Event to honour 'wall of death' stuntman

HE is credited as the first Englishman to complete the gravity-defying wall of death - a fact not easily forgotten as he would often ride with a lioness in his sidecar.

Will Clarke

HE is credited as the first Englishman to complete the gravity-defying wall of death - a fact not easily forgotten as he would often ride with a lioness in his sidecar.

And now the memory of Suffolk stuntman George “Tornado” Smith will live on with a special event next month at the pub he used to run.

The White Hart Hotel in Boxford, near Sudbury, is set to play host to the wall of death bike stunt in memory of its most famous former landlord.


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Tornado, who was born in the village, started the first UK wall troupe in 1930 after seeing an American group perform at Southend.

Despite injuries and initially being refused a job with a leading group, he went on to become synonymous with showmanship on the wall.

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As well as riding with a lioness called Briton, he rode with performing female assistants - including his wife known as “Dynamite Doris” - and on occasion carried a skeleton in his side car, which popped up during the ride.

The stunt, which is famously depicted on the Boxford village sign, involves a riding a bike around a narrow barrel shaped arena, gathering pace until able to climb the vertical at right angles to the ground.

Ashley Hart, manager of the pub, said: “We want to bring the wall back because of the fascinating history connected to the pub.

“We also want to bring it back 10 years after the last time we had the wall in Boxford for the villagers. Tornado was always looking to make his act different and was a great Suffolk eccentric.”

Briton is buried under the White Hart, while Tornado died in South Africa.

Ken Fox, who runs the last full time wall of death troupe in the UK, said the visit to Boxford would have special significance for him.

“For us Boxford is a place of pilgrimage with special significance,” he said. “We have many connections to Tornado. My son rides the Indian Scout bike he used and I have toured with Tornado's wall so it will be lovely to take it home.

“For anybody who is interested in the wall of death, Boxford is fascinating because it was where one of the early pioneers and innovators grew up and performed in.”

The stunt spectacular at Boxford will be held over September 13 and 14 in the car park of the White Hart. For further details visit www.wall-of-death.co.uk

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