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Funfairs The Early Years
The majority of funfairs can trace their history back to the Medieval period. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, many fairs received Royal charters. In many cases the charter didn't actually grant the right to hold a fair, it was more a method for the crown to maintain control of the revenues, in return for the particular town or village keeping control of the event.
During the fourteenth century a new class of fair began to emerge. These were the hiring fairs, or 'mops'. The purpose was to enable landowners to find workers for their estates, a sort of early job fair. Many of them also had a runaway mop taking place a few weeks later, this enables those who were unhappy in their new employ to try and find alternative work.
Some of these events continued through to the end of the nineteenth century, though the purpose of the fair was gradually superseded by the amusement side.
The early days of the industry consisted mainly of games and increasingly the sideshows. Everything from freaks of nature to exotic animals.
The early rides were limited in their size and scope due to the use of human power to drive them. They consisted of a hand turned crank system that rotated the ride through a series of gears.
In 1860 a revolution occured in the industry when steam powered roundabouts were introduced at both Bolton New Year fair and the midsummer fair at Halifax.
Frederick Savage, an agricultural engineer founded the firm of Savage's based in the Norfolk town of Kings Lynn to construct mechanical steam powered rides.