Friday, October 28, 2011

Nottingham...


…and Lincolnshire, and Oxford, and…

I don’t remember much about my first experience of the seaside (the Lincolnshire coast, c 1959), except that I played a lot in the sand making sandcastles using a spade that was much too small (in my opinion my parents should have bought me the next size up). And one other thing. The gallopers. The carousel with horses and roosters that I was, to my great pleasure, allowed to ride.

I already knew about roundabouts – from books I suppose. They were meant to have mirrors and fairground organ music and flashing coloured lights and garish paintwork and brightly caparisoned horses to ride on and roosters to ride on too and the horses and roosters went up and down as well as round and round and they had these twisted columns like pieces of barley sugar and every one had a name. Even then, having perhaps sensed that the Lincolnshire coast wasn’t exactly the last word in sophisticated holiday destinations, I thought the reality might be a let-down. The horses’ ears might be broken or the lights might not flash or it might be closed or there might not be roosters. Well, it wasn’t a let down. The lights flashed, the gallopers really galloped and, yes, there were even roosters.

So these days, when I see a carousel, or even a picture of one like Clarke Hutton’s 1945 cover illustration for Popular English Art in the King Penguin series, I do experience a certain nostalgia and I’m thankful that the showmen of England still give me the chance for such feelings. People such as the Noyce family, owners of the wonderful carousel in the photograph below. Dating from about 1895 and made by Savage’s of Kings Lynn, it was refitted in around 1900 with 30 horses and 6 roosters carved by Anderson of Bristol. In those days it was owned by one John Cole, from Yate, not far from the Bristol home of the horses, but it has been in the Noyce family since 1950. The photograph shows it at Nottingham’s renowned Goose Fair in the 1980s, but I think I remember it at St Giles’ Fair in Oxford a few years earlier too.

Though this ride has no doubt been repainted a few times since its first outing, its ornate lettering, bands of golden decoration and scrollwork, dazzlingly carved and mirrored centre drum, and of course magnificent horses certainly speak of the turn of the century period. It’s heartening to think it has been giving pleasure for well over a century. I hope it’s still doing so.


Noyce’s Gallopers at the Nottingham Goose Fair
Photograph courtesy of Simon Garbutt, used under Creative Commons license

10 comments:

George said...

When next you make it to Washington, DC, you can check out the carousel in front of the Smithsonian Institution.

Philip Wilkinson said...

George: I'll remember that, thank you. Looking online, I see the Smithsonian carousel even has dragons. Fantastic.

Murgatroyd said...

There must be something 'carousel' in the air today...I tracked down my copy of Popular English Art this morning on a mission to find a particular Clarke Hutton illustration and here it is again!
Righto, off to check out the Smithsonian dragons too...

Philip Wilkinson said...

Murgatroyd: What goes round comes round.

Peter Ashley said...

Ever since I first saw the Clarke Hutton lithographs in this King Penguin I've looked out for his work, which is always very rewarding.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: Yes. He did quite a lot of children's books, including some Picture Puffins. He was also a teacher (at the Central) of many younger illustrators.

I think this King Penguin cover is superb - in fact I prefer it to most of the prints he did for the book itself.

Jon Dudley said...

I too have this book...such an iconic cover...very much of its time...which coincides with mine! Excellent fairground stuff...Savages, Orton and Spooner and the whole fairground 'industry' all repay study. You do realise that you are heading inexorably towards the beautiful Showmans living vans!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Jon: Yes, fairground material is extensive and fascinating – I need to look at it more and find out more about it. The annual fair in our town has just been and gone, but is tiny and not that interesting. So I'll be looking out for more one of these days, including living vans.

historienerrant said...

Speaking of carousels, have you ever seen this?
Admittedly, there aren't any roosters in it, but I'd say the frog and the hare more than make up for that lack ;-)

Philip Wilkinson said...

Historienerrant: I'd not seen it. Brilliant! Thank you!