A Fantastic Pair of Hand Painted Fairground Centre Dropper Panels Attributed to W.H.Halstead c.1885


Origin: English
Period: Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1880-1890
Width: 17.75 inches
Height: 17.75 inches
Depth: 0.5 inches (all open)   

Originating from a Halstead Dobby set or similar ride, the hinged centre dropper panels depicting two paintings of swallows in flight on a gold painted central roundel with emerald green highlights and laurel leaf motifs, the wholes of arcaded form with ruby red borders surviving from the late nineteenth century.

The panel remains entirely untouched, un-cleaned and un-restored and is such in as original order as can be, though they are dirty. There is loss to one of the inner edges meaning one of the hinges is loose on one side. The panels could be thoroughly cleaned and restored to become vivid again, but as always, we prefer them as is rather than badly restored.

The major adult galloper makers were Savages, Tidmans and Walkers though the firm of W.H.Halstead of Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, was the most well-known early maker of juvenile rides. The company was in business from the 1880s until it closed in 1933. A set of dobbies (pronounced 'doe-bies') is an early type of roundabout, where the creatures hang from the ceiling on poles rather than being fixed to a platform. It's one of the oldest forms of roundabout in Britain, and is a simple 'round-and-round' ride (it has no up and down movement).

In the early days of fairgrounds, children who couldn't afford a ride would turn the crank handle and operate the dobbies, and they would then be given a free ride in return. Panels of birds, for example macaws or swallows as we see here, were a favourite of Halstead rides. Carved motifs, painted ropework and flowers all also fit in with the Victorian era aesthetic of fairground painting., Some of the first steam-powered roundabouts whose central dropper boards and panels often incorporated elaborate hunting or racing scenes, behind which the engine was concealed.

Many people are fascinated by fairground art and by the gorgeously painted and carved creatures that enchanted us from a young age. The world's finest collection of fairground art was amassed in the 1960s and 1970s by Lord and Lady Bangor when it was generally undervalued and underpriced. When Christie's auctioned their collection at Wookey Hole, Somerset in 1997, the sale attracted huge interest and massive sale results. Collectors flocked not just because of the finery of the collection, but because it is now quite rare to find or be able to purchase fairground art in the open market.

As such, this is a scarce opportunity to acquire some original Victorian period fairground art.