The Industrial Revolution transformed popular entertainment. Nothing displays this more clearly than the development of mechanical rides at fairs from the mid-nineteenth century. Fairground rides across Europe have much in common, and mechanical organs made in France by Marenghi and Gavioli and showmen’s engines made in England by Burrell and Fowler could be found in many countries.
Dingle’s Fairground Heritage Collection displays a wide variety of rides and associated fairground equipment from the United Kingdom. It is controlled by the National Fairground Collection, a trust established 1986, and is located in the village of Lifton, near the border between Devon and Cornwall, east of Launceston and south of the A30 trunk road. It portrays the historical development of rides throughout Europe for about 100 years from 1870. There is a large indoor display but many rides are working and in the open. They include a Noah’s Ark, from the early 1930s, and a dodgems track of 1935, built for the showman Samuel Crow (1881-1964), a Shaw’s Moon Rocket, a speedway, a gallopers roundabout, a ghost train and a chariot racer. There are also examples of children’s rides, and of stalls where fairground visitors could exercise their skills or take part in games of chance. There are mechanical organs by Merenghi and Gavioli, and showmen’s engines by Burrell and Fowler with generators that provided electric lighting for rides and other stalls. There are showmen’s living wagons which in Britain often had four wheels, and were typically painted maroon, and examples of the heavy lorries that were adapted for the use of showmen. The indoor museum includes a gallery of fairground art, a feature of which is ‘Salome and the Dance of the Seven Veils’, by Alfred James Smith (b 1866).