History of King’s Lynn in 100 objects No7

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This brightly coloured racing Ostrich on display at Lynn Museum once formed part of a merry-go-round made by Lynn’s famous Victorian fairground makers, Savage’s.

The Victorian period saw a huge rise in the popularity of the funfair with steam power used to drive an increasing number of exciting rides. To this day the town’s Tuesday Market Place hosts the Lynn Mart, one of the oldest travelling funfairs in the region, which traditionally opens on Valentine’s Day each year.

The nearby Savage’s ironworks was the natural place for the Victorian showmen to take their machines for repair. Frederick Savage also began to design and invent new fairground rides. His first roundabout was the Velocipede which consisted of a row of bicycles running in a circular grooved track. No steam technology was involved – the public simply paid to ride the cycles around the tracks. Savage provided a breakthrough in the design of roundabouts by placing the steam engines that powered them in the centre of the carousel. His rides became increasingly extravagant and imaginative. The public were able to ride merry-go-rounds sitting on gallopers (horses), racing peacocks, ostriches and cockerels, jumping cats and even flying pigs. The Switchback was the most lavish ride yet produced, with the public seated in baroque-style gondolas, gilt encrusted dragon carriages and the newly invented motor cars. Other Savage’s designs included the Steam Yacht, Sea on Land, Tunnel Railway, Razzle Dazzle, Wheely Whirly, Cakewalk and Aeroflyte.

The Lynn Museum is planning a new exhibition to open in July called ‘Art of the Mart’ about Savage’s looking at the art and craft of the funfair. On show will be some of the drawings of animals made by the company’s craftsmen planning new rides.