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.

Dingles Fairground Museum

Dingles Fairground Museum: The set of Edwards’ Dodgems at Dingles is an extremely popular ride, and beautifully decorated.

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.

Dingles Fairground Museum

Dodgems is one of the most popular rides at Dingles, and is seen here with Streamline cars during the 1930s. (Pic: The Fairground Heritage Trust)

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.

Dingles Fairground Museum

The rounding boards of Edwards’ Dodgems have been decorated as the ride looked after 1953-54, with the new scenery being built by Philip Tew and decorated by Billy Hall and Fred Fowle.

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

The cars on Edwards’ Dodgems now have that more modern, 1970s look.

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.

Dingles Fairground Museum

There are a couple of older dodgem cars on display that show how designs have changed over the years; No 14 dates from the 1930s.

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.

Robert Edward’s ‘Brooklands’ Speedway track was built in 1937 by Orton & Spooner, and is seen when on tour. (Pic: The Fairground Heritage Trust)

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.

Robert Edward’s ‘Brooklands’ Speedway track is built up at Dingles, although not in operational condition. (Pic: The Fairground Heritage Trust)

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.

In 1964, a new set of cars were built for the track by Supercar of Warwick, here lined up on the track.


One of the 1964 cars from Edwards’ Speedway. They were hardly ever used as the ride was laid up shortly after their arrival.


Seen during their early years of touring, Shaw’s Moonrockets made their debut in 1939, and travelled the northern fairs until 1982, after becoming the only surviving example of this type of ride.

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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