Dingles Fairground Museum visited
Posted by Chris Graham on 28th April 2023
David Reed visits Dingles Fairground Museum in Devon to have a look at some of the historic exhibits, and try out some of the rides.
Most of us have enjoyed a trip to the fairground at some time or other. Imagine the excitement when a showman’s engine and a line of trailers was the main form of transportation and, when the fair was in operation, the bright electric lights to those who lived by gaslight must have been amazing. During the 1960s, I always looked forward to early May and September when the showmen rolled into my town, and I watched with amazement as the rides were slowly constructed in the main street. Then came the opening night and the chance to experience the rides themselves, flashing lights and loud music, those were the days.
For those who also remember with affection the old traditional rides and attractions that made up their local fair, Dingles Fairground Museum is well worth a visit. Situated near the village of Lifton in Devon, which is a few miles away from the Cornish town of Launceston, the venue has been featured on a number of television shows in recent years, and charts the history of fairgrounds from their earliest days.
Here, there is a superb display of vintage fairground equipment, from caravans and sideshows to a number of restored rides. But this is not just a static museum, here some of the rides are operational with the opportunity to experience the thrill of these traditional attractions once again.
Dingles Fairground Museum is a trading name of Fairground Heritage Trading Ltd and is home to the National Fairground Collection and the Fairground Heritage Trust, which was founded in 1988 with the aim of ‘Preserving historic fairground equipment, imagery and memorabilia for future generations.’ The Heritage Trust also believes that fairgrounds have played an equally important part as any other popular entertainment in shaping today’s society and has managed to build up a large collection or rides and artefacts to prove the point.
Since 2003 the Trust has had its base at Dingles Steam Village which was already an established attraction, with the site benefiting from a 25,000 sq ft extension in 2006 which enabled the Trust to house and display a much greater proportion of its collection, some of which dates from the late 19th Century. For the 2007 season, the attraction was renamed the Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre.
However, like many museums in recent years, Dingles has had to deal with temporary closure due to the Covid pandemic, which threatened the museum’s existence. Work on the restorations still progressed though, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, who worked tirelessly throughout the restrictions. And in 2022, the museum reopened, thanks to lifeline funding of £70,000 from the government, along with £50,000 that was raised from an auction in aid of the museum.
Now rebranded as Dingles Fairground Museum, the site now has a new 25,000 sq ft display area dedicated to fairground art, transport and it also houses some non-operational rides that are either being maintained or restored.
This feature comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE
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