wolfinthewood: Wolf's head in relief from romanesque tympanum at Kilpeck, Herefordshire (Default)
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For three days every November the Fair comes to Loughborough. And every year along with the Fair comes the great steam roundabout; not powered by steam any more, but still with its carved gallopers and its organ. The legend round the canopy reads: 'Proud Old Time Riding Horses Rode By All With Joy'. I love that. The person who drafted those words had a good ear for rhythmic prose.

I think that same roundabout used to be one of the two that always came to the Midsummer Fair at Cambridge when I was a student in the seventies. I think I recognise it by the three carved and painted showgirls built into the case of the organ. I think, though, that it was a different set of gallopers that used to come to Pinner Fair in Middlesex when I was a child. But the music and the horses were in much the same style.

I don't always go to Loughborough Fair. Some years I lie low, and curse the traffic problems and the continual noise of the rides, mercifully distant from where I live, but still very audible, especially at night. But if I do pass through the Fair, as I did today, I always take a ride on the gallopers: it connects me to the child I once was, and to generations of riders going back to the the time of my great-grandparents in the High Victorian Age.

Jackanapes was not absolutely free from qualms, but having once mounted the Black Prince he stuck to him as a horseman should. During the first round he waved his hat, and observed with some concern that the Black Prince had lost an ear since last Fair; at the second, he looked a little pale but sat upright, though somewhat unnecessarily rigid; at the third round he shut his eyes. During the fourth his hat fell off, and he clasped his horse's neck. By the fifth he had laid his yellow head against the Black Prince's mane, and so clung anyhow till the hobby-horses stopped, when the proprietor assisted him to alight, and he sat down rather suddenly and said he had enjoyed it very much.

Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841–1885)

from Jackanapes (1883)


(no subject)

Date: November 15th, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] artnouveauho.livejournal.com
I have absolutely the same feeling about merry-go-rounds (the American term, I think.) When I was small there was a proper old-fashioned one with individually-painted wooden horses on the National Mall near all the galleries and monuments. I loved it and always asked to ride it.

(no subject)

Date: November 15th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wolfinthewood.livejournal.com
'Merry-go-round' is also current here, or was, when I was a child, and may still be. I associate it with older people, though - parents and grandparents. To us kids, among ourselves, the term was always 'roundabout'. That may have been partly regional, of course.

I have just found a great website, with pictures and a historical account of the roundabout that comes to Loughborough:


It is not quite as old as I imagined it might have been - I think the steam carousels arrived in the 1870s - but, built in 1890, it is quite old enough, and very fine.

The site has lots of photos of North American carousels:


I don't know if maybe it includes the one you knew as a child.

The first time I went to Pinner Fair, there was one small, shabby children's roundabout that was powered manually. If I am not mistaken, the man in charge turned a wheel to give me and my brother our ride. I don't recall the details of the mechanism; cogs, cranks and belts must have been involved, since as I recall the wheel was vertical; all the same, it must have been hard work! The horses were small, painted or varnished dark brown, with sisal tails. They were suspended from some kind of circular frame. It was a slow ride.

At the age of five, I wasn't very impressed, being keener on the fast powered rides, with piped music; my brother and I went on the ride because it caught my parents' antiquarian interest. Also, my father felt sorry for the owner, who was looking rather downcast; his shabby, slow machine was getting very little custom.

That was more than fifty years ago (a reflection that bewilders me, since I do not feel that old). I have never seen a roundabout like it since, and I think it must have been a late survival of an older age of fairground machinery, much less glamourous than the steam carousels.

(no subject)

Date: December 30th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] artnouveauho.livejournal.com
Sorry, I've been meaning to reply to this comment for ages!

Your Loughborough gallopers are beautiful. I love how they have that golden colour to them. The site says that that carousel sometimes comes to London; I wonder if I've ridden it? It certainly looks familiar.

The carousel on the Mall is indeed here: http://www.nca-usa.org/psp/NationalMall/
This is a 1947-built carousel, and a very fine one too-- the horses are nicely individual, with a couple of zebras and a green, scaly dragon who is an especially sought-after mount. That carousel replaced an older one which my DC friend [livejournal.com profile] speedlime and I remember fondly from our childhood.

I also really likethis one, which is open for one weekend in Spring when the National Cathedral holds its annual fair. It seems to date from about the same period as yours. Though it is smaller and less grand, it does have some interesting creatures (goats! deer! a camel!)

Sorry for the long answer, but I hope this finds you well and merrily going round.

(no subject)

Date: December 31st, 2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wolfinthewood.livejournal.com
Your nice long answer is interesting - don't worry. As for me, I've had a nasty cough. But I am getting better.

I think you may well have ridden the Noyce gallopers. I believe they travel to a lot of funfairs, and they are a fine set - very memorable.

I like both your Washington carousels - the 1947 one is magnificent, and I like the way the older one has such a variety of animals. I have never seen one quite like that in England.

(no subject)

Date: July 28th, 2016 09:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] claire jordan (from livejournal.com)
I know this conversation is an old one but I just came across it while trying to get a photograph of the gallopers at Pinner Fair. I don't know when you were a child but I know that in the 1970s Pinner Fair had a very odd set of gallopers like nothing I've seen before or since.

The ride consisted of a fixed circular platform which undulated in big waves, on top of which was a sort of jointed skin of wooden planks attached to a central axis. When the ride was powered up the fixed waves stayed where they were but the flexible wooden skin circled around and undulated down and up over the waves underneath it. The horses were fastened to the jointed wooden skin so that they too went up and down as it rattled over the fixed waves. The whole thing went *extremely* fast - I recall ending up lying sideways with my legs round the body of one horse and my arms round the neck of the one next inside it, because centrifugal force was trying to throw me off in the other direction.

(no subject)

Date: July 28th, 2016 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wolfinthewood.livejournal.com
I remember the ride you describe, or one that was very much like it. Once, when I was a teenager, I took my little brother on it, sitting in front of me, and he lost his grip and started to slide off sideways. We were next to the outside edge of the ride and I was terrified; I wrapped one arm round the 'neck' of the horse and hung on to him like grim death. I hoped the people in charge of the ride would see that a child was at risk of injury and stop it, but every time we whirled past them (there were two of them, a man and a woman) I could see them just standing there with complacent grins. I couldn't shout for help because the ride was blasting out very loud pop music. I was hugely, hugely relieved when the ride stopped. That would have been some time in the mid-sixties.

During the sixties there was also a big steam roundabout - or converted steam roundabout - that came to Pinner Fair every year. I loved it and always had a ride on it, sometimes several rides. It was always in the same pitch, up near the church.

I can't help with pictures of either of those roundabouts. I do have quite a lot of photos of the Noyce gallopers, taken at Loughborough Fair about four or five years ago.