain.

Trick-loving motorcyclists loved nothing more than showing off their skills, but it came at a cost for some.

Marjorie Dare was badly injured in 1935 and Jack Campbell was left in pain after his tyre burst as he was whirling around the structure and crashed 15ft to the ground in 1951.


Hurtling - Maureen Swift riding her motorcycle around the Kursaal Amusement Park's famous Wall of Death

Youngsters also tried their luck in the adrenaline-filled activity, with 16-year-old Maureen Swift, of York Road, Southend, performing up to 50 times a day at the Kursaal Amusement Park in 1948.

George William Smith, who went by the Tornado Smith nickname, became a legendary figure after wowing onlookers with his skill inside the wooden dome.


Legendary figure - Tornado Smith was regularly seen taking on the dangerous Wall of Death

Tornado Smith was the first person to bring the Wall of Death over from the United States and, despite riding at numerous locations over the course of four decades, his main base for a lot of his career was at the Kursaal.

Rick Abrey, who was also known as the Black Baron, joined Tornado Smith in Southend.


Riding the wall - Rick Abrey, who was also known as the Black Baron

While the Wall of Death closed at the Kursaal, Chris Walker was able to defy gravity in front of a nervous crowd when it returned to Chalkwell Park close to six years ago.

The then-mayor of Southend has been a biker since 1961 and took part in the dangerous stunt when the Carters Steam Fair came to town in April 2015.


Looking to get off the ground - Chris Walker, who has been a biker since 1961

Mr Walker rode with fifth generation rider Jake Messham and said: “It was terrifying.

“You get on and you don’t know how far up the wall you’re going, but, when you get off, you can’t stand up.”

Scroll down to see more images of when the Wall of Death was popular in Southend.


Teenage adrenaline junkie - Maureen Swift performed up to 50 times a day in 1948


Daredevil duo - George William Smith and Rick Abrey, who had the nicknames Tornado Smith and the Black Baron

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In its heyday - Southend's Wall of Death at the Kursaal was reputed to be the first in Britain


No hands - Jake Messham wows onlookers as he takes on the Wall of Death close to six years ago in Chalkwell Park


Daring - while George William Smith performed at many locations spanning four decades, his main base for much of the time was the Kursaal