To those that are familiar with the showman’s vans it will come as no surprise that the original ranges are something truly special. Very few original ‘Hostess’ exist now and those that do are generally in a very poor state. They were originally manufactured exclusively for the travelling community by Smith & Wellstood at their ‘Columbian Stove & Iron Works’ Bonnybridge, Scotland. The majority of the sales and customisation was taken care of by the famous ‘Mellors’ at their ‘Owl Works’ Oldham.
Once these brightly painted vans could be seen travelling the roads of Britain & Ireland, stopping off in towns and villages to set up their rides and games for the attraction of the local occupants. Sadly, now these days have all but gone and only a small troop of dedicated men and women preserve the old travelling steam fayres.
The inside of a showman’s van is a wonderous place full of cut glass, polished wood, mirrors and exquisite painted murals. The fireplace was no exception to the lavish tastes and the Hostess sat pride of place in the middle of the van dressed in brightly colour vitreous enamel and shining nickel plate.
This particular example was brought to us by a client who required a full restoration. Despite initial appearances it was found to be in a dreadful state and a huge amount of work was required in order to return it to its former glory. New patterns and castings were produced for the majority of the range with the subsequent fettling and polishing require for receive the triple plating. Everything that isn’t plated is enamelled so much care had to be employed in the fitting and machining to ensure the working tolerances of all moving parts was satisfactory after the thick enamel coat has been applied. All the sheet metal work was also replaced and since the van was to be left for long periods at a time we favour stainless steel, so no atmospheric moisture could shorten the life of the range.
As you can see the finished things is a site to behold!