Historic gallopers return home

SUE SKINNER It has been providing traditional fairground fun for young and old for well over a century.And now a rare set of steam-driven gallopers is returning home to Norfolk to be a crowd-pleaser at one of the county's most prestigious events, the Sandringham Flower Show.

SUE SKINNER

It has been providing traditional fairground fun for young and old for well over a century.

And now a rare set of steam-driven gallopers is returning home to Norfolk to be a crowd-pleaser at one of the county's most prestigious events, the Sandringham Flower Show.

Both the gallopers and the show have their origins in the 1860s, when the brightly-coloured ride was built at the St Nicholas Ironworks run by King's Lynn engineer Frederick Savage, whose name became a byword for Victorian innovation.

Savage, who was born at Hevingham, set up his business in Lynn in 1850, initially manufacturing and repairing agricultural implements.

But he was to make his mark as an inventor of exciting steam-driven fairground rides, which became world-famous and were a revelation to fair-goers of the day.

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The company finally closed down in 1973 but Savage's carousels can still be found at fairs all over the country, including the gallopers due to appear as part of a steam fairground at Sandringham on Wednesday, July 25.

The ride belongs to brothers Ian and Gary Howard, who run an engineering business in Derbyshire, specialising in the restoration of steam traction engines and narrow gauge railways.

They bought the gallopers in 2005 and completed a refurbishment started by the previous owner last year.

"They haven't been into Norfolk for at least 25 years - if they've ever been there," said Ian Howard. "When they were new, they travelled the south-west of the country.

"There are probably only eight to 10 left in the country that are steam-driven. It's steam or electric - I can run on the electric motor if I need to."

The gallopers, which will be joined by a showman's road locomotive and an Austin pedal-car ride, remain as popular as ever.

"They have stood the test of time," said Mr Howard. "A lot of the old rides have come and gone but the gallopers are still at every fair.

"The beauty of the gallopers is that you can ride them from six months to 100 years-old. It's a complete family ride."

Show gardens, celebrity gardeners, hot-air balloon flights and flower, fruit and vegetable classes will be among a host of other attractions at this year's show, which is again being held in association with the EDP.

Log on to the new Sandringham Flower Show website which can

be found at www.sandringhamflowershow.org.uk