Sheffield daredevil's family close chip shop after 81 years in the business

The last chip shop to be run by the family of a legendary Sheffield daredevil has closed its doors.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 5:50 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 5:56 am
Mavis Bellhouse, who has retired from the chip shop business after 62 years

Chippy Jim’s was the last chip shop remaining in the family business set up by ‘Cyclone Billy,’ Billy Bellhouse, some 81 years ago.

His daughter-in-law, Mavis, is believed to be one of the longest-serving chip shop workers in the country, with a career spanning a staggering 62 years.

'Cyclone Billy' Billy Bellhouse

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Before entering the chip shop business, Billy performed death-defying stunts to large audiences across the UK and Europe.

One of his stunts involved being chased by a lioness while riding around an 18ft ‘Wall of Death’ on a motorcycle.

After an accident in Spain in 1935, Billy travelled back to England and opened his first chip shop in Heeley, Sheffield.

He went on to own three more chip shops – in Pitsmoor, Walkley, and Wheata Road, Ecclesfield.

'Cyclone Billy' Billy Bellhouse

Although his passion for motorcycles continued, he never performed on the Wall of Death again and instead started a family venture that ended up spanning eight decades, two different centuries and three generations.

Billy’s late son, Jim, went into the family business and opened his first chip shop on Cambridge Road, Heeley, in 1954 with wife Mavis.

Mavis, now aged 82, worked in the chip shops for 62 years and is believed to be one of the longest-serving chippy workers in the country.

She said she has seen a lot of changes over the years and added: “I was never bothered about the shop. It was the people. That’s why I’ve stayed in it so long.”

'Cyclone Billy' Billy Bellhouse

In pre-decimal times the price of fish and chips was a twopence for chips and a threepence for fish, roughly £1.05 today. The national average is now £4.50 for fish and chips.

Jim and Mavis’s chip shop later moved to another premises on Valley Road, Heeley.

Mavis, of Raleigh Road, Heeley, said: “Everybody would come down from the pub at night and in the evening and there would be queues around the corner and up Brooklyn Road.”

Some would travel from as far as Totley to get their fix of Chippy Jim’s and one customer was such a big fan that he wrote poems about the chip shop to Mavis, whom he dubbed ‘the lady of the chip shop’.

Mavis and Jim Bellhouse with colleagues at Chippy Jim's

The Bellhouse family also faced challenges. In earlier days they used a belt-operated rumbler, a machine used to chop potatoes for fishcakes. The belt would sometimes snap and one of them would have to get a tram to Norfolk Street, in the city centre, to get a new belt and hurry back.

Mavis said: “It’s never been easy but we loved it. It didn’t bother me.”

Despite the challenges, the Bellhouses remained in the hearts of Sheffield’s chip shop customers. When Jim died 15 years ago, many said they had ‘never seen so many people at a funeral’ and it was testament to Jim’s friendly and caring nature.

Mavis said: “We knew everybody and everybody knew us.”

Mavis and her son, Stephen, continued to work in the chip shop until it closed at the end of January.

Another business has bought the shop on Valley Road and is set to open this month.

Chippy Jim's, Valley Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

n If you are interested in finding out more about Cyclone Billy and the Wall of Death you can view the Billy Bellhouse Collection at the National Fairground Archive at Western Bank Library, University of Sheffield. Or visit www.sheffield.ac.uk/nfa/collections/bellhouse

'Cyclone Billy' Billy Bellhouse
'Cyclone Billy' Billy Bellhouse
'Cyclone Billy' Billy Bellhouse
Mavis and Jim Bellhouse with colleagues at Chippy Jim's
Chippy Jim's, Valley Road. Picture: Andrew Roe