Engineering Fun brings to light stories from the collections of the National Fairground and Circus Archive, held within the University of Sheffield. The exhibition shines a spotlight on the history of a company dedicated to making fairground rides, as well as the evolution of fairground rides, architecture and art, and the physics and engineering that went into them.
George Orton, Sons & Spooner Ltd were one of the most significant fairground ride and equipment manufacturers in Britain between the Victorian era and the middle of the twentieth century. Held at the National Fairground and Circus Archive, the company's archive chronicles the evolution of popular entertainment and fairground ride manufacturing in Britain and showcases the ingenuity and talent of the engineers, artists and artisans they employed. It captures the technological advancements and socio-political transitions of the 19th and 20th centuries through some of the most significant events in modern history – the industrial revolution, the Great Depression, two world wars and the advent of electricity, steam power and the internal combustion engine.
Since 2019, the the National Fairground and Circus Archive has been preserving over 500 original drawings and plans from the Orton and Spooner Collection. The conservation project has also allowed the archive to digitise hundreds of at-risk documents and to open the collection up to being discovered by more people.
Closed bank holidays
Engineering Fun: The Story of Orton and Spooner Exhibition Lectures
The National Fairground and Circus Archive is holding two free lectures on Friday 10 June to celebrate the conservation of the Orton and Spooner Collection and the exhibition:
10–11am: The Facades of Fairground Architecture by Professor Stephen Walker – book now
Stephen Walker has carried out extensive research on the architecture of fairgrounds. His book, The Fair Line and the Good Frontage, looks at the fairground showfront, alongside their material, constructional, representational and decorative evolution.
11:30am–12:30pm: Engineering Thrill by Professor Brendan Walker – book now
Brendan Walker is an aeronautical engineer who applies art, design, science and engineering to explore the experience of thrill – making him the only thrill engineer in the world. His Thrill Laboratory experiments and performances have entertained audiences at the Science Museum and Alton Towers, and his research has led to the design of rides including the iconic Wicker Man and TH13TEEN at Alton Towers.
- Featured in
- Art picks