A roundabout way of collecting fairground art

PUBLISHED: 11:27 02 June 2018

Beautifully-painted gallopers such as this are eagerly collected - but to buy a whole merry-go-round you will need very deep pockets.

Beautifully-painted gallopers such as this are eagerly collected - but to buy a whole merry-go-round you will need very deep pockets.


Collectables: Mike Hicks looks at the art of the fair

I am sure nothing can take away the memory of visiting a fairground for the first time - the noise, activity, music and the shouting that went on. I well remember as a young boy the fairground visiting our town, which gave me the chance to try my skill (or not!) at the various sideshows.

In East Anglia we have a very historic fair - the Mart - in King’s Lynn every February, which always starts the Showfolk’s year. The spectacle of the roundabouts and the gaily-painted signs are all part of the atmosphere.

Recently, I have noticed that several pieces of substantial fairground equipment have come on the open market, of which most seem to have been held in collections for many, many years but, as happens, these collections become dispersed.

East Anglia has some superb collections of memorabilia, including Thursford with a great variety of mechanical devices, and also Strumpshaw, which, to my mind, has one of the best collections anywhere.

There was a firm called Savage’s in Lynn, who were famous 19th-century innovators in fairground equipment, and were the originators of steam-driven gallopers (tested out on the Mart, naturally).

There is a large collection for sale in France at the moment, where they hope to sell several roundabouts produced in the early part of the 20th century. Some other ones are also available by private treaty sale in the West Country that were produced in the 1890s by the famous Arthur Anderson.

The wonderfully-carved horses and other equipment that were on these West Country rides also have an interesting history. Many of them were made in Portsmouth by a naval carver who specialised in figureheads for ships.

These gallopers are often widely used these days to decorate restaurants, foyers of hotels, anywhere where you wish to create some dramatic atmosphere.

Once these rides are broken up, I am told by a collector, they very rarely ever come back together again, therefore, it is important to keep them intact whenever possible.

Also, to be borne in mind is the mechanics; many of these were driven by steam originally, which might prove a problem today.

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or

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