Photo of Arthur Price’s Helter Skelter flanked by Darren Matthews’ Loop Fighter and Abie Danter’s Star Flyer

Rain spoils Bridgwater St Matthews (but it’s good to be back)

Bridgwater, Somerset, population c.38,000m, is perhaps best known for its annual carnival and charter fair, the largest in the South West. Whilst the carnival was cancelled for the second year running, thankfully St Matthews Fair went ahead this autumn. Just don’t mention the weather.

The event was organised by the Western Section of the Showmen’s Guild, working closely with both Bridgwater Town Council and Sedgemoor District Council.

The charter for St Matthews Fair, to give it its full name, was granted in 1249 and it has been held on St Matthews Field for hundreds of years. Fair Day is the last Wednesday in September and this year that fell on the 29th, with rides and attractions operating until Saturday, October 2.

The weather was better than hoped for; dry, sunny and warm. Nevertheless the rain came in at varying times, with Saturday afternoon particularly badly affected. Overall crowds were not as large as hitherto, but this was to be expected with daily media briefings on the prevalence of the Covid-19 virus.

The term ‘Fair Day’ is now sadly lost on many, due to the large influx of people from outside the area moving in as the town has expanded in recent years.

A big feature of St Matthews Fair is the lively West Street Market, held along the long thoroughfare that links the town to the fair field. For centuries a sheep auction took place at the top of the field, abandoned in 2001 following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

The livestock tradition is preserved with a one-day horse fair and a market principally for the sale of goods to the Romany community. Until the 1950s, Quantock ponies were driven down from the hills to be sold by auction.

The official opening took place as usual on Charles Farrell’s Twist. Tommy Charles, chairman of the Western Section, invited the chairman of Sedgemoor District Council, Councillor Alan Bradford, and the Mayor of Bridgwater, Councillor Leigh Redman, to open the fair. A tour of the ground followed.

Section Chairman Tommy Charles speaks to the media photo
Section Chairman Tommy Charles speaks to the media

The fair attracts some big hitters from many Guild sections. The Wild Mouse coaster of Abie Danter and Gilbert Chadwick Jnr’s towering Ghost Train, alongside WN&K Rowland’s Big Wheel, are a familiar backdrop at the far end of the ground. However, there are always a few changes to the ride line-up.

Making its debut was Perrin Mott’s Trooper XL. Produced last year by Perrin’s own PM Rides, this updated variation of the popular Paratrooper features spectacular lighting effects. As did most of this year’s rides and attractions.

Perrin Mott’s self-built Trooper XL photo
New for 2021: Perrin Mott’s self-built Trooper XL

The tallest on the fair was Abie Danter’s 55-metre City Star Flyer, the original travelling version of this ride, which started its life in Germany with the Goetzke family. A smaller, Czech-built version, was contributed by Joey Noyce.

It was good to see Lancashire Section member David Wallis Snr retuning with the Ice Maze. A notable absentee was Anderton & Rowland’s Dodgem. The machine has stood on the longest held position since 1933, but Ernie and Jenny DeVey were taking a well-earned rest this year. The position was filled by Thomas Rowland’s Amusements’ Atlanta fold-up track, presented by Alan Jenkins Jnr.

Meanwhile John Jennings Jnr’s Dodgem replaced that of Edward Danter on this occasion. Shaun Rogers’ Stargate took the place of Anderton & Rowland’s Orbiter.

In total there were 25 big rides, two ghost trains, eight fun houses, a simulator and an excellent variety of juveniles. A newcomer was the Jungle King Fun House of Macaulay Hart & Marissa Lock.

Side stuff, round stalls arcades and catering came from numerous West of England showmen, plus others from various sections of the Guild. As Nottingham Goose Fair was not held this year, there was not such a rush to pull down for some.

Major rides and attractions

Wild Mouse Spinning Coaster – Abie Danter

Big Wheel – W. & K.N. Rowland

Storm Booster – William Robert Wilson

Atlanta Dodgems – Alan Jenkins Jnr

Formula 1 Dodgems – John Jennings Jnr

Trooper XL Super Trooper – Perrin Mot (New)

Number One Waltzer – Victoria DeVey (Anderton & Rowland)

Gallopers – Dorothy Matthews

Rotor – Tommy Matthews

Bounce Jump & Smile – John Jennings Jnr

No Limit Loop Fighter – Darren Matthews

Freddys Revenge Matterhorn – Shaun Rogers

Reverse Bungee – Morris Amusements

Helter Skelter Slip – W. & K. N. Rowland

Helter Skelter Slip – James Kefford

Lighthouse Slip – Arthur Price.

Helter Skelter Slip – Frankie Crecraft

Star Flyer – Abie Danter

Star Flyer – Joey Noyce

Superstar – John Evans Jnr

Tagada – Guy & John Evans

Tagada – Joey Whitelegg

Tagada – William Roberts

Sizzler Twist – Charles Farrell

Twister Twist – William Sheldon

Megaspin Twin Spin – William Roberts

Stargate Twin Spin – Shaun Rogers

Waltzer – Denzil Danter

Miami Trip 3 Miami – Steven Hill

XLR8 Waltzer – James Cole

Fun Houses & Ghost Trains

Ghost Train – Gilbert Chadwick Jnr

Ghost Train – James Kefford

Hotel of Terror Ghost House – Baron Phillips.

Ice Maze Mirror Maze – David Wallis Snr

Alpine House Fun House – Neil Renton

Fun House – Gilbert Chadwick

Fun House – Philip Rawlings

Gladiator Fun House – Philip Stevens

North Pole Fun House – Katie Louise Noyce

American Circus Fun House – Edward Furborough

Bavarian Fun House – Gilbert Chadwick Jnr.

Jungle King Fun House – Macaulay Hart & Marissa Lock (new)

Simulator – Jon Manders

Main photo: Arthur Price’s Helter Skelter flanked by Darren Matthews’ Loop Fighter and Abie Danter’s Star Flyer

From January 2022 the World’s Fair is back as a monthly print and digital publication, available by subscription only.

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