It's au revoir as Victorian carousel sells to new owner across the Channel

Posted on 05/04/2018 in Press Coverage

The call of the Victorian fairground got phone, internet and room bidders into a spin as they battled to own a magnificent carousel in a tense auction contest.

The rare opportunity to buy a unique, English, hand-carved merry-go-round, dating back to 1895, sparked interest across the world.

Just after 8pm on April 5 a phone bid of £35,000 secured the stunning work of art and piece of British fairground history. However, it is now destined to leave the country where it was made.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “The ride will be hopping across the Channel to a buyer in France. It was an exciting auction battle with bidders in the room as well as on the internet and phones. The interest was huge and deservedly so.

“The ride was made in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, by George Orton, Sons and Spooner of Swan Works, a firm regarded as the best in the business, and was last used at Nottingham Goose Fair in 1979.

“This hand-turned carousel is an example of British craftsmanship as its best, exemplified by the magnificent carved detail in each of the horses and peacocks created to delight children when Queen Victoria was still on the throne.

“Many people have come to see it in our saleroom including some whose fathers or grandfathers once worked for the firm that made these merry-go-rounds.

“It’s an important, very early and unique carousel which captures the essence of the Victorian fairground.”

In its early days, the ride, which can be flat-packed, would have been transported by horse as part of a travelling fair.

According to historical documents found with the item, it’s the only 10-section, three-abreast carousel ever built and, apart from redecoration, is exactly as it was.

The ride is 18ft in diameter and features 12 ponies and six peacocks along with the peacock chariots, which can carry nine children in each. No two carved figures are the same and they are all suspended on twisted, brass-covered iron rods. It also features mirrored ceilings and a mirrored centre.

Mr Hanson said: “The ride was originally made for Fred Westrope but was taken to fairs by the Meakin family. It was a regular visitor at Burton’s statutes fair every October.

“It was later bought by a Mrs West and taken to fairs in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Later it passed to Jimmy Fantom and travelled with the Fantom family for 46 years.

“After its final appearance at Nottingham Goose Fair, it passed to Burton couple George and Joyce Mander who restored it to its former glory and took it along to steam rallies and vintage fairs. The historical notes tell us that every effort was made to retain its Victorian authenticity during the painstaking restoration.

“Rides such as this demanded ornate carving, decorative brackets and other embellishments made with great skill.In time, the demand for speedier, more thrilling rides heralded their demise.”

“We hope the new owners cherish its rich history and continue to enjoy what is a magnificent object.”

The Victorian merry-go-round was sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, on April 5. To find out more, email [email protected] or call 01283 733988