The 1920s Golden Gallopers

This is one hell of a wedding present.

No, not the fairground horse, the whole damn ride.

When Miss Patricia Manning became Mrs Patricia Shufflebottom in 1958, she was given these Golden Gallopers as a wedding present. An impulse buy from a wealthy wedding guest? No. A gift from her family, the Manning family, fairground royalty through and through.

Are there wedding photos of Patricia riding side-saddle in her 1950s bridal gown? Giddy smile, confetti tumbling from her veil to flutter past those confetti coloured horses?

I’d like to think so.

Manufactured in 1922 by the most splendiferous Savages of King’s Lynn, these gallopers have enchanted crowds at the funfairs of Billy Smart and, of course, Billy Manning.

Here they are at Southsea in 1959 (Photo Credit

A rare three-abreast set with carved wooden horses, each is double-seated for cuddling-up to little ones or your latest squeeze. The paintwork is pristine; golden swifts with paint box brights showcasing all their tack. Saddles and bridles are different on each horse, as are the names at their necks. Sonia, Brian, Shirley, Chris… named after real people? No doubt.

As a copywriter, I am often asked to name things. If I could name a herd of fairground horses I do believe I would die happy.

So that's my 200 words done (did you know I impose 200 word limit on each Vintage Copywriting post?). But I am adding the words of someone else. Here's an extract from Jump on, Jump on, by Brian Steptoe, which talks about these very Gallopers when they were with their first owner, Yorkshire showman Chris Johnson. They travelled with him from 1922 to 1941.

The Gallopers Come Back

The country was full of gallopers before the last war. There were thousands of sets. The best set I ever saw were Chris Johnson's at Wakefield. It was a nice Savage three-abreast set. The platforms were painted white - white varnished paint. You couldn't see a foot mark on them. The centre and backs of the rounding boards were all white, with the fronts picked out in gold leaf lettering and pastel shades. All the swifts were white, lined with pale blue and pale pink. Beautiful. I've watched them take about an hour every night to pack it up. There were five covers on the organ - I counted them. The horses all had their hats and coats, tailor -made They'd move the  machine round slowly; put three sets of covers for the horses on the platform and then Johnson's sons would come off their sidestuff and cover them up. They'd put the horses' coats on and tie them up and put their caps on. All the screens round the middle were covered with white dust sheets. Then the rods would be Vaselined down ,the outside covers put on. Next morning at five o'clock they'd be up, taking all those covers off again, polishing the horses and washing down the platforms and steps. Then they'd cover up again until opening time. When they were building up they wouldn't let any of the men go up top with their boots on. They had to take them off and work in stockinged feet.

Invitation to Comment

Come on, name some horses for me. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Sherbert, Crimson, Nuzzler, Damask, Zuzu, Piccolo, Harlequin, Babushka, Captain, Pistol, Marzipan, Pickle, Coco, Fortune, Firenze, Thunderclap, Glitter and (of course) Shufflebottom. 

And do tell me, what’s your strongest fairground memory?

The Golden Gallopers can be found at the vintage funfair within Pembrokeshire Theme Park Folly Farm. The part is near Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales. This funfair has many old rides, lovingly maintained and in full working order, ready for a vintage geek like you to hop on. More images and details can be found on with this excellent collection of words and pictures at Ridemad.Com.

Next Post: The Floral Bone China Jewellery

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  1. I'm intrigued by the gallopers ... my mother's side of the family - Bushaway (strange name) - were "fairground people." They toured all around the UK in the 50's and 60's -- their "show" was boxing. I'd love to know if anyone remembers them!

  2. Another lovely post and a story beautifully told - I love a bit of romance! My horse's name would be 'Gazal'.

  3. Thanks Hannah. The Bushaway clan sound very interesting, and new to me. The fairground community are hard to Google, though, in my experience.

    And Anon, I love the name Gazal. What's the reference? Ghazal Sakr? That is one stunning horse!


  4. Wonderful horse names from @mikebfd on Twitter: Valeson, Echo, Illyria, Powder, Fiona, Crescendo, Neveny, Cashmere, Arcadia, Redmayne, Prism, Burkelstein, Twinkle, Vintage.

    Thank you Mike.

    My mother also suggested "Magic" which hits the nail on the head!

  5. We have a photo of a fairground ride we took in the UK. The horses' names are Valentine, Highlande and Yutoi. I found Yutoi on a breeders' guide, he won the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in 1921 - so maybe wooden horses were named for racehorses? How about Seabiscuit - no poetry but most unusual.
    Regards Sue

  6. Thanks for the comment, Sue, love Seabiscuit and love the gutsy horse behind that name.

    Racehorse names are very interesting, will have to look into the history of them now!

    Of course the iconic one is Red Rum, sounds so classy, but read backwards it becomes so sinister! Genius.



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