Arts: Roll up to buy artistic fairground attractions

Most people will have come away from a fairground with nothing more than a goldfish, or a stick of candy floss. Jojo Moyes says that today enthusiasts will have the chance to buy more substantial souvenirs.

Carousel art enthusiasts will have a rare opportunity to buy historic pieces of fairground art today when a collection goes under the hammer at Wookey Hole caves in Somerset.

The Tussaud's collection, one of the finest of its kind in the world, is expected to fetch up to pounds 400,000. It includes important pieces from major British carvers, as well as French and American figures, some of which were brought to England for a stage production of the musical Carousel.

The collection was built up in the 1960s and 1970s by Lord and Lady Bangor in their Trad shop in Portobello Road, west London, and was bought by the Tussaud's Group in 1973. It has been on display at the Wookey Hole Caves near Wells in Somerset ever since.

But now its owners are selling off the 300-odd carved pieces. The sale, which will be carried out by the auctioneers Christie's, has attracted interest from buyers across the world.

A Christie's spokeswoman said: "We have sent out a huge number of catalogues for this sale, somewhere in the region of 1,500. People have been expressing an interest from all over the world, but particularly from the United States."

The pieces include a double-seater Andean bear, an Orton and Spooner galloping dragon, and a large painted figure of a roaring lion carved by Daniel Muller at the Dentzel workshop in Philadelphia before 1900. It is expected to fetch up to pounds 20,000.

Fairground art dates from medieval times, when the folk carving was designed to entice ordinary people. It was inspired by work done on ships and shop fronts, rather than the fine carving in church screens.

Pieces were often gilded, to prompt thoughts of exotic palaces, and many featured animals, such as camels and zebras, that ordinary rural folk would not have even heard of.

Fairground rides were initially peripheral to the main business of the fair - that of selling animals and hiring servants. But by the 19th century the rides had become an attraction in themselves.

Most pieces were regularly dismantled as the rides were moved on, and repainted every two or three years so that many are no longer true to their original appearance.

Peter Haylings, at Wookey Hole Caves, said: "The display has been at the caves for 20 years and has been enjoyed by over 6 million visitors. It is a fascinating, colourful exhibition and we regard some of the exhibits as old friends.

"The collection is now likely to be spread throughout the world."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible