Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nottingham, and elsewhere

Backward glance (2): Gallopers

The second in this series of reprises from the English Buildings blog takes us out of conventional architectural territory to something slightly different...

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 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.

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It was a dollop of nostalgia, this post, and an attempt at sharing a childhood memory. But it's something else too – it's architecture, reader, but not as we know it. It's part of the business of this blog to highlight, now and then, structures that are too humble, or too marginal, otherwise too different from the norm of four walls and a roof to merit consideration as architecture, or even as buildings. One definition of a building insists on its permanence: buildings are not, in general, meant to be movable, notwithstanding those epic North American house moves in which entire buildings are put on rollers or wheels and shifted bodily to a new site. So English Buildings has highlighted road-menders' trailers, a glittering Spiegeltent, and these gallopers, in the cause of bringing something different before readers' eyes.
Noyce’s Gallopers at the Nottingham Goose Fair
Photograph courtesy of Simon Garbutt, used under Creative Commons license


Murgatroyd said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the 'branching out'of this post. Thank you for sharing your Galloping memories & that super Clarke Hutton book illustration.

Stephen Barker said...

For those who enjoy gallopers and other fun-fair rides from the past, I reccomend a visit to the website for Carters Steam Fair. I am tempted by the courses they offer in learning how to paint the lettering used on traditional fairground rides.