Merry-Go-Rounds and Velocipedes

I have always been fascinated by fairground horses ever since I inherited my grandfather's rocking horse which was made by Savage's in King's Lynn, who usually only made fairground horses.

Savage Carousel at the Thursford Collection in Norfolk
Frederick Savage, a renowned manufacturer of Carousels and Agricultural Machinery in the second half of the 19th Century might have made his equipment in Australia rather than in England, if only his mother had agreed to join her husband in Tasmania.

His father William Savage was a hand-loom weaver in Hevingham, Norfolk, who owned a small farm and six cottages, but with the introduction of power looms and decline in demand after the end of the Napoleonic War, William was forced to sell his property and take to poaching for survival.  As a result of the threats he made to a local gamekeeper one night, he was sentenced to 14 years penal servitude.  Young Frederick was only 18 months old and had a new born brother, when his father was transported to Tasmania in December 1829.

After 7 years William Savage was released and he asked his wife Susan to join him but she declined and remained in Norfolk.  Within a year she had given birth to a son, followed by two more children within the next 6 years, all out of wedlock.  William lived his remaining years alone in Australia.

Despite growing up in poverty, Frederick Savage worked hard for several employers in Norwich and King's Lynn, learning how to make agricultural implements, to work iron and as a wheelwright.  This basis in engineering enabled him, at the age of 25, to obtain premises to set up a forge. Starting with forks, he moved on to producing threshing machines.  In the 1870s he purchased several acres of land in Kings Lynn to build St Nicholas’ Ironworks.  There he produced a patent cultivating system, powered by a 10 horse traction engine.

In the early 1880s Savage turned to fairground rides.  These included a circular velocipede of 24 linked bicycles, “Sea on Land” and the “Galloping Horses” which are familiar to any Merry-Go-Round rider.  It was his use of steam power which made more sophisticated fairground rides, such as the Razzle-Dazzle and Steam Yachts, possible.
Statue of Frederick Savage in Kings Lynn
In 1883 Frederick Savage became a local councillor and he held his seat in Lynn for 10 years before being elected an alderman.  He was chosen as Mayor in 1889 and as a consequence of his prodigious fund raising for the local hospital, a statue of Frederick was erected in the town.

For more information and photographs of Savage's fairground rides

Glimpses of Fiddaman's Lynn by Rosemary & Stan Rodliffe
"Frederick Savage, I presume" by Brian Morgan in "Merry-G-Roundup" Summer 2014 official publication of the National Carousel Association